Good question! Let's add it up. The cost of a ball purchased at a pro shop normally includes the ball, initial fitting, drilling, and a second (post-drill) fitting session. Most pro shops carefully check their products and want to pass along only the best in quality. The cost of a ball purchased from a source other than a pro shop is just that; the cost of the ball. It does not include shipping/handling, applicable COD charges, fitting, drilling, slugs, or grips. When you add up the costs, buying a ball elsewhere may run you just as much, if not more than it would at a reputable pro shop! If you later determine that the ball is wrong for you or defective (top weight, pin placements, etc.) get ready to pay shipping/handling again, and be without your equipment for a period of time. Pro Shops offer other perks besides being able to see what you are purchasing. Staff members can offer you tips to improve your game, choose the proper equipment for you, and even help you get the edge on your competition (and those nasty lane conditions, too). Pro shop personnel will work with you to tailor your equipment to your game, and allow you to better enjoy your time on the lanes. Support your pro shop, and it will support you! Thanks for asking!
Bowling balls hook (curve) due the rotational forces applied by the bowler. The combination of the lane (surface friction and oil patterns) bowler input (revolution rate, axis rotation, axis tilt), and characteristics of the bowling ball (surface friction and core shape) all combine to allow the ball to hook. While the bowler controlled variables have the greatest influence, todays bowling balls are designed to take maximum advantage of the scoring environment. Click on the link below to see a video about the technology of bowling balls.
The big difference between each of the coverstock materials is the performance.
Plastic bowling balls are basically what all the house balls are made of. These balls will have a basic pancake weight block design and will not allow for very much track flare. These balls are excellent for children and beginners who are new to the game and want to have a ball that fits their hand correctly, and learn the basics of the game. These balls will not hook very much, but are effective for playing a straighter line to the pins. Higher average bowlers benefit from plastic as well by using these balls to shoot spares. The predictability of the ball's hook will help keep it on line.
Urethane balls were introduced in the early 1980's. This material is more durable than plastic, and has more surface friction and better contact with the lane than plastic balls. This ball is usually the next step up from plastic and will allow you to play a small hook to the pocket with less deflection compared to the plastic ball. There are a few more options available as far as the shape of the core. This will allow the ball to flare a little more, adding more hook potential to the ball.
Reactive resin balls were introduced in the early 1990's. Manufacturers created this coverstock by putting additives in the urethane formula to create a "tacky" feel to the ball. Resin balls are also known as reactive urethane. This created a much bigger reaction in the bowling ball. This was especially noticed toward the back end of the lane in front of the pins. Bowlers are able to create severe angles to the pocket. When this ball was introduced, it was the start of a whole new revolution to the game. Bowlers with less hand action were now able to compete with the big crankers. This new coverstock was even nicknamed the "cheater ball" anytime someone was using it. This was because this new cover seemed to have no respect for the oil, and would hook back to the pocket from almost anywhere. You now saw the straighter players using the same angle to the pocket that the crankers would play. The scoring pace has picked up an incredible amount since the invention of this material. Because this cover reacts so much harder, it will also be a little more erratic at times as well. The nature of this cover is to skid more through the oil and react very sharply to the drier part of the lane. There is a much bigger variety of core shapes with this cover, and technology has allowed for this material to get more predictable as each generation of new resin is made. The range of hook is much greater and the balls are able to be more finely tuned to the bowler's game now.
Particle urethane was introduced by Brunswick in the late 1990's. This coverstock was the next revolution in bowling balls and is now being used by the majority of the ball manufacturers. The coverstock has an entirely different feel to it. The ball resembles a "fuzzy" feel when you rub your hand across it. This is because additives such as glass, mica, and PET have been mixed into the urethane resin. What this does is give the ball a sort of traction effect with the lanes, sort of like an all weather or studded tire does on the highway. The heavier the oil that is being used to combat the resin balls doesn't seem to hold the ball back any. With a particle ball, you are going to get a look similar to urethane balls of the past. This incorporates the benefits of both materials. You get the predictability of the urethane balls, with the hook and power of a resin ball. This ball will give you a strong even arcing reaction that still lets you cut through the oil letting you stay aggressive with your shot.
There are a lot of opinions of how heavy a ball you should throw. Many people think that you want a really light ball that you can heave down the lane, and many try to throw a real heavy ball as well. The truth is that everyone is built a little differently, and different weights will apply. One thing to keep in mind is that the collective weight of the pins you are trying to knock down is a little over 30 pounds. Each pin weighs about 3 lbs. 4 oz. (The Brunswick Gold pro pin formerly used on the P.B.A. tour telecasts weighed 3 lbs. 10 oz.) Add it up and that's a pretty good amount of weight in that triangle down at the end of the lane. Simple physics will tell you that a heavier ball will tend to not deflect off the pins as much as a lighter ball will. We believe that you should throw the heaviest ball that you can comfortably handle without causing any excess fatigue while you bowl. Feeling a little tired is normal, since this is still a sport that involves physical activity. A common occurence that we see is when people make decisions on ball weight based on the feel of the house balls provided by the bowling center. While this can be a good guide to how a ball feels when you throw it, this can be a little confusing as well. The bowling balls that the centers provide are drilled for the purpose of many people using them. The lighter weight balls will have smaller holes drilled in them, and as the weight increases, so does the size of the holes. Sometimes the ball with the correct weight has very large holes drilled in it so you have to squeeze the ball excessively to hold on to it. This makes the ball feel much heavier on your hand. It's quite possible that a ball that is fit correctly, can be handled as easily as a house ball that weighs as much as 1 or 2 pounds less! The best thing to do is talk to your pro shop professional, and together you will come up with the weight that is best for you with a custom fit that is designed only for your hand.
You have probably heard references made to the different types of grips that are drilled into a bowling ball. There are three basic grips that you may have heard of: Conventional, Semi-Finger Tip, and Finger Tip.
First, the most basic grip used and the grip that most everyone will experience is the conventional grip. The holes are drilled in such a manner that you insert you fingers into the ball up to the second joint and the thumb all the way in the ball. This grip gives you the most control on the ball, but somewhat limits amount of rotation required to hook the ball a lot. However, this doesn't mean that it can't be done. We've seen some pretty big hook come out of some people that use conventional grips.
The semi-finger tip grip was much more popular many years ago. This is where your fingers are inserted halfway between the first and second joint and the thumb inserted all they way in the ball. This will allow for a little more rotation, but overall really isn't very comfortable to use. Inserting your fingers past the first joint doesn't really give you a good reference for feel.
The fingertip grip is the most popular grip used for the more experienced bowlers and those interested in learning a proper release for maximum scoring potential. The fingers are inserted up to the first joint, and the thumb inserted all the way. This allows for a quick release and a very fast hand action, creating the best opportunity for strong rotation and hook.
Generally, we would suggest a conventional grip for beginners and pure recreational bowlers. This grip is easy to hold on to, and properly fit, will help the beginner learn the basics of the game and improve their average. These are only guides, and not all bowlers in these categories use conventional grips. The fingertip grip is generally used when the bowler's average starts to improve, and/or they want to take their game to the next level. We usually try to deter people from drilling a semi-fingertip grip. We would rather drill a relaxed fingertip for comfort. This way, the joints of the fingers are always inserted to the same point, creating more consistency. One of the biggest keys to bowling is repetition. A good comfortable grip is the way to start.
The main constant of all grips mentioned above is that the thumb is inserted all the way into the thumb hole. This is what keeps the ball on your hand and the feel of the release depends on the thumb's position as you let go. Any time you drill a ball, it's usually a good idea to bring the ball you currently use with you. Your pro shop professional will be able to use that information to make any adjustments that are necessary to your grip. If the ball feels good on your hand, they can use that as well to copy that grip to your new ball.
NOTE: The amount of hook you get from a ball is affected by many variables including; grip, type of ball construction, coverstock, drilling pattern, etc. Due to these factors, it is conceivable to see someone achieve more hook using a conventional grip than another using a fingertip grip, depending on the type of ball and release being used.
Yes, finger grips can cause the bridge to crack out. First, you must know that many manufacturers void their warranty on a ball when finger inserts are used! There are two schools of thought as to what causes this cracking. The first says the glue used to hold the inserts in place reacts with the coverstock material, which makes the coverstock more brittle, and therefore easier to crack when it hits the pins or something in the ball return equipment. The second school says that when most ball drillers drill holes into a ball for inserts, they do not bevel the holes, which weakens the edges, and therefore allows cracking. There is also a thought that some reactive resin coverstock materials are naturally more brittle, allowing the bridges to crack easier and sometimes split even as the ball is being drilled. This cracking is not limited to just the bridge. Cracking can occur around any given drilled hole into which inserts or slugs are installed. So this problem is not confined to only the bridge of a ball. This is not meant to dissuade you from purchasing grips or inserts! These tools can be extremely beneficial to your game, and many, many people use them (including us). It is just meant to inform you of a potential situation that you may be faced with. We urge you to talk to your pro shop staff if you have any concerns.
All bowling balls should be cleaned after each use. This can be done by using any cleaning agent available from your favorite pro shop, or using a commercially available cleaning agent that will not leave a residue on, or damage, the ball. All balls pick up dust, oil, and other foreign substances as they roll down the lanes and up the ball return equipment. This can alter the ball's reaction by hardening or plugging the pores and on the surface. By keeping the ball clean, the ball will react more like when it was new. If you use a dull sanded ball, and with normal cleaning the ball doesn't react as well as it used to, it is time to sand the ball. This will bring it back close to its out of box condition and reaction. As a bowling ball goes down the lane and it crosses a seam, a small nick may be caused on the surface of the ball. Once there are enough of these little nicks to cause a loss of reaction, it is time to resurface the ball. This can be done to any ball, including polished balls. They are sanded smooth again and then refinished to their box condition. Plastic balls should be polished often to keep them working as they should. They can also be resurfaced when the need arises. Your favorite pro shop should do sanding and resurfacing so it is done properly.
Mass bias is something that can be found in any bowling ball, but has more meaning in today's equipment. It is a heavy area on one side of a ball's weight block/core. This is created by either moving the weight block/core to create a pin out ball, by using an asymmetrical weight block/core (that has some sort of a protrusion). There are many theories as to how much effect mass bias has on a ball. If the ball does not have one of the latter two weight block/core types, the mass bias will be very minimal. The two key elements as to how a ball will react are the type of coverstock (and its finish), and the weight block/core location in relation to the ball's track.
It is always best for the bowler to be able to use a ball drilled for them. It really doesn't matter if they are still growing. A bowling ball can be plugged and redrilled several times before it needs to be discarded. Even as the hand changes, the weight of the ball may remain ideal for the child for 1-2 refits. Weight does not become a factor until they start to grow and get stronger. With the cost of the type of equipment a youth bowler would use, it isn't a bad idea to purchase a new ball. Even when the child grows out of it, you can always hand it down to a younger generation of bowling youth.
A custom thumb is a general term for a thumb insert that can be repeatedly made for size and pitch and can be installed in any bowling ball. There are several different manufacturers and systems available that create thumb inserts (we use Exact Thumbs from Exactacator/Vise Grip). What you need to do is determine which of your ball's thumb holes feels the best. Take that ball to your favorite pro shop (if they have the capability to make a custom thumb for you). A silicone mold is made of that thumb hole. This takes 24 hours. Then an insert can be formed from this mold. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours. This insert can now be installed into a bowling ball. Using the same mold, several inserts can be made so they can also be installed in all of your equipment and have the same feeling thumb hole from ball to ball. The original ball that the thumb mold was derived from will remain unharmed and legal.
Unfortunately, we do not support the use of "interchangeable" thumb inserts. While these have been successfully used by many bowlers for several years, our experience shows that the need to have two (or more) different sized thumb inserts can nearly always be negated with proper fitting and drilling that allows for proper grip and release. Also, there is no way to guarantee that the various locking mechanisms do not break - if this occurs during a tournament or league, there is typically no way to continue to use the damaged insert and/or ball. As noted above, we are able to exactly reproduce custom thumb molds (inserts) that allow for same feel to be achieved in several balls.