The Proper Bowling Ball Fit – Check Yours Now!

The Proper Bowling Ball Fit is key to bowling success. More errant shots have been caused by tightly gripping a ball because it feels too loose.  Ask any bowler who uses a lot of bowling tape, how many times a poor fit caused a poor shot. He will likely have a few stories to tell you. Having that good feel from a properly fitted bowling ball is priceless. Sometimes we just get lazy. We know when our ball needs new inserts, or maybe the span doesn’t feel right. But, we put off getting the work done and so we give the other team a few extra pins here and there.

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The Proper Bowling Ball Fit For Beginners

One thing beginners should know, is the proper way to get your fingers into the ball. Each and every time you pick up your ball you must take note of how you put your fingers into the holes. They have to be inserted correctly each and every time to get the same results. The proper sequence goes like this.

Insert your fingers and then insert your thumb all the way into the ball up to the second joint of the thumb. Some bowlers will put the thumb in first, but I personally like to put the fingers in first. That is what I was taught.

The thumb should be straight when inside the ball. Do not bend your thumb to grip the ball. I still occasionally make the mistake of bending my thumb inside the ball. Using thumb tape on the back of my thumb protects my thumb knuckle from skin injury.

I highly recommend wearing tape on the back of your thumb if you have this problem. Make a conscious effort to keep your thumb straight! It will greatly improve your pin carry in your bowling game.

Related Article: The Release in Hook Ball Bowling

Use The Fingers For Grip Pressure On The Ball

The grip pressure should be slightly more with the fingers to properly grip the ball. Don’t use the thumb pad to grip the ball. Applying too much grip pressure with the thumb pad will restrict the thumb from a smooth and clean release. Using the thumb pad to grip the ball, increases the likelihood of bending the thumb inside the thumb hole.

And a tightly gripped thumb will also slow the release of the thumb from the ball. Then, this will restrict the amount of rotation you will be able to impart on your ball. Moderate pressure is applied with the fingers, and the thumb is kept straight with only enough pressure to keep the ball on your hand.

Normally, the fingers are also inserted into the ball as far as they can go. For a conventional grip, this is up to the the second knuckle joint on the fingers. For a fingertip grip, they are only inserted up to the first knuckle joint.

With the fingertip grip, the pads on the tips of your fingers carry the weight of the ball. That is allowing for more lift for greater hooking ability.

They also have a semi-fingertip grip which I don’t hear much of anymore. It is between the fingertip and conventional grip. The fingers are inserted until they are halfway between the first and second knuckle. The problem with the semi-finger tip grip, is the ability to get the fingers into the ball in the exact same place, is much harder to judge.

Keep Your Thumb All The Way In The Ball

If you start inserting your thumb only halfway, then you change the span length of your hand. This will change the ability to apply pressure with the fingers and thumb.  The ball will not rest in the palm of the hand properly. The thumb will also likely be gripping too much, and affecting rotation. This make it very difficult to get the same accuracy on every shot.

The Proper Bowling Ball Fit Prevents Thumb Issues

Many problems with a bowling ball that doesn’t fit properly, can be traced back the the thumb. Maybe you can relate to having thumb issues? You can correct this by using Thumb Tape, Thumb Socks, and various Thumb aids.

The key issues bowlers may have may fall into several categories.

  • The Thumb Hole Is Too Tight
  • Thumbs That Swell
  • A Thumb Hole Is Too Loose
  • Arthritis and Other problems

The Thumb That Is Too Tight

This issue needs addressed with the help of your local Pro shop. It only takes a minute to open up a thumb hole that is too tight. They have a tool that will whisk off a very small amount in a jiffy.

You can also do this yourself to fine tune your ball and carefully sand out the hole yourself. You need to be sure you sand out the hole evenly along the entire vertical length of the thumb hole.

I fold over very coarse wet/dry sandpaper and keep even pressure while rotating the ball every couple of strokes. It’s a lot of work, but you have control over how big the thumb hole is opened up. You can do this at the bowling alley in a practice session and get your ball feel perfect.

When you sand your thumb hole by hand, you can customize it to accommodate your personal thumb shape. Any area that may be irritated from any friction, can be opened up for more comfort. You can create a custom oval shape to fit your thumb.

Thumbs That Swell While Bowling

Some bowlers experience thumb swelling that make the thumb hole get tighter and tighter as they bowl. These bowlers prefer a bigger thumb hole. Then, they can put tape in the ball, or on their thumb to start bowling, then remove it as needed.

Some bowlers thumbs shrink as they bowl. These bowlers need more tape as they bowl more games.

A Thumb Hole That Is Too Loose

You can address this issue with the addition of thumb tape. Putting a piece of tape on your thumb is the easiest solution. Or you can insert a piece of bowlers tape inside your thumb hole. Sometimes more than one piece is required to get that perfect fit.

Thumb Tape that is applied to the thumb, is now available in three choices.

Fast Release , Medium Release And Slow Release. This gives the bowler the choice of a fast thumb release, a medium thumb release or a slow thumb release. This is accomplished with different textures on the surface of the tape.

The fast release is designed with less drag, allowing the thumb to slide out easier and quicker. While the slow release is designed to create more drag, slowing the release of the thumb.

Storm Max Pro Thumb Tape – Fast – TealStorm Max Pro Thumb Tape - Fast - TealCURRENT PRICE
Storm Max Pro Thumb Tape – Medium – BlueStorm Max Pro Thumb Tape -Medium - BlueCURRENT PRICE
Storm Max Pro Thumb Tape – Slow – RedStorm Max Pro Thumb Tape -  Slow - RedCURRENT PRICE

Personally, I carry all three thumb tapes in my bag. I use the fast release on most nights. Sometimes a bit slower release makes nice difference in my shot. So, I carry them all just in case. I found this simple trick to be very helpful in my game, and I would recommend bowlers give it a try.

Thumb Socks Create The Proper Bowling Ball Fit

Another choice is to try a Thumb Sock, or Thumb Saver Glove. The use of these thumb aids require a bigger thumb hole anyway, so they just may give that nice snug fit, while protecting your thumb from blisters and abrasions.

Robby’s Thumb SockRobby's Thumb Sock For The Proper Bowling Ball FitCURRENT PRICE
Robby’s Thumb Saver GloveRobby's Thumb Saver Glove For The Proper Bowling Ball FitCURRENT PRICE

Arthritis And Other Problems

This is a problem that can be addressed by the bowler or the local Pro Shop. You can fit the thumb hole to match your needs by hand sanding the hole as necessary. The Thumb Sock and Thumb Sock Bowlers glove may help to protect the thumb and give some support as well.

Another more modern method to deal with the thumb hole issue, is to use an interchangeable thumb size system. The Pro shop can install a system where you can change your thumb sizes as you need to. This system is more common for bowlers who tend to bowl three or four times a week.

The Handle Bowling Ball For A Proper Bowling Ball Fit

Another alternative for arthritic hands is to purchase a Retractable Handle Bowling Ball. This ball has a handle just like a suitcase, for people with hand issues that make bowling difficult. If you can’t use the finger holes in a bowling ball, this may be the answer for you to enjoy bowling again.

Retractable Handle Bowling BallRetractable Handle Bowling Ball For The Proper Bowling Ball FitCURRENT PRICE

Proper Bowling Ball Fit Can Change Over Time

As we bowl and age, we need to change the way our ball is fitted. For all the reasons already mentioned, and we bowl differently as we get older. I have dropped my ball weight over the years from 16lbs to a 14lb that I currently use.

Here is a bit more discussion on Proper bowling ball fit from USBC Bowling Academy. USBC Gold Coach Bryan O’Keefe discusses ball fit with professional bowler Mike Fagan. Mike talks about his game and the reason behind his custom ball fit.

I hope you have enjoyed my article. Please let me know about your experience with ball fitment issues, and how you corrected them. If you have any questions, please leave them below. Thank you and please stop back soon.


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6 thoughts on “The Proper Bowling Ball Fit – Check Yours Now!”

  1. I have a question. Lately while bowling the inside of my thumb will crack just ahead of the end of the thumbnail. It is happening more and more. Recently had to sit out for a month with an injury and now went back to bowl and after one evening the thumb splits again on the inside tip. Any ideas as to why this is happening. Is perhaps the thumb hole too large? Or a pitch issue?

    • Hi Peg,
      I apologize for taking so long to get back to you. You should check with your local Pro shop, they may need to adjust your thumb hole. If the crack is in a spot on top or on the side of the thumb, you could try using some of the adhesive thumb tape made for applying to you thumb. That would offer some protection from the irritation from bowling.
      Also check your thumb hole for any rough spots inside the hole that may be causing the issue. Sometimes just a little rough spot can cause a callous and they do crack open over time.

      It is also possible, that you are “pushing the ball” with your thumb. These are all possibilities, but ask you pro shop if maybe adding a bit of bevel around your thumb hole may help you get out of the ball easier and reduce the friction on your thumb.
      Hope that helps?

  2. Bowling is one of my favorite hobbies, I go with the children and my husband. My kids are learning to put their fingers in the ball. I personally prefer my ball to be loose. My fingers are thin and I always have a problem finding the right ball that can fit perfectly to my fingers.

    Thanks for sharing the thumb sock, that’s something I will definitely try.

    • Hi Ana65,

      I am glad you enjoy bowling. You should consider joining a league. The best thing you could do for improving your bowling game is to get your own ball and have it drilled to fit your hand. That will eliminate the problem of finding a ball to fit you. The finger holes should be loose enough to get you fingers in to ball easily.

      I think you will enjoy the thumb sock, it definitely helps if you get blisters on your thumb. 

      Thanks for leaving a comment, stop back soon!


  3. It’s essential to have the right fit for your bowling balls to make sure that you can control your shots and hit those pins. I’m still a beginner who uses borrowed bowling balls.

    But even so, I’ve definitely noticed that my best games are the ones where I find a bowling ball that feels like a good fit. Thanks for sharing all these pointers for proper bowling ball fit – this will really help me to choose the right bowling ball and have a great game!

    • Hi Aly,

      It helps a lot to have the proper bowling ball fit. I always recommend getting your own bowling ball drilled to fit your hand. You should try a bowling league. You will be amazed at how quickly your scores will increase.And Having your own ball and shoes makes a big difference.

      Thanks for leaving a comment, stop back soon!



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