How to Hold a Bowling Ball (and Finally Increase Your Average Score)

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Chances are that when it comes to gripping a bowling ball you are self-taught. Most of us go through the process, usually using a house ball from a bowling alley, as we learn how to pick-up and grip the ball.

We learn how to maneuver our bodies, limbs, and fingers just right to propel the ball down the lane to the awaiting pins. We may even pick up the basics of aim and approach on our own, refining the process through trial and error.

Now, have you ever taken the time to pause and consider how you grip your ball and how switching your grip could possibly change up your game?

In order to grip and hold your ball, you first need to figure out how you hold on. There are several different ways that bowlers do this, varying to different drillings and different techniques.

If you are self-taught chances are you learned how to bowl using a ball with three holes drilled into it, the two upper for your middle and ring finger and the lower for your thumb.

While this is the most common style of bowling ball hole drills there are types out there with two, four, five or even no finger holes!

Why is Your Grip So Important?

How you grip your ball is extremely important in bowling. Your grip affects how well you control your ball speed, regulates the release of your ball, helps you maintain a consistent rev-rate and helps control the direction of your ball.

Your grip also helps you aim your ball and keep your throws predictable and consistent throws. Having a stable, relaxed grip plays a key role in so many different parts of your throw that having a working grip for you is essential to boost your scores.

How Do You Know Your Ball Is the Right Fit?

Your grip should always be comfortable, with enough space in the holes to allow your fingers easy entry and exit, both during stationary holding and release.

If the holes of your bowling ball are too tight it could create blisters, clauses, rip off fingernails and throw off your ball’s release entirely.

The best way to know that you have a correct fit is to get your ball drilled at a pro-bowling shop.

You could have an excellent ball that gets ruined by an ill-fitted grip, resulting in poor performance and low scores. Going to a professional shop and having experts measure your hand layout and drill lessens the chances of your ball getting messed up

How Many Holes Go in a Bowling Ball?

With a good part of your bowling being so reliant your grip, how you grip your ball can change your game.

Different hole drill layouts can change how you throw your ball and therefore the grip you use.

2 Holes

For a two finger grip, the bowler will insert their middle and ring finger into the ball, the thumb stays out. Most bowlers use the two finger hold for big hooks, gaining better control over the spin of the ball.

3 Holes

The most common drilling for finger grip holes. Generally placed in an upside down, triangular formation the top two holes are for your middle and ring fingers, with your pointer and pinky fingers resting to the side on the surface of the ball.

The single lower hole is for your thumb to go into, creating a grip that allows you to hold and grip your ball with only three fingers.

This grip allows for the bowler to control the movement and the release of the ball well, with all the fingers working together to shift and turn the ball.

4 Holes

Many people change up to a 4 hole grip for one of two reasons. Alleviating pressure on the fingers used in a 3 hole grip (especially if the bowler suffers from arthritis) or working to create a stronger grip for more control.

While it is usually the pinky that is placed into the ball in a 4 hole grip some bowlers have been known to use their index finger, often with mixed results.

5 Holes

When you use a 5 hole grip all of your fingers are in the ball. This helps alleviate pressure, distribute weight and work on control.

A downside to this hold is that you have a lot more fingers in the ball and therefore a lot more variables to control during your release.

No Holes

No hole bowling is where none of your fingers rest in the ball, instead, the bowling ball is cradled in the palm of your hand.

While there is some debate on the legal use of this hold in leagues it should be considered acceptable, as long as your palm covers the ‘thumb hole’ area.

Why Are There So Many Different Types of Hole Drills?

So now that we’ve given you a rundown on how many hole drills there are for bowling balls you are probably wondering why there is such a variation in hole amounts.

While the 3 hole drill is the most common grip switching up the number of holes changes up your grip as well.

Some people use a higher number of holes to add support to their grip, some to change up how they throw their ball. Each hole configuration has its own positives that help its bowler in different ways.

Different Grips

Besides using the number of holes drilled into your ball to change your grip and style there is another way you can change up how you grip the ball. Different grips change how the ball reacts and the style of how you bowl.

Conventional Grip

This is perhaps the most common grip used by bowlers and the most recognizable. Used the most often by beginner and moderate bowlers this grip is used with the 3 hole ball drill and is one of the easier grips to learn.

To set yourself up for the conventional grip insert your thumb into the single, lower hole of the ball.

Laying your hand flat against the ball’s surface you want to insert your middle and ring finger into the two adjacent holes above your thumb hole, they should slide in comfortable to the second knuckle.

Your pointer and pinky finger will remain flat against the ball’s surface and there should be minimal to no strain when you try to lift up the ball using this grip.

The conventional grip is for bowlers that want to have a secure and stable grip. This grip offers a substantial amount of control over the ball and will help prevent a hook should you need a straighter, more precise roll.

This grip is also considered to be the best to use should you be working with a house ball or a ball that hasn’t been tailored for your individual hand.

A downside of this particular grip is that its rev rate (how many times the ball turns on its axis) tends to be lower than what it would be with other grips. Hooking can also be difficult since the conventional grip doesn’t support a spin very well.

Fingertip Grip

Now say that you’ve been practicing your bowling, your scores are becoming pretty consistent and you’ve mastered the conventional grip fairly well.

At this point, you may be ready for the next level of grip, the fingertip grip. As indicated, this grip is for more advanced bowlers who are ready to start upping their scores and are ready to take their bowling to the next level.

The fingertip grip is what many advance bowlers use to generate hook and up their averages and scores.

This grip allows the bowler to increase the revs of the ball and the hook generated allowed the ball to find the “pocket,” the space behind the head pin and pins two and three. By generating this hook and getting to the pocket there is more pin impact and thus higher averages.

To execute the fingertip grip many bowlers choose to use a 3 hole drill as well, with the difference being how you place your fingers.

The thumb should be fully inserted into the lower hole, but instead of inserting your middle and ring finger to the second knuckle you should only allow them to go into the ball up to the first knuckle.

While this type of grip is harder to hold onto and can cause strain in the fingers, once adjusted you’ll find that throwing a hook becomes more natural and easier to execute.

If you struggle with only keeping the first knuckle inside the ball you can have a fingertip grip drilled ball made for you to help you learn and use this type of grip.

Semi-Finger Grip

This grip is only for the bowlers who have mastered both the conventional and the fingertip grip.

While this style of grip is considered more comfortable than the fingertip grip it lacks the control the conventional grips offer, so in order to use it properly, you really need to know how to control your ball and manage your grip.

The semi-finger grip works similar to the fingertip grip. Your thumb should be fully inserted into its designated hole but your middle and ring finger should be inserted to the point between your first and second knuckle.

This allows you a more comfortable grip that offers a bit more control than the fingertip grip but still allows for a hook to occur, unlike the conventional grip.

This grip is not commonly recommended for bowlers since the conventional and fingertip offer both of its positives, but it can be used to help tame ball action or overcome physical challenges.

Sarge Easter Grip

The sarge easter grip is perhaps the most uncommon grip used in leagues and tournaments. This grip works to combine the conventional and fingertip grip into one layout, with fingertip grip style holes being laid out for the thumb and index finger and the ring finger hole being drilled in conventional style.

This layout is done to help improve the forward roll of the ball and reduce stress on the ring finger. By using this grip many bowlers see a reduced rotation of the ball that helps give it a more forward roll.

They also find it to be a more comfortable grip than the fingertip grip and find they have a lot more control using this style.

Another reason bowlers will switch to the sarge easter grip is due to the face that it reduces tension on the fingers, especially the ring finger.

Some switch because they have no choice due to injury of the fingers, some use it to alleviate arthritis pain and some use it to just simply reduce the strain their fingers are feeling.

This grip does require a large experimental and adjustment period. Before deciding to purchase a bowling ball with this grip see if anyone in your league has a sarge easter drilled ball you could borrow and practice with.

If not check with your alley, or find a ‘dead’ ball of someone’s and re-drill it with a sage easter grip. That way you can see if this grip could work for you without busting the bank on a brand new ball!

So as you can see, how you hold and grip your ball plays a huge roll in how your game goes. Your grip directly affects the direction of your ball, the hook of your ball, its rev rate, your release, and your ball’s speed.

Knowing what type of grip you use and what you can expect out of that grip can also help elevate your game. For example, if it is the first throw of your turn, you’ll probably want to use a fingertip grip and work on getting that hook to the pocket.

If you should miss and land with a shot that requires precision, then switching your grip style from fingertip to conventional can help you out.

Modifying your grip style and trying new things can bring you to new levels of the game. Don’t be afraid to try new grip styles or work to switch back and forth between them.

Master all of these grip styles and you’ll be a bowler who is confident and comfortable with control of their ball!

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