How to Control the Speed of a Bowling Ball

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One of the key components of successful bowling is adaptability. As you travel to different games, leagues, and tournaments you will encounter different lanes with different conditions.

Some may have different oil patterns for you to work through, some may not be in the best of shape and affect the reaction of your ball.

Regardless of these varying factors, it is important that you take steps to ensure you have a variety of skills that can help you adapt to these different conditions, one of these skills being the knowledge of how to control the speed of your bowling ball.

Why is Knowing How to Control Your Bowling Ball Speed Important?

Lane Conditions

Knowing how to control your ball speed isn’t just important for traveling bowlers, but for bowlers of all abilities, experience, and locations.

Being able to control the speed of your bowling ball will help you gain higher, more consistent scores as well as more predictable reactions and throws from your ball. This is due to the fact that by knowing how to change up the speed of your ball you are able to adjust to lane conditions as you play your game.

For example, when you arrive at the alley you may have a bowling lane that is considered ‘wet’. This means that there is a heavier saturation of oil laid down on the lane which can affect how your ball reacts. By knowing how to slow down your speed you are able to safely traverse the slippery lane without your score being affected.

Coincidentally, if you come across a ‘dry’ lane, one that very little oil present, then knowing how to speed your ball up will help you get your ball to the pins without losing power due to friction.

Coverstock Material

Knowing how to adjust your speed will also come in handy if you use an assortment of bowling balls with different coverstock materials.

A solid coverstock will react differently to a lane than a resign coverstock and knowing how to adapt your speed to each material’s needs will help keep your game elevated as you switch between ball types.

Hook

Being able to adjust your speed will also help you control the amount of hook your ball produces as it makes its way down the lane.

Learning how to hook a ball can be a challenge in itself, but the rewards are well worth it with more powerful revs and better aim into what is called the ‘pocket’.

By adjusting your speed you can also work to adjust your hook to a variety of pin formations, helping with aim and power.

Power

Faster balls produce more powerful revolutions, creating more kickback and pin impact. This can be great for blasting through pins but a fine balance does need to be involved.

There is such a thing as too much power in the sport of bowling and knowing when to ramp up or dial back your speed will help you adjust the power behind your throws.

For instance, it’s your first throw, all ten pins are placed and ready to be decimated by your ball. Your throw a fast, powerful hook but due to the speed lose a bit of your control and are faced with the dreaded split.

Knowing that a fastball may not be as well aimed you dial back the speed and focus on your control, picking up the split and gaining yourself a nice spare.

What is the Optimal Speed of a Bowling Ball?

The speed of your ball changes as it rolls down the lane. While you might release a 20 mile per hour ball at the beginning of the lane due to forces, such as friction and gravity, your ball may only be going 16 miles per hour upon pin impact.

So just how fast should your ball be going as it makes its way down the lane and just how do you measure it?

Due to a study done by bowling manufactures and the United States Bowling Congress, we now know that the optimal speed for the best results is 16-17 miles per hour (mph) at pin impact.

In order generate enough force to reach this optimal ending speed you should start with a 20-21 mph ball upon release, with your average speed clocking in at 18 mph.

How to Calculate Your Bowling Ball’s Speed?

Automatic Bowling Scoring Machine

One of the ways you can find out your bowling ball’s speed is to rely on the automatic scoring device found in bowling alleys. This device uses a variety of systems to detect when pins are up, down or need to be re-stacked, but that is not all it can do.

The device can also be used to measure your bowling ball speed as your ball approaches the pins. While useful for a quick estimate this method does have its drawbacks.

The device will only give you one measurement of speed and it’s not measured at the point of impact. This makes it hard to get an accurate average of your speed and can mess up your adjustments as you learn how to control your ball’s pace better.

Stopwatch

Another method to find your bowling ball speed is to use a stopwatch to measure the time from your bowling ball’s release to the moment of pin impact.

This measurement of elapsed time will help you gain a more accurate measurement of your bowling ball’s speed due to the two measurement points used to configure your average speed.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Have a friend ready themselves with a stopwatch.
  2. At the point of your ball’s release, they should start the time, upon impact with the head pin they should stop the timer.
  3. You want to consistently aim for the same place, with the head pin being the best point.
  4. Shoot a series of five throws, with your friend measuring each throw.
  5. Once you have all five throws completed average the scores.
  6. Take your average and plug it into a bowling ball speed chart.
  7. Voila! You now have an estimate of your bowling ball speed.

While not perfect this method tends to give great results with a little practice. Don’t be afraid to measure yourself biweekly to look for improvements.

You can also use this method to see if you are successful should you be attempting to learn how to speed up or slow down your bowling ball speed.

Bowling Ball Speed Chart

In the case of bowling balls, the shorter the time it takes to travel down the lane the faster your ball is going. To reach that optimal speed you want an average of 2.5 seconds for your ball to make it down the lane.

However, due to the margin of error being +/- /-0.150.15 of a second, speeds between 2.3-2.7 produce good results as well as long as your aim is focused.

Elapsed time/Average Ball Speed-Optimal ranges are in bold.

2.0 sec/20.8 mph
2.1 sec/19.9 mph
2.2 sec/19.0 mph
2.3 sec/18.1 mph
2.4 sec/17.4 mph
2.5 sec/16.7 mph
2.6 sec/16.0 mph
2.7 sec/15.4 mph
2.8 sec/ 14.9 mph
2.9 sec/14.4 mph
3.0 sec/13.9 mph

How do You Increase Your Bowling Ball Speed?

So now that you know how to find your average ball speed its time to focus on being able to control your bowling ball’s speed, starting with how to make it go faster.

As we mentioned before, increasing the speed of your bowling ball is a great way to traverse over dry lane conditions, where friction has a greater hold on your ball due to the lack of oil.

To speed up your bowling ball you need to implement a small, simple trick. You need to raise your bowling ball 3-4 inches higher than your normal stance.

If you are bowling in the proper form your bowling ball should naturally be raised to around your waist before you move into your approach but by raising it a few inches we let gravity work to increase the speed of your ball.

If 3-4 inches doesn’t give you the burst of speed you would like then you need to switch things up a bit. Instead of raising it only 3-4 inches up past your normal starting point raise the ball 6inches to a foot.

Once again you will be using gravity to help rev up your ball and increase more speed. One important detail about this level of raising is that you will need to adjust your approach to compensate the time needed to properly throw your ball from it’s higher point.

In order to adjust to this change of swing, you will need to move back as many inches as you have raised your ball. For example, you lift your ball a foot higher from its original starting position you should move twelve inches back before beginning your approach.

Now let’s say you encounter a really dry lane, we’re talking bone dry here. You’ve tried adjusting your ball’s height in the release but you are still not getting the speeds you desire. This is where we help gravity out by adding in a little muscle.

When you find that you need to add muscle to get the faster speed you are looking for you’ll need to raise your ball to it’s higher height and add muscle to your throw only after the peak of your backswing and on the down portion of your swing.

This adding of muscle on the downswing combined with gravity will naturally quicken your pace as well, resulting in a natural, faster ball.

You may, however, find that during this added muscle technique your ball begins hooking too much as a result of the added revolutions. (How many times the ball spins on its axis.)

To combat this increased hook open your wrist more upon delivery and the problem will hopefully stop.

How do You Decrease Your Bowling Ball Speed?

Now that we’ve figured out the trick to speeding up our ball lets take a look at how to slow it down. A big hint that you need to slow down your ball is that it skids right past your desired breakpoint, a telltale sign that the lane is ‘wet’ or heavily saturated in oil.

To combat this skid your only hope is to slow your ball down and hope it catches your desired break point, but how do you go about slowing it down?

Well, the process is actually the opposite of speeding up your ball! Instead of raising your ball so many inches to gain speed you will want to lower your ball from it’s starting original starting position (which again, should be around the waist) by so many inches.

By lowering from 2 inches to a foot we are able to adjust just how slow our ball is going, decreasing momentum and giving it a better chance to ‘grab’ its break point.

To adjust how many inches you lower your ball remember, the closer to the ground your ball is the slower it will be. So if you just want to slow your ball down a little bit drop it 2 inches and experiment from there.

If you desperately need to slow it down drop it a foot lower and use no muscle in your swing, just let gravity take over and allow your arm to swing naturally.

You can also bend your knees a little to help slow your approach or adjust your approach so that you start closer to the foul line. Both of these methods help slow you down naturally as you adjust to the smaller span of time you have to throw your ball.

Remember, gravity is your friend so let it do its job!

By holding our ball lower during our approach we are once again letting gravity take over our swing, something we want to let happen!

By using gravity to adjust our speeds we gain consistent shots even as we tweak our speeds, with better results showing over practice and time.

Now that you’ve armed yourself with the knowledge of how to find your average speed and how to adjust your speed as needed, you should be able to see a huge improvement in your game.

Just remember, practice really does make perfect. By experimenting with speed control you’ll eventually be able to gain a threshold of experience that will help you make key adjustments during tournaments and league games.

By taking the time to learn how your ball reacts to your speed changes you will find that speed is a key factor in adjusting to bowling’s ever-changing conditions and that knowing how to adapt to those changes will help you go far in the bowling world.

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