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A Noob’s Guide to Bowling and Building a Three Ball Arsenal (Opposed to Two, Four Or Six) and Reading the Lane from Front to Back Rather Than Side to Side.

I regularly bowl on three different alleys and each is a little different in terms of what is required to get my strike ball to the pocket. There once was a time I only had one or two bowling balls that I’d throw with confidence and I didn’t know what I was missing out on. Both were hand-me-downs that were drilled differently and only one was drilled to fit me. I had no spare ball, just two strike balls and I’d try to hook the ball in to catch my corner spares. I’d miss three to five inside corners per series which translated missing 30 to 50 pins – say the difference between a 550 and a 600 series. That’s a big difference. For the sake of this post, I recommend having at least three different balls drilled with the same finger hole layout using balls that are the same weight. Keep in mind, I am not a high-rev, semi-pro bowler. For those, this post will be woefully inadequate. I am an above average bowler who recently learned how to manage a decent rev rate. With that in mind, let’s get into this arsenal.

So, the first ball in my arsenal is an easy one; the spare ball. Any plastic ball will do. I have a fairly cool but simple Ebonite Maxim that is perfect for the task. I can throw this ball with as much juice on it as I want and it won’t break but a few boards – five max when the lanes dry out. This ball is used to get at the corners, especially the left corner for lefthanders and right corner for righties. A spare ball makes the game infinitely easier.

Next up I want something a little shiny with a reactive or hybrid cover. Think “pearl” or something like the Hammer Scorpion above. Maybe a Hammer Web, Storm Hy Road Pearl, Motiv Fatal Venom or 900 Global Zen. Being a low-rev bowler, I want something that will skid and has got a little snap to it to get back to the pocket… so the Scorpion, with a hybrid reactive cover, made a lot of sense. Depending on the oil pattern, it’ll slide down the lane until it grabs, then it rolls and snaps back to the pocket. It’s an angular bowling ball. If I could only have two balls in my bag, I’d go with the Scorpion and the Maxim.

Fortunately, that isn’t the case because the Scorpion isn’t great in heavy oil.

For my third ball, I chose a strong, reactive covered ball with an asymmetrical core. This ball has a smoother arc of a hook. It doesn’t skid as much as the Hammer Scorpion, so it’s easy to get the ball to the pocket on fresh and heavier oil.

And this is where reading the lane front to back, rather than side to side comes in. Most casual bowlers see the lanes side to side. The pros on TV start way left and throw the ball 17 to 20-mph with a rev rate of 400 to 500 rpm. While that’s great and all, they don’t all roll like that and we don’t, either. Think about it, when you have to start that far left (or right in the case of lefties) just to get the ball to the pocket, you’re handcuffing yourself. You’re almost out of lane when they’re fresh! If, however, you can start closer to the middle of the lane, hook roll it to the 7-10 boards and let it hook into the pocket, you’ve got all kinds of room to move when the lanes burn out.

Another way to look at this is like this; different alleys will vary vastly in how they play. Some simply hook later than others so it’s good to have a strong ball for those lanes that let the ball to skid too far down the lane and another for lanes that allow a ball to hook up and get into the roll early. This is what we’re looking at when we look at the lane lengthwise rather than side to side. How soon does the ball hook up and get into a roll? Once you get your shot down and can control it, it’s quite simple to get a ball for either situation so you’re always prepared.

Now, if you’re going to spend an inordinate amount of money, upwards of $1,000 on bowling balls and bags, then by all means go with six balls and you can hit any kind of scenario. On the other hand, if you’re just out to have a good time and throw some decent scores, get yourself a skidder and a gripper along with a spare ball and call it good. I’ve held a 170 to 185 average for decades with much less.