Everyone loves a good game of bowling in Denver, especially when it’s paired with great food and great friends or family at Boondocks Food & Fun! We offer wonderfully-maintained lanes, delicious pizza, and other foods, and plenty of drinks too – all in a family-friendly entertainment center packed with things to do. Bowling is one of those sports that’s so easy to learn even a child can pick up the basics, while enthusiasts can spend a lifetime honing their skills. However, there are few sports where the choice in equipment can make so much difference. Unlike other ball-based sports like baseball or basketball, a wide variety of bowling balls are legal for play. Depending on the game or the player, there are numerous weights and sizes of a bowling ball to choose from. We want everyone to have a great time with their pins and pizza at Boondocks, so let’s talk about bowling balls – types, weights, and how to pick the best ball for your own game.

1.Types Of Bowling Balls By Game

1 – Tenpin
Tenpin bowling is by far the most common type of bowling, and ball sizes are fairly well-regulated by the United States Bowling Congress (USBC). A regulation tenpin ball has a diameter of 8.5 to 8.595 inches, and the spacing of the thumb holes is closely regulated as well. Even the surface and spin characteristics are regulated. However, weight is a different matter. The ball can be no more than 16 pounds, but many weights are allowed as long as they are under that limit. And heavier isn’t necessarily better, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
2 – Duckpin
Duckpin is a less-common variation of bowling but can be popular in spaces that don’t have room for full-size regulation tenpin lanes. It’s also common on the east coast and regulated there by the National Duckpin Bowling Congress. Duckpins are significantly smaller than regular tenpins and are squatter as well to lower their center of balance. The balls are smaller as well, a bit less than 5 inches diameter (technically 12-12.7cm), and only weigh 3.6-3.12 pounds. They don’t even have thumb holes, because they’re small enough to pitch one-handed. Duckpin can also be a good way to introduce bowling to children too small to handle tenpin balls.
3 – Candlepin
Unless you’ve lived in New England or far southeast Canada, you may not have heard of candlepin bowling. The pins themselves are simply small rods, like candles, which are vertically symmetrical. Either end can go up, which makes resetting them easier. The balls are the smallest of all the common bowling variations, only 4.5 inches and no more than 2.7 pounds. That’s roughly the same weight as a single candlepin, so knocking down a full set is a serious challenge!

2.Bowling Ball Weights In Tenpin Bowling

Now, let’s focus on tenpin since that’s probably the sort of bowling you’re most familiar with. As mentioned above, the overall size of the ball is set and cannot vary much – but the weight of the ball is a different matter. It’s true that more weight means more striking power, so logically, one would want to only use the heaviest 16-pound balls. However, there’s more to bowling than pure power. There’s also finesse, and the weight of those balls can make them significantly harder to control. Your own strength factors in as well since, of course, force = mass x speed.  As a quick example, let’s say that a player can throw a 14-pound ball at 17MPH, but can only throw a 16-pound ball at 13MPH. 16 x 13 = 208, while 14 x 17 = 238. So for this player, they’ll actually be able to hit harder if they use a 14-pounder. So, the best ball for a given person would be the heaviest ball that they can consistently throw at their highest speed. Forcing yourself to use a ball that is too heavy will actually hurt your game, as well as risking significant fatigue as the game goes on.

3.Finding The Right Bowling Ball Weight For You

So how do you know what the right weight is? Well, through practice and experimentation. You’re using a ball that is too heavy if:
  • You begin getting tired or sore early in the match.
  • You find your bowling speed decreases throughout the match.
  • You find yourself having a hard time controlling the direction of the ball, or its spin.
On the other hand, you’re probably using a ball that is too light if:
  • You find it effortless to throw. You should still feel the weight.
  • The ball feels like it bounces or is too ‘floaty’ when going down the lane.
  • You nail the ‘pocket’ between the 1 & 3 pins (or 1 & 2 if you’re a lefty) but lack the power to hit a strike. Worse, this situation tends to create nasty splits which are hard to hit on your second throw
In general, it’s a good idea to work on increasing the weight of your ball over time. You might start out with a 13-pound ball, then after a few games and weeks, find that it feels too light. That means it’s time to graduate to a heavier ball! Work your way towards 16 pounds, but don’t force it. You’ll get there when you’re ready. Finally, if you’re a first-time bowler and have no idea what weight of ball to use, there is a quick guideline for your first attempt. Take your body weight and divide by 11, then choose the ball whose weight is closest to the result. This may not automatically be the best weight for you, but it gives you a starting point.

For Great Bowling In Denver, Come To Boondocks!

Boondocks Food & Fun are the premiere family entertainment centers in the Denver area, with locations in Northglenn and Parker. Along with our excellently-maintained lanes and famous food, we also have a range of other activities, including laser tag, arcade games, and go-karts. It’s truly fun for everyone in the family or even everyone at your office! Interested in hosting a party or retreat at Boondocks? Contact us to learn more.