Some time ago I wrote about 15 vs 16 pound bowling balls and the differences when dropping a pound. A majority of bowlers are throwing 15 pounds, with 16 pounds and then 14 pound equipment. It’s funny that years ago when 16 pound was the majority, it was thought to be less favorable to drop to 15 pound. You switched to 15 pound if you had an injury or couldn’t handle the 16 pound equipment. It became clear in fairly short order that the balls are so dynamic that what you lost in 1 pound of mass, you gained in angle and impact energy through other physical components besides mass. Things like increased deflection actually helped carry when the ball hooks so much.
The USBC performed a pin carry study in 2009. When presenting the data, they asked attendees at a conference to watch some balls entering the pocket and deciding what weight each ball was. On strike balls, this is actually quite difficult to see. In the end, 16 pound balls will have slightly less deflection at the pocket. For lower rev bowlers, this may help carry. 15 pound balls will hook more than 16 pounds generally speaking and is more than dynamic enough to cover up the weight difference. There are again some tangible differences which can be used to one’s advantage, similar to having a ball with 2 different layouts or using different balls. Sometimes you are looking for a specific reaction to aid carry on a particular condition. However, I don’t expect most bowlers to have 16 and 15 pound balls in their bag.
If you’ve read my previous blogs about my bicep injury, you will understand the extent of my injuries. It’s become clear after several years of recurrence that this will be a chronic issue. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 of the injury saga are in the links. The last actual break I needed from re-injury was 2 years ago. It was towards the end of 2012 when I visited Lou Marquez at Turbo Tech. Along with some local coaching, we worked on changing my game. I made significant changes but at the same time had to cut down to bowling once a week. It’s extremely difficult to change your muscle memory bowling so little.
I fought and fought my way back to being able to average decent enough with the “new me”. Nevertheless, as I increased my bowling to twice a week, I felt a soreness in my bicep. In the back of my mind, I always worried about re-injury. It crossed my mind to consider 14 pound but always quickly dismissed it. It’s almost considered taboo like it was when we first started switching from 16 to 15 pounds. I finally got tired of feeling sore after 7 games or so and decided to give it a shot.
In the summer, I started the latest journey. I picked up a used ball to give it a try. It felt comfortable enough. I then decided to get a few balls for an arsenal to see how it would work out. Bowled with 14 pounds for 2 months. Frankly, I was very frustrated. My average went down 10 pins and I felt like my carry was suffering. I had a brief stint back to 15 pounds. My average went back up. Guess what I quickly found, my arm hurt after bowling again. So that small test clearly helped me realize that 14 pound will definitely make a physical difference for me. I was able to bowl 20 or more games in a week without bicep soreness. That was all the revelation I needed to decide I will stick it out. If it meant I could bowl, it was worth losing 10 pins on my average.
What about 14 pound bowling balls?
Now I don’t want you leaving thinking you will lose 10 pins on your average so let’s discuss a bit more. I’ve been using 14 pounds for 3 consecutive months now, 4 months in total. My average is back to where it was. But how did I get here? It was a matter of getting used to some technical differences which I will highlight. Once you do so, you will likely find no substantive average difference but perhaps get some physical relief. For me, it was worth it and a long time coming.
Some Technical Notes…
1. Reaction Length
The 14 pound equipment seems to have more length than the 15 pound equipment. There are a couple of reasons for this. First is that it’s lighter and easier to throw harder. Second is that lighter balls tend to have higher RG core designs. The weightblock itself has a higher relative mass to the overall weight of the ball. You should keep this in mind when switching and feeling like the ball is going too long. You may want to consider “low RG” layouts. That would be layouts that let the ball get into a roll sooner, shorter pin to PAP layouts. I’ve tried this several times (pins under 3 inches) and it has worked extremely well. These type of layouts work out better from more direct lines but I’m putting it out there as pro shop operators rarely offer pins that close to the PAP.
2. Ball Speed
As mentioned above, naturally a lighter ball will be easier to throw harder. It’s just something to realize at the outset. Fairly quickly, it will settle down and you will begin to throw it at “normal” speed again. Depending on how much overall strength you have, you may continue to throw 14 a bit harder than 15.
Due to the change in weight, your timing may change ever so slightly. If you push away, you may find you get the ball into the swing a little earlier, changing your timing. This doesn’t take too long to adjust to generally speaking. However, it can affect your overall approach and release early on. You may need to hold onto the ball a split second longer to get back “in time.”
In the beginning, due to the lighter weight, it will be easier to throw. That can add some unnecessary “sway” in the swing. On the backswing, you may have “too much” control. In other words, you could be losing the natural pendulum which comes with an object attached to the end of your arm when it’s too light. Think about swinging your arm with a tennis ball. The tennis ball will have very little influence on your arm’s swing. The only point here is that the lighter the object at the end of that pendulum, the more potential you have to “muscle” it. In time, this will settle down. If it doesn’t then the ball is likely too light for you, period.
4. Hook Potential
There is potential for 14 pound to hook more than 15 pounds. That’s partially do to a possible small increase in rev rate and overpowering. This could be tempered a bit by speed. As your speed comes back towards your normal, hook should be very similar to what your 15 pound was. It is possible you simply continue to get more hook with 14 pounds.
5. Pin Leaves
You will need to get used to some change here. The USBC Pin Carry Study created a set of “strike percentage to offset” plots. This shows the percentage of striking in relation to ball entry offset from the headpin based on entry angle. They studies at 2, 4, and 6 degree entry angles. This is interesting in and of itself. However, ball weight affects these plots. Meaning you may leave pins you didn’t expect at times. Corner pin leaves don’t appear to change much (10 pin for righty and 7 pin for lefty). However, you will find a couple more stone 8s for righties and 9s for lefties, especially when you first switch. Opposite corner leaves seem a bit more likely with 14 pounds in my opinion (7s for righties and 10s for lefties). Another noticeable difference is the “potential” pocket 7-10 leaves. For whatever reason, probably the same reason that opposite corners happen more often, 7-10s just are left more often on pocket shots. Then again, 6-8s and 4-9s are left less frequently on higher shots. I haven’t done a proper statistical analysis so this is more anecdotal. In the end, the justification is in your average. My average is as it was prior to the switch so I feel justified in the observations.
Bottom line is that it seems to balance out. You just have to be prepared to see some different pin leaves. There will always be the bowler next to you saying, “throw ‘man weight’ and you won’t leave that.” Don’t be discouraged by the leaves or the other bowlers’ remarks. You will be better for it.
It is more possible to affect change in your Positive Axis Point. Many don’t believe this can be significantly affected. If you are very flexible in terms of changes in hand and wrist positions, you are more likely to be able to affect change to your PAP. Bottom line is you will have to start with whatever you know your PAP to be. However, you will need to ensure that it is remeasured in case it has changed.
7. Weightblock Characteristics
While most, if not all manufacturers maintain the same core shape between 13-16 pounds, some vary their specs more than others. Storm balls for instance tend to increase their RG as the ball weight drops. Other manufacturers like Brunswick and some Ebonite International brands maintain a closer RG despite the decreased overall weight. Just keep in mind that there could be big variations in RG and differential. Take my favorite ball of all time, the Storm Hy-Road. At 15 pounds, RG is 2.57 and diff is .046. Go t0 14 and the RG is 2.58 with diff of .037. Go to 16 and RG is 2.52 and diff is .058. That seems like a pretty wide variation between 16 and 14. Just keep an eye on this as the ball reaction may not be exactly as you were accustomed to if you had the same ball in a different weight.
Clearly, I’m not addressing those who have no issues using 15 or 16 pounds here. If you can throw them, why not? Ultimately mass is mass. Plus if you “man-handle” the ball, there is a likelihood that you will actually become less accurate. What I’m saying is that you should have a reason to throw what you throw.
It’s going to be important to test 14 pound piece by piece to understand the impact of layouts, etc. If you go out and buy a full arsenal before you know how you throw the new weight, it could lead to frustration with different ball reaction than you used to have. Some new layouts may be in order so take your time and don’t give up. I know when I switched all my pin up layouts just weren’t working the way they used to. They turned out too long and more snappy than they ever were.
In the end, if you are considering 14 pounds but are afraid either because you are worried about carry or being considered “soft”, ignore those fears. Carry issues are a misconception. People’s perceptions are BS, who cares. You will feel better and thank yourself. Your body will thank you. Your ego will be happy when you can bowl more and still score.