I see this topic discussed frequently by the local bowlers and on bowling forums all the time. Lots of people think they have the answer, yet many of the answers are quite different.
Right now, I keep a strong solid reactive, a medium solid reactive, a medium pearl reactive, and a urethane ball.
Does that sound like a lot for a house shot?
It might, but I don’t think it is. Remember, you need to understand your arsenal very well for it to make sense. In other words, if you are guessing which ball to use, you’re in trouble. It can be quite costly to have too many balls and not know what to do with them. I see many guys who when frustrated, switch balls. They are then surprised why the next ball didn’t strike and switch again. Before you know it, they’ve used 5 balls in one game, bowled a 150, and have no clue what to do.
Bowling with one or two balls
I know many house bowlers who only have one strike ball or one strike and one spare ball. I also know many who easily average over 220 with one 20 year old ball reactive ball! However, when they are struggling with carry down or other issues, they will not be able to surpass 200 because they have no other options. Many also feel that a THS is simple enough to bring one or two balls. You may feel that way, but don’t complain if one day you walk in and the house shot has changed, seemingly overnight! Sometimes, the lane machine is on the fritz or the heat is on full blast or whatever. You want to be prepared.
Do you understand your arsenal?
You should have a benchmark ball that helps you read the pattern and condition of the lanes. Then, you need to very clearly understand how each of your bowling balls relate to each other.
Strong ball rolls over 15 to 8. Medium ball rolls over 12 to 8. Weak ball rolls over 10 to 8.
This is a very simple example where I don’t change the breakpoint, but you need to understand that your strong and medium ball are about 3 boards different and medium and weak ball are 2 boards different. So if one night, you start with your strong ball and need to use 20 to 8 and you want to switch to your medium ball, you must know what that ball will do before you pick it up. This way you can start at 17 to 8 instead of the usual 12 to 8. You don’t want to waste several frames trying to figure out what the medium ball will do. What if you wanted to go right to your ‘weak’ ball? Then you should know that you have a 5 board difference between the strong and weak ball. So you shoot for 15 to 8. You may find that you need to make other adjustments, like changing your target at the arrows or your breakpoint, but at least you are not starting from scratch. Three or four bad frames will cost you a game easily!
Whatever your arsenal is, make sure you fully understand how each ball relates to another.
The easiest way to blow a game is switch balls when one is not working and have no idea what your other ball will do. Too many times, house bowlers get stuck in the “area bowling” mentality. In other words, “I will throw it in the general vicinity of 2nd or 3rd arrow and I will get to the pocket”. You will see spray all night and because of the funneling effect of the THS, you will see many more strikes than there should be. I won’t go in depth here about breakpoints, but a house bowler may throw it over 5 or 15 and still strike. However, the one night where they need to be accurate, don’t be surprised to see a bunch of 500 series’!
I am not bashing a house bowler here at all. After all, I am not a touring professional! However, spraying the ball and expecting a strike is different from understanding that you made or missed your target. The result on a THS may still be a strike, but you should strive for excellence. You should know where your ball is rolling at your first target and your breakpoint.
So the arsenal?
Ah yes, that… Well, don’t be afraid to have a few balls to combat different conditions. Even a THS will change over the course of the night. You don’t want to have the strongest ball on the market, start off with a 250 on fresh and then 150s the rest of the night because it was simply too strong.
If you can’t afford to have more than one or two balls?
If you’re just starting out or you’re strapped for discretionary funds, you can certainly make do. But, I would suggest going for a middle performance ball. The “high performance” balls will be very strong and may be less usable over the course of the night on THS. The mid-level balls will definitely be more usable on a THS if you only could have one ball.
We’ll talk about coverstock alterations in an upcoming article…