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Bowling Ball Roll

When we hear the term “bowling ball roll”, we might think of how a ball rotates as it travels down a lane. The term also suggests when a ball rolls after it comes out of its skid distance.

We hear a term “good roll on a ball” which might refer to a player who has a strong release and a fairly high rev-rate with a sharp hook on the back end.

The term “bowling ball roll” simply is not specific so don’t be confused by it. Frankly there are a lot of highly scientific terms relating to bowling balls and bowling ball motion in today’s world of high technology. Which, they are there for those who care to familiarize themselves accordingly.

To understand what you need to know about ball roll without becoming a graduate of a school specializing in physics, is to simply get a feel for the key components which describe bowling ball motion.

Let’s eliminate as much confusing scientific data as possible in grasping the concept of bowling ball motion.

Here is what is important to know:

When a bowler delivers a ball, the bowler imparts four forces to the ball which affects its roll:

1. initial ball speed - (the speed in mph the ball leaves a bowlers hand)
2. initial rev rate - (the number of revolutions per minutes - high, med. or low revs)
3. initial ball axis tilt - (how much does the ball spin compared to rolling end-over-end)
4. initial axis rotation - (direction of the initial rotation on the ball with respect to the lane)

These factors coupled with the actual lane conditioner on the lane surface affect the ball motion.

To best describe ball motion, simply know that a bowling ball travels and passes through three phases of motion and two transitions. Changes of direction for those of you who can deliver a hook:

1. the skid phase (the first change in direction from skid to hook)
2. the hook phase (the second change in direction from hook to roll)
3. the roll phase ( angle of travel as the ball rolls from the break point to the pocket)

Once the ball reaches it's entry angle at the second transition, the entry angle will remain the same until the ball hits the pins. Don’t worry too much about angle of entry - let your bowling ball seek its own roll path. You only need to align the ball reaction to hit the pocket. Simple enough.

The manufacturers design the coverstocks to help you control skid length. Aggressive coverstocks with matte finishes (textured finishes) gain traction on the lane sooner than polished (less textured and smoother) coverstocks.

You can alter the skid length slightly by changing the surface texture of a given bowling ball. If you need slightly more skid length, use a finer grit pad and reduce the amount of texture on the surface of the ball. Use more grit on the pad to shorten the skid length. Simple enough.

The manufacturers also design inner cores to control the degree of hook potential a ball shows as it travels on the back end of the lane. Symmetric ball designs have a fairly stable core design and produces a controllable and an even arc rolling motion.

To add some length and a sharper hook on the back end, use an asymmetric ball. Simple enough.

You need not understand bowling ball symmetry science to use what the manufacturers provide to your advantage.


Once you have selected your ball, the drilling layout will also affect the ball motion. Some layouts will create a less aggressive and more controllable ball reaction while others can do the opposite.

The net effect is that in choosing a given drilling layout, you influence the ball motion beyond the scope of a standard layout most commonly used by pro shop professionals today.

It is not vital for you to understand every scientific term to be a good bowler.

If you rely on the technology as planned by the manufacturer, describe the type of ball motion you seek in comparison to what you presently have, your pro shop professional can help you find a suitable bowling ball and an appropriate drilling layout.

Then you merely need to bowl with the ball and you can further tweak the coverstock to slightly alter the reaction. Pretty easy.

There is no need for you to become a scientist to understand bowling balls.

Because there are so many great choices in today’s bowling ball technology, keep your ball selection strategy simple.