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A ‘Magic’ Thumbhole Can Be the Key to Unlocking Your Bowling Kingdom – May 2009 – Par Bowling by Tom Kouros

WHAT’S SO INTRIGUING ABOUT THE THUMBHOLE? They’re all round, all are located well below the fingers and, normally, all are drilled at a standard depth. Ah, but there is more here than meets the eye... much, much more. A thumbhole crafted by a skilled pro shop technician could elevate you from the crowded floor of proficiency to the roomy penthouse of stardom.
Alignment of the ball’s holes (normally three) refers to their location in relation to the center-line. That line for a basic grip — be it a conventional, semi- or full fingertip
— runs from the middle of the thumbhole to the middle of the bridge (between the two finger holes), with those holes equidistant from the center-line. This is standard procedure, but there are several other viable alternatives to consider depending on the natural characteristics of the hand and the type of technique the bowler has elected to employ.
With the structure of most hands, a straight center-line alignment is the easiest to understand and administer. But for those searching for a grip to ultimately complement facility and produce effective action, an offset layout — or a more complicated two-line design — is at times a better option. One example would be a centerline drawn between the two finger holes where the thumbhole is drilled somewhat left of that line instead of being drilled centered on it, more toward (under) the middle finger and away from the ring finger. With this right-handed configuration, one can often realize more of the palm contacting the ball surface. Ergo, by realigning the thumbhole pitch somewhat away from the palm, it increases the buttress grip of the thumb by positioning it more in opposition to the spread forefinger. This alignment often supplements the strength and turn effects of the release, provided the pitches of the holes correspond favorably with this alignment, particularly the thumb’s pitch in relation to the spread forefinger.
A contrary move, offsetting the thumb to the right of the center-line, provides a somewhat weaker grip, but it does have its merits. Principal among these is inducing the hand to automatically apply more extension in the release, as the hand is inclined to remain more behind the ball. This offset alignment also allows the ring finger to play a stronger role in the release, which often results in more forward axis tilt. The unique characteristic of a player’s hand more than any other factor best determines whether this grip alignment would prove beneficial.
Another somewhat popular grip alignment is one in which the thumbhole and middle finger hole are placed squarely on the center-line with the ring finger hole somewhere off to the right. This may initially appear similar to the alignment where the thumbhole is simply offset, but there is a difference. First, there are subtle differences in the relationship of pitches between holes. Second, this grip alignment usually incorporates unusual span modifications. And third, this alignment is most popularly used with the “dropped ring finger” grip, in which the middle finger is spanned to a finger tip and the ring finger is drilled markedly shorter.
Some pitch guidelines:
The more forward pitch in the thumbhole, the longer the tendency to stay in the ball (offset by the hole size, and the size and length of the thumb); lateral pitch of the thumb “under” favors clockwise turn; lateral pitch in the thumb “away” (to the left) favors counter-clockwise turn.
In the final analysis, the ideal ball fit involves finding a qualified and experienced ball drilling technician. This naturally leads, among other things, to you getting a “magic thumbhole” drilled that will allow you to swing the ball securely (without squeezing), while affording you the opportunity to release the ball cleanly (unimpeded) with a type of hand action that best complements your ball action.

Posted with permission from Bowlers Journal International


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