Sorry, Officer, I Would’ve Been Here Sooner, But My Bowling Ball Was Going Too Slow – February 2009 – Par Bowling with Tom Kouros
‘Sorry, Officer, I Would’ve Been Here Sooner, But My Bowling Ball Was Going Too Slow’
ASK MOST SENIORS WHY THEY BOWL and you will get answers like, “It gets me out of the house,” or, “It’s a great excuse for my buddies and me to get together and talk about the ‘old days,’” or, “I just love the game.” No controversy — just simple, uncompromising, straightforward and logical answers.
On the other hand, ask them about bowling equipment, lane conditions, or bowling scores, and one would think Mt. Vesuvius had erupted again. “It just isn’t the same game,” they
wail, and reasons cascade like lava flow down a mountainside. But one culprit stands out... namely, ball speed. Ball speed is critical in that it affects the ball’s path, its rotational characteristics via the breaking point, and its angle of entry into the pocket. Of secondary influence is its damaging potential on their games.
Because of the way lane finishes and oiling procedures have evolved over the last 40 years, it has become increasingly difficult to roll a ball with moderate speed and a sophisticated torque without getting a premature ball reaction. Therefore, the exertion level programmed into the approach of most good players has gone up dramatically... namely, to hard speed.
To achieve this, one must get the ball from the release point to the pin deck in fewer than 2.15 seconds. This is beyond the reasonable capabilities of most bowlers, especially seniors.
Also contributing to the need for speed has been the development of softer/porous ball surfaces. These balls are a tremendous asset to players who can harness their hooking (grab) potential on the lane at the optimal time.
Take two players who share similar accuracy and release abilities, who are playing close to the same line, and who are breaking the ball approximately five feet from the headpin. Yet one player uses a hard-surfaced ball and rolls it at 16-mph, while player #2 uses a softer (more porous) model and rolls it 19-mph. The advantage goes to player #2. Why? Because, all other things being equal, the more porous ball will finish stronger, thus providing better carry.
The physical demands on bowlers have changed over the years; greater importance is placed on strength and
stamina, and some that less on a tempered or moderate stroke. Even the comparatively slow rollers among the pros, like Tom Baker, execute shots at least in the high-medium range (16.5 to 18-mph).
In fact, on a recent Tour telecast, very few players were clocked with a ball speed under 18-mph. Further,
studies verify that it is all but impossible for a bowler to compete successfully on the pro level with a release-to-pin deck time over 2.5 seconds, which computes to 16.3-mph.
However, caution is the word. If balance and stability are affected by excessive speed, then it should be discontinued. The pro game is not necessarily best suited for everyone. At times, even top players tamp down their ball speed when it’s causing some disorientation. Certainly, those of modest strength, or those who are unable to practice a great deal, should consider medium ball speed as their best option.
Just whipping the ball down the lane is not enough. Though adding to the ball’s impact potential, the added
speed is of little use without ideal roll and accuracy. This isn’t to say that a player won’t do reasonably well nor enjoy the game using relatively moderate ball speed. Just as in golf, where a 260-yard driving average
may be required to compete at the top levels, there are plenty of intermediate golfers whose maximum poke may not clear 200 yards. Yet they are content to play a good game within their limitations.
Likewise, once a bowler justifiably accepts this conclusion, he or she will discover there is still a great deal
of satisfaction and reward to be found when averaging in the 180 to 190 range.