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Ideal Bowling Ball Speed, Originally Posted: 12/5/2011; Updated: 8/23/2023

If you are unsure what is the ideal bowling ball speed, then you should follow the guidelines provided by the manufacturers the United States Bowling Congress' (USBC) recent Ball Motion Study regarding optimum ball speed. The facts are that the ideal bowling ball speed is about 17 miles per hour (mph) measured at impact with the pins and about 21 mph when the ball is released onto the lane, plus or minus one mph tolerance.

The Ideal Ball Speed For Professional Bowlers

If we use the Pro Bowlers as examples of ball speed measurements, we find that bowlers delivering a bowling ball less than 16 mph at impact with the pins are not as effective in pin carry and in generating consistent ball motion as those who deliver the ball at 17-19 mph. Most Pro Bowlers will release the ball anywhere from 20-22 mph at the release point and will impact the pins at 17 or 18 mph. By delivering the ball faster than this speed range, the Pro Bowler is in danger of less than optimum pin carry. The same is true with a ball speed less than 16 mph at impact with the pins. It is, therefore, a wise practice to try and match relative ball speed ranges used by the professionals to help you produce successful results.

Common Factors Affecting Ball Speed

Typically, a bowling ball takes about 2.5 seconds elapsed time, plus or minus o.15 seconds, to contact the pins at an instantaneous velocity of 16.5 mph. It should be pointed out, however, that elapsed travel time varies in accordance with three common factors:

1. lane oil conditions
2. bowling ball coverstock surface texture
3. the amount a bowling ball hooks as it travels down the lane

How To Find The Ideal Ball Speed For Different Oil Conditions

If a lane has a heavy application of oil on the front end, then a bowler delivering a ball at 21 mph when the ball first contacts the lane surface will encounter maximum ball skid and the ball will retain greater velocity on its way to the pins than will a ball delivered at the same speed on a dry lane where friction slows down the ball significantly. Oil conditions can vary the ball speed at impact with the pins by 2 mph given the right circumstances. This fact is one reason why professional bowling instructors ask students to deliver the ball with a faster release velocity on dry portions of the lanes to compensate for high surface friction.

Does The Coverstock Of Your Bowling Ball Affect Ball Speed?

A solid coverstock, as example with a low grit surface texture, such as prepared with a 500 grit Abralon pad, will lose speed at a faster pace than will a pearl reactive coverstock polished and prepared with a 4000 grit Abralon pad and when delivered on the same lane condition by the same bowler and at the same initial ball speed and release angle. Friction reduces ball speed.

The Importance Of Matching Ball Speed To Your Bowling Style

A power player with a high rev-rate and a good deal of axis tilt will hook the ball much more than a down-the boards player. If both players deliver a ball at the same initial ball speed on the same lane with the same oil pattern and both are aligned properly to hit the pocket, then the power player will encounter less ball speed at impact with the pins than will the straighter, direction player. The ball which hooks the most takes a longer time to cover the boards on its journey down the lane than a ball delivered on a straight path to the pocket, albeit both were delivered at the same initial speed. A power player must deliver the ball at a slightly higher initial ball speed than a straight ball player on the same lane condition to obtain the comparable ball speed at impact with the pins.

How To Accurately Determine Your Ideal Ball Speed

As we can tell from these examples, ball speed can be tricky when trying to determine the right speed during competition. Because you do not have a speed measuring device manufacturers use to test bowling balls, like the C.A.T.S. (Computer Aided Tracking System) computer, handy during your competition, you must rely on developing proper ball speed techniques you can rely on during your practice sessions and then be able to adjust your speed slightly either to gain speed on dry lanes or to reduce speed slightly on heavily oiled lanes so you can achieve ideal bowling ball speed at impact with the pins.

We at recommend you consult with a certified coach or local bowling professional to develop good physical game techniques and effective initial ball speed control while also making useful speed adjustments as needed. Any coach will tell you that once you find the right ball speed at a given time you are bowling, maintaining consistent speed control is a key factor in producing good results and high scores. Thanks for visiting

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