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What You need to Know about Bowling Ball Drilling

Bowling ball drilling explained

When you purchase a bowling ball, it comes undrilled. To make it usable for the next bowling session, you need to drill some holes in your fingers and thumb. You can’t just take your undrilled ball and roll it down the lane. Of course, you have to get the ball drilled! Now, answer me, do you know everything regarding the bowling ball drilling process? What is this procedure? What are the precautions you need to take before getting it done? So many questions! Hence, this article. So just relax and give it a read for everything you need to know.

What you should know about bowling ball drilling?

Do you know what bowling ball drilling is? No? Then hear me out. According to USBC, bowling ball drilling defines where and how the thumb and finger holes are mapped out on the balls for the purpose of drilling so that bowlers can grip the bowling balls for swinging and rolling. The bowling ball drilling is also related to the locator pin and the mass bias marker. 


You can never bowl with an undrilled bowling ball, even if you use both hands to bowl. Drilling the bowling ball is essential and unavoidable. Those who use one of their hands to bowl, need the drilled holes to grip, swing, and release during the approach. So have you ever wondered how it is done? How the ball is drilled to perfection for your use? If you don’t know already, it’s high time you did! It’s true that a lot of factors are taken into consideration when a bowling ball is drilled. And, a lot of those factors depend on the players themselves. Allow me to elaborate.

Spec sheet layout recommendation

One of the most basic layouts for ball drilling is following the spec sheet that comes with the bowling ball. Most bowling ball manufacturers include a “recommended drilling spec sheet” when they ship the bowling ball in the box. Bowling balls that have newer technologies and new materials are more common to have this sheet. You don’t necessarily have to use that layout, but it gives the bowlers as well as the pro shop operators a little idea of where to start and what kind of layout options will be suitable for the bowling ball.

Accuracy in Bowling Ball Drilling

Accuracy is everything! Without the right drilling layout, you will never experience the joy of satisfactory ball motion. When the drilling layout isn’t compatible with your bowling style, you won’t see expected ball reaction. Your throw will off and delivery technique won’t be good as well.

Core-Cover Combo

The cover-core duo is another biggest factor that you can’t just avoid when drilling a bowling ball. Symmetrical and asymmetrical bowling balls have different drilling layouts. Therefore, make sure you choose the best drilling layout option based on the coverstock type and core type and shape of your ball.

Right-Fit Drilling Layout

No matter which layout you choose, make sure your fingers fit the drilled holes perfectly. They are not too tight or too spacious. When the drilled holes are right-fitting, you will see a longer skid length in the front end of the lane. Moreover, the back end motion of the ball is also going to be more angular and stronger. Contrarily, a weaker layout will force the ball out of the skid phase a bit sooner compared to a stronger layout bowling ball. On top of that, it won’t have much strong backend reaction which is very important.

Ball Drilling Based on Rev Rate

Are you a rev dominant bowler? Do you have a high rev rate or a medium-high rev rate? For you, getting your ball drilled in a weaker layout would be the bets as it won’t snap unpredictably at the backends. So what about medium to low rev rate bowlers? Well, you will be needing stronger layouts for your bowling ball to balance everything out.

Where to get holes drilled in bowling ball?

Are you confused about where the holes will be placed on the bowling ball? Before any sort of holes is drilled, pro shop operators need to take some measurements for the right placement.

Select the Right Hole Configuration

Once the right bowling ball is chosen, start prepping for the ball drilling. First, you will need to choose a hole configuration. The semi-fingertip grip, the fingertip grip, or the conventional grip— go for any of these three.

Measure the Span

Okay, time to measure your span! So what is it? It’s the space between the two fingers that get into the finger holes and the base of your thumb. The measurement is taken based on the hole configuration using a compass or calipers. Do keep in mind that only your fingertips (not the thumb) will go in, not to the finger’s base. 

Decide on An Angle

To know your best angle, you should try throwing a bowling ball is different angles and see what you’re comfortable with the most for ball gripping and throwing. The ball will get on the lane from higher with more lift if the drilled holes are angled more to the forward. Why does this occur? This is because your fingers don’t get out of the holes until the very last second of the ball release. Hence, comfort, strengths, and weaknesses— are everything you should take into consideration before deciding on the angle.

These measurements give them an idea of where to drill the holes in the ball. Moreover, there is always that pin spot indicator on the bowling that help them understand where the core is placed so that they either drill a pin up or pin down layout without destroying the core on the inside.

How to drill a bowling ball for maximum hook?

So do you want to drill your ball in a way so that you can always get the maximum hook? Fear not, I know how that can be achieved. Whether you are drilling your bowling ball at home or getting it done from a nearby pro shop, these are the steps that are followed for the best outcomes which mean maximum hook!

Step 1:

If it is your first time drilling the ball, your first job would be to take the measurements or let the shop operator take it. Once the span is taken properly, and you have decided on an angle, time for the real action!

Step 2:

Next, the bowling ball surface is marked according to your chosen configuration with easily erasable chalk, pencil, or marker. With your span and angle, the marks are placed accordingly so that the drilled holes match your hand. Make sure you or your pro shop operator double-check everything before getting the machine started.

Step 3:

After all the measurements are taken and the ball is marked for the drill points, the ball is then clamped tightly in a place (right under the drilling machine) so that it cannot move or roll. If the bowling ball moves, even just by half a centimeter, the drilled holes will be inaccurate and incompatible for you to use.

Step 4:

So after the ball is in position, the drill will be adjusted as per the girth of your fingers and thumb. Yes, the drill bits actually come in different sizes so that no matter how narrow or wide your fingers are, you can still play! Once the proper drill bit is attached to the machine, time for the main and most important step.

Step 5:

This is when the machine is turned on. First, the thumb hole is drilled according to your preferred angle. This step is going to be nice and slow for safety purposes so that the holes are not too deep or too shallow. Naturally, all of our thumbs are wider than our other fingers. So for the next two finger holes, the drill bits are changed to match the girth of the other two finger holes. It is also done carefully for the right depth.

Step 6:

In the final step, the freshly drilled holes are sanded to smooth out the rough and sharp edges. This step is unavoidable because gripping the ball will be too painful and uncomfortable. This will also make bowling impossible. Some pro shop operators like to use a little bit of ball polishing agent and give your ball a nice polish before handing it over to you.

That’s pretty much how a bowling ball is drilled for maximum hook and better bowling performance. When a bowling ball is drilled with precision, it will automatically have the ability to provide better entry angles and lots of hooks.

How much to drill a bowling ball?

Okay, so you have purchased a new expensive bowling ball and now it needs more money for drilling? Yeah, I know, I wasn’t happy about it either when I first knew that there are some extra costs to drilling a bowling ball. Then I found out about the cost, and it didn’t both too much.

To drill your ball in a bowling pro shop, the professional shop operator is going to charge you a certain amount of money for the whole process. Generally, it costs between $20 to $50. However, the price can be a little lower when you buy and drill your bowling ball from the same shop. This is when they might offer a special deal and charge you only $10 to $20. Statistically, most pro shop operators say they charge recreational players between $30 and $50 on average. So if you’re in luck, they may offer a discounted price.

You should also know that bowling ball drilling costs varies from place to place. Although the abovementioned costs are average, the drilling cost can sometimes go up to $70. These kinds of prices are only applicable when you customize a few things and sometimes the costs vary due to the coverstock type and hole configuration. Another thing that impacts the cost is the kind of drilling you choose for yourself. Professional ball drilling and standard ball drilling are significantly different. So based on what you choose for your bowling ball, the charge will be adjusted.  


How long does it take to drill a bowling ball?

How long your bowling ball will take to drill depends on the ball, the gear and machines available in the pro shop, and the shop operators themselves. But I can give you an estimation. The entire process of drilling new holes in a bowling ball from takes about 30 to 60 minutes. If an expert is doing it, the whole thing can be done within 15 to 20 minutes. However, it is only possible to do it so fast when you already know the drilling layout you need and all the measurements, configurations, and spans. If it is your first even bowling ball drilling, the operator is gonna take some time to gather necessary information from you before putting it under the machine. This is when it takes time, usually an hour or so. Whether you are drilling your own bowling ball or getting it done in a pro shop, I would recommend you clear out your schedule for an hour.

Can you drill bowling ball at home?

So what about them who have all the bowling ball drilling tools and want to get it done at home? Can you do it yourself? Well, that depends on your experience in ball drilling. Did you do it before? If you’re willing to do it yourself, you should be aware of the risk factors. Just a small mistake, or a wrong calculation can completely ruin a ball. Generally, the process of bowling ball drilling requires micromanagement that professionals are good at. In my opinion, getting it done by a pro shop operator is the best approach. But if you wanna save some bucks and still want to do it yourself, then sure! Go ahead, and do it! I hope you have practiced on some plastic bowling balls before you drill an expensive one. A little DIY project is nothing but fun. Don’t forget to take proper precautions and safety measurements. So does that answer your question? It is totally possible to drill your bowling ball at home!


That’s all, folks! I have put together every piece of information you need to know about bowling ball drilling. So if you want to drill new holes into your bowling ball, take it to your local pro shop right now! Wanna do it yourself at home? You know the deal too! If you have any further queries, feel free to reach out to me. Good luck and keep on rolling!