Testing the Effects of Bowling Ball Pin Placement

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Most of the time when bowlers make changes to their bowling ball if they don’t feel entirely comfortable with its reaction, they ask their pro shop to re-drill the holes and adjust pin placement. But, today we’ll learn that it may be simpler and more effective to adjust the ball’s surface than to fiddle with its layout.

Taking stock of pin placement

In this quick demonstration, research tech Jason Milligan and bowling coach Rod Ross use EARL the Robot to show how bowling ball pin placement, and surface adjustments affect the way a ball rolls. Jason sets EARL up to throw an undrilled ball down the lane several times, adjusting its grip to accommodate pin placements of 3, 4 and 5 inches. You’ll notice that with each pin placement, the ball holds a similar line, hitting the pocket at only slightly different spots.

Adjusting bowling ball surface

So we’ve learned that bowling ball pin placement may not affect the path of a shot as much as we think it would, but what happens when we tinker with the surface of the ball? To demonstrate the difference, Jason and Rod test the same ball on EARL with a 4-inch bowling ball pin placement, but with three distinct surfaces.

Jason and Rod first test the ball with its out-of-the-box finish, which finds the pocket exactly where we’d expect. They then apply a 2000 grit finish to the same ball and learn that it tends to hook harder late and ends up a little bit high. Finally, they apply a 500 grit finish, which unsurprisingly carries an even more dramatic hook and ends up nearly missing the head pin to the left.

While surface adjustments won’t have the exact same effects on all balls and all cores, these results demonstrate that you’ll typically notice greater change in your ball’s reaction by experimenting with different surfaces rather than making minor adjustments to your bowling ball pin placement.

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