Can You Use A Bowling Ball Without Holes?

Bowling is a beloved sport enjoyed by millions worldwide, but have you ever wondered if it’s possible to bowl with a ball that has no holes? This intriguing question challenges the traditional notion of how we engage with this popular pastime.

In this blog post, we’ll dive into the world of bowling regulations and explore whether a hole-less ball can make its way down the alley.

Can You Bowl With A Bowling Ball Without Holes?

Yes, you can use a bowling ball without holes for recreational purposes. But it may not be permitted under governing bodies such as the USBC.

The Use Of Balance Holes

Balance holes in a bowling ball are used to adjust the weight distribution of the ball. This can affect how the ball reacts to different lane conditions and oil patterns.

However, recent USBC rule changes now limit the use of balance holes to one per ball and restrict their placement. Bowlers who already have balls with multiple balance holes must seal all but one before using them in sanctioned events.

Sealing Unused Holes

If you choose to use a ball with finger holes, but not the thumb hole while bowling, it’s essential to seal the unused hole. The USBC has strict rules about balance holes in bowling balls that require them to be covered or plugged if they are no longer necessary.

Sealing unused holes is crucial because unsealed holes can affect the balance of your ball and interfere with its overall performance. Therefore, it’s recommended that you work with an experienced pro shop specialist who knows how to drill and plug any unused grip (weight) holes safely and efficiently without damaging your equipment.

Thumb Hole Exceptions

As mentioned earlier, if a bowler uses a ball with a thumb hole that is not used during delivery, the ball is considered illegal. However, there are some thumb hole exceptions to this rule.

For example, if a bowler has an injury or disability that prevents them from using their thumb in the traditional way but still wants to compete under USBC rules, they can apply for an exception and use a ball with only finger holes.

Additionally, bowlers who prefer to use the two-handed technique may also be allowed to use balls without thumb holes as long as they follow certain guidelines outlined by the USBC.

Understanding The Rules Of Bowling Balls

USBC Grip Hole Requirement

As a seasoned bowler, I closely follow the rules set by the United States Bowling Congress (USBC) to ensure fair play. One important regulation pertains to grip holes in bowling balls.

In recent years, there have been modifications to this rule as bowlers continue experimenting with new techniques and technologies. So now, if you’re using a ball that has more than just your standard finger holes and an additional thumb hole, it is crucial that all of these are utilized during delivery.

Otherwise, your ball may be deemed illegal under USBC guidelines which could lead to forfeiture of games played.

Covering Holes For Gripping Purposes

As per the USBC Grip Hole Requirement, a bowling ball must have at least one hole for gripping purposes. However, bowlers are allowed to use tape or inserts to cover additional holes for better grip and control.

This is common practice among bowlers who prefer custom-fit balls with specific finger and thumb spacing. By using tapes or silicone grips to cover up unused holes in the ball, players can create a consistent feel and reduce slippage during delivery.

The Balance Hole Rule

Bowling balls used to have weight holes, also known as balance holes, drilled into them. These extra holes could help achieve the desired weight distribution and increase hook potential.

However, in 2020, the USBC implemented a new rule that restricts the use of weight holes. Now bowlers are allowed only one hole for gripping purposes and no more than five ounces of static side or thumb weight.

The rule was introduced to maintain fairness among all players by ensuring everyone has equal opportunities on the lanes.

Alternatives To Traditional Bowling Balls

Can You Use A Bowling Ball Without Holes

No Thumb Bowling

One alternative to using a traditional bowling ball is no thumb bowling. This technique involves gripping the ball with just the fingers, eliminating the need for a thumb hole.

While it may seem difficult at first, many bowlers have found success with this method as it reduces tension in the hand and allows for better control of the ball’s spin and trajectory.

In fact, professional bowler Jason Belmonte has won numerous championships using a two-handed grip without placing his thumb in the ball.

Two-Handed Bowling

In two-handed bowling, the bowler uses both hands to deliver the ball instead of just one. This style has become increasingly popular among professional bowlers in recent years.

However, this technique is not suitable for everyone as it requires heightened physical ability and strength. It also requires a different ball selection process since traditional drilling patterns may not be effective with this style of delivery.

Other Types Of Bowling Balls

Aside from traditional bowling balls, there are other types of bowling balls that may suit your playing style. One popular option is a spare ball, which is designed to hit straight and eliminate the need for hooks or spins.

Another type of alternative ball is the urethane coverstock ball, which provides more hook potential than plastic but less reactive resin. Some bowlers also opt for personal customizations like drilling additional holes or using a heavier weight for increased power.


In conclusion, using a bowling ball without holes may not be ideal for competitive play but is acceptable for recreational purposes. The USBC has modified its rules regarding grip holes and balance holes in recent years, which has led to changes in the design of modern bowling balls.

While there are alternatives such as no thumb or two-handed techniques, ultimately choosing the right ball based on individual fit and preferences is crucial.

Understanding the rules and regulations set by governing bodies like USBC can help players avoid forfeiting games and improve their overall performance.

Last updated on June 11, 2023