Do you ever wonder if the heavier bowling balls at your local alley offer an advantage over lighter balls?
Have you ever seen a professional utilize one and wondered why?
There is more to this game than meets the eye and as it turns out, there may be a hidden benefit to throwing something heavy down the lane.
In this blog post, we’ll take a look at how weight might influence the speed of bowling and examine whether heavier bowling balls go faster.
Read on to learn all about physics, friction, and the fun secrets of pro bowlers.
Do heavier bowling balls go faster?
The answer is yes. Heavier bowling balls do travel faster than lighter ones, BUT the speed difference isn’t as drastic as you might think.
This is because a bowling ball’s speed is largely determined by its momentum and inertia rather than its weight alone.
When you throw a heavier bowling ball, it has more inertia, meaning it won’t slow down as quickly when it encounters friction on the lane.
This means that in addition to being heavier, the bowling ball will take longer to decelerate and will ultimately travel further down the lane before coming to a rest.
However, even though heavier bowling balls have more momentum and inertia, this doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll go significantly faster than lighter ones.
Generally speaking, most bowlers use slightly heavy balls, typically around 16 pounds, for their strikes so that they can gain an advantage without sacrificing too much accuracy or control over where their ball goes.
The physics behind bowling ball speed
The motion of a bowling ball, when released, is governed by two main forces: gravity, which pulls the ball down toward the ground, and friction, which acts between the rolling surface and the ball.
In order to achieve maximum speed, you need to apply as much force onto the ball as possible while minimizing friction.
To do this, you must utilize proper form during your approach and release so that you have good control over your arm swing and wrist snap.
When your arm swings forward, centrifugal force acts on the bowling ball to make it spin around its axis of rotation.
The amount of spin is determined by how fast your arm moves at release; this spinning motion reduces friction with the lane surface and causes the ball to travel farther before hitting pins.
Additionally, angular momentum causes the conservation of energy in rotary motion.
This means that if a large amount of force is applied during release, it will be conserved throughout each revolution of spin until impact with the pins.
And that will result in a faster entry velocity into the pin deck area.
The shape and size of a bowling ball also affect its speed.
A larger mass generates more inertia when accelerated down the lane.
This adds additional momentum when combined with rotational energy from an angled release point and wrist snap at release.
Polyester resin balls are common among bowlers because they are designed to efficiently transfer kinetic energy from your arm swing into rolling motion when thrown down-lane.
These types of balls tend to produce faster speeds than urethane or plastic balls due to their higher coefficient of friction on lane surfaces.
Finally, oil patterns on lanes affect bowling ball speed.
Because they play an important role in determining how much friction exists between the lane surface and your bowling ball’s coverstock material.
Different oil patterns produce different levels of friction which can slow or increase a bowling ball’s speed.
For example, light volumes of oil tend to cause less resistance at impact but provide less traction overall.
Whereas heavier oils generate greater reactions off dry boards but don’t travel as far due to increased drag forces acting on them mid-lane onward toward pin area entry velocity.
By understanding these key principles behind physics governing bowling ball speed you can make small adjustments in form, equipment selection, or lane conditions that will ultimately result in higher scores.
In short, when it comes to the speed of your bowling ball, the weight you choose is up to you!
Heavier balls do have more inertia which does contribute to a faster bowling speed, but the difference isn’t as large as we may think.
Whether you prefer needing more power for a heavy ball or using more finesse for a light one, every bowler can find their ideal style and perfect weight.
Whether it be a 7-pound ball or a 16-pound ball, give it a few frames and experiment with what fits your style best.
Maybe being heavy-handed will take you all the way to that 300 game.
Last updated on March 13, 2023
Jerry Coleman is a professional bowler and experienced bowling blogger. He founded and owns the voelkersbowling.net website, which provides news and information about the sport of bowling. Jerry has competed in numerous tournaments over the years and has won several awards for his bowling skills.