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Do Professional Bowlers Use the Thumb Holes?

do professional bowlers use the thumb holes

Amateur bowlers will tend to use the thumb hole when gripping a ball. After all, bowling balls can be quite tough to control at the best of times, and the more grip a new player has over the ball, the better. But, what about professionals? Do they use the thumb holes too?

Well, a lot of it is going to be dependent on the player. Most professional bowlers do not use the thumb holes. They will use the two finger hold for big hooks. This gives them better control of the spin of the ball.

The two finger grip uses two fingertips, the ring and middle fingers while the thumb is intentionally left out.

How Do Professional Players Hold the Ball?

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You may be surprised to know this, but there are still some professional players that hold the ball in a similar way to an amateur player. This means that the following fingers are placed in the holes:

  • Thumb
  • Middle finger
  • Ring finger

Most professionals will use a two finger hold which only uses two holes:

  • Middle finger
  • Ring finer

The other two fingers are there to support the ball and to help add a bit of extra control to the shot.

That being said, the players that do this are few and far between. A lot of professional bowlers will actually use what is known as the ‘fingertip grip’.

If a professional bowler is using their thumbs, then their thumb will be buried deep inside the thumb hole. However, for their middle finger and ring finger, only the tip will be in their respective holes. This allows for a speedier release of the bowling ball. It also allows players to add a bit of a curve to their shots if they wanted.

Beyond this, you may find that there are some professional players that will have five finger holes. They will use all of them. However, these players are few and far between. After all, the more fingers you have buried in the holes, the more difficult it becomes to release the ball when you are throwing it. This can have an impact on the accuracy of the shot.

On the professional circuit, the players tend to have their holes drilled in different positions too. Each player will have their own ‘comfort’ level when it comes to gripping the ball. Some professional players will have holes that are spread quite far apart, whereas others will have holes that are a bit closer together.

This is why decent bowling balls never come predrilled. Every player wants something different from their bowling ball, and the way that it is held will strongly determine where these holes are going to be placed.

Did you know some bowling balls actually have scents? Storm bowling balls like this one have special fragrances added into the ingredients during the manufacturing process. Fragrances like birthday cake and grapevine are just some of the scents that they have to offer. It’s said that fragrances help bowlers maintain their focus while throwing.

Do You Have to Use the Finger Holes in Bowling?

You do not have to put your fingers in the finger holes while bowling. However, there are rules about this. At least in bowling in the United States. Other countries may have slightly different rules.

In the United States, you can have up to five gripping holes drilled. This means four for your fingers, and one for the thumb. You can then have an additional balancing hole drilled. However, if you do not normally use your thumb to grip the ball, then you don’t get an additional balancing hole. Your thumb hole fulfills that purpose.

The more complicated rules relate to the other four holes i.e. the ones for your fingers. The rules do not state that you have to put your fingers in them. However, you have to be able to cover them up when you are bowling the ball.

This means that the holes should be spaced in the same position that your hand is when you grip the ball. If they are not, then the holes would be illegal under the rules of the sport.

That being said, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be using at least some of the finger holes on a bowling ball. If you are using a ‘palm grip’ on the ball, then you will not have as much control over your shot as you think. Your arm simply wouldn’t bowl straight. The worst part is that your shots wouldn’t really be repeatable.

This is because your body is going to move in a slightly different way each time. So, if you are considering not using the finger holes on your bowling ball, then reconsider your position. Sure. You can avoid using some of them. Plenty of bowlers do. However, no professional bowler will ever ‘palm’ the ball. They wouldn’t see any success in the sport. 

Balancing Holes

Up until 2014, a lot of professional bowlers in the United States would still have a thumb hole drilled, even if they didn’t actually plan on playing with their thumb. This is because that extra hole provided a little bit more balance on the ball. This could help improve their game in certain areas.

However, the United States Bowling Congress decided that this was unfair on the players that bowled using their thumbs. Therefore, if a player played without their thumbs, the thumb hole would be classed as a balancing hole on the ball, and you are only allowed one balancing hole.

As a result, a lot of non-thumb players decided to ditch these holes. Now it is easy to tell who plays with their thumb and who doesn’t. 

Final Thoughts

Some professional players will use thumb holes. Others may not. It all depends on what they feel comfortable with. In terms of grip, almost all professionals will use what is known as a ‘fingertip grip’.

This allows the quick and effortless release of the bowling ball. If you are a new bowler or are looking to improve your game, then it may be wise to check out a few different grip styles and hole locations on your bowling ball.

This will allow you to discover what works well for you. Trust us, when you have found something that works well for you, your game will improve immensely.

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