Now's time to check out equipment, practice for the fall Proper ball and shoes are necessities for game


August 09, 1992|By Donald G. Vitek

Difficult to believe, but summer is fast fading. In a few weeks the fall-winter bowling season will be upon us.

What happened to that promise you made to yourself that you were going to practice this summer? This was the year that you were going to be in mid-season form when the fall season began . . . remember?

OK, you folks who bowled in a summer league are exempt, and, I guess, the bowlers who bowled in a few tournaments did get a little practice. The rest of you? Shame. You threw the bag and ball in the closet and forgot about bowling for the summer. Time to get the bag and ball out of that closet, check them out, and get some practice before the league starts.

This is a great time to go over your bowling equipment. The correct equipment, equipment that's in good repair, is a big boost to your game, duckpins or tenpins.

Let's start with the bowling ball bag. If it's just a little banged up, a little dirty, a little scuffed, that's OK. Clean it up and make it do.

But if you notice the handle starting to tear where it attaches to the bag, it means that a new bag couldn't hurt. Of course, a new bag does get rid of those lingering odors. If you decide to buy a new bag, make sure that it's sturdily built. That's especially true if you're buying a tenpin bag that carries more than one ball. The last thing you need is having your bag rip open on a snowy winter night when you pull it out of the car trunk.

Bowling balls. Sure, they're available at the bowling center, and in a pinch they'll do the job. However, because of simple economic facts, house balls are usually in poor condition. Bowling balls are expensive. When you have to stock a bowling (( center with new bowling balls, you're talking about a major expenditure. It follows that house balls are often scratched, nicked, or in some extreme cases, have actual holes in them.

Even if they are in great shape, there's still the problem of weight. Finding the exact weight you need can be frustrating and time-consuming. The chance of finding the same ball or balls the following week is pretty small.

If you're a tenpin bowler, the problem is compounded. Now you have to find a ball that fits your hand and your fingers. This can drive you crazy.

Now is the time to buy your own bowling ball. How much will you spend? Duckpin balls can range from reconditioned ones for as little as $25 up to $65 for top-of-the-line new balls. That's for two balls: Duckpin balls are sold in pairs.

Legal weight duckpin balls range from 3 pounds 6 ounces to 3 pounds 12 ounces. That's a big range in weights, and you should give a great deal of consideration to the proper weight for your age, size and hand strength.

There are two diameters for duckpin balls, one for tenpin balls. The duckpin ball will be either 5 inches or 4 7/8 in size. Of course, a duckpin ball that's been reconditioned (turned down to remove nicks and scratches) will be a tad smaller and may even give a better "feel" to your grip.

Tenpin balls have reached the point where the market has so many different brands, makes, models, weights and construction that it's just about impossible to make a purchase without the help of a professional. And buying a tenpin ball is a major investment. Some tenpin balls are approaching $200; a good, medium-priced ball will cost more than $100.

Of even more importance than price is the level of expertise of the pro shop operator. It's just not wise to have three holes drilled in a ball and call it a day. With the plethora of materials and the fact that balls can have two, three, four or more pieces in their construction, you have to have an extensive knowledge to fit and drill a ball properly.

Talk to other bowlers, ask a lot questions when you're in the pro shop, make sure that the ball feels right. More important, make sure the ball does what it's supposed to on the lanes.

When you watch the pros on TV, you see and hear a lot about switching ballsfor changing lane conditions, even for shooting spares. Is it necessary? I'm sorry to say, yes, it really is necessary today if you want to excel.

Does the average league bowler, the one-night-a-week bowler, need more than one ball? Not in my opinion. But make sure that you explain to the pro shop operator that you need a ball that will react to the same conditions every time you bowl.

Not that lane conditions can't change in your regular center from week to week, but chances are good that the condition will be pretty consistent. Will a second ball improve your game? Probably. Will a third and fourth ball really help? If you're an advanced amateur or a professional, definitely. If you're the average league bowler, it probably won't make much difference.

Books have been written about tenpin bowling balls; it's a complicated subject. Talk to other bowlers, talk to different pro shop operators, and don't expect a new ball to turn you into an instant star.

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