Does Bowling Ball Size Matter?

Posted by Bold Commerce Collaborator on

This blog post was from a 2005 test. 

Recently I was in a discussion about bowling balls and the topic of ball size came up.  Not really knowing if size really mattered I decided to set up a test to hopefully provide some insight into the very heated topic.  So in this issue of Tech Tips we will explore bowling ball size from a subjective standpoint.  For years professional bowlers and amateurs alike have said smaller balls hook more, or can go deeper into the pocket and as a result will carry better.  There has been equal amount of talk about larger balls.  Bowlers have said that larger balls hit better or that larger balls make the pins fly more.  So wondering myself how size effects ball reaction and pin fall, I decided to set up a small subjective experiment to try to find out if size matters or not.  The ABC/WIBC specification for diameter is 8.595 inches to 8.500 inches.  Knowing this we set this test up to sample a range of the specification.

The Set Up

For this experiment we chose three different styles of players.   Each player was given the same ball at different sizes.  

The sizes were:

  1. ABC/WIBC Maximum Diameter 8.595 inches
  2. Ebonite Standard Diameter 8.585 inches 
  3. Test One Smaller Diameter 8.550 inches
  4. Test Two Smaller Diameter 8.510 inches

One of the first things that we decided to look at was inertia or ball dynamic properties of balls.  We tested each ball for Rg and Differential.

The following is an average list of all of the Mass Properties for the balls:

                                                                                                                                   RG             Diff

Ball 1 ABC/WIBC Maximum Diameter 8.595 inches         2.538           0.042

Ball 2 Ebonite Standard Diameter 8.585 inches                 2.530           0.044

Ball 3 Test One Smaller Diameter 8.550 inches                  2.520           0.044

Ball 4 Test Two Smaller Diameter 8.510 inches                  2.508           0.046

We also weighed each ball to find out how much difference existed between the balls.

Weight (pounds)

ABC/WIBC Maximum Diameter 8.595 inches          15.13 lb

Ebonite Standard Diameter 8.585 inches                    15.03 lb

Test One Smaller Diameter 8.550 inches                    14.90 lb

Test Two Smaller Diameter 8.510 inches                     14.77 lb

It is interesting to note that size does play a role in Rg as well as differential.  Notice that the larger the size, the higher the Rg value and the lower the differential value.  These changes are a result of the smaller coverstock allowing the core to play a greater role in the dynamics of the ball. Also, the balls differed as much as 0.36 lb between the highest and the lowest weighted ball.   

The ball that was used in this test was the Ebonite Vortex II Clean.  The players were instructed to bowl a minimum of 30 games with each ball in a variety of conditions and houses, and then to comment on each ball as well as select a favorite ball. 

  1. Professional Bowler

Name: Jason Queen

Rev Rate: Low

Ball Speed: Slow

Style of lane play: in the track 

Favorite ball size:  8.510 inches


I tested all of the balls on P.B.A. pattern B and pattern E as well as a House condition.  The balls were also thrown on two different lane surfaces, Brunswick Lane Shield as well as Brunswick Pro Anvil lane.  The reaction differences were the same for all lane conditions and lane surfaces comparing the balls to each other.  The smaller the ball, the lower the pins flew.  The smaller the ball the better the ball cut through the pins.  The 8.510 inch ball carried the best by far.  At one point I threw 28 strikes in a row with it.  I was amazed at how much entry angle I got from the 8.510 inch ball.  The ball felt the best in my hand, like a softball.  I could tell a big difference in the feel of each ball.  I felt like I could really rev it up if needed.  The ball motion of the 8.510 inch ball was long and very angular compared to the other balls. The larger the ball, the more even rolling and smoother the ball reaction.  I had a tough time carrying and left a lot of 10 pins with the 8.595 inch ball.  The bigger the ball, the quicker the ball stood up in the midlane.  I felt that the 8.510 inch ball was 5 to 6 boards stronger than the 8.595 inch ball.  The 8.510 inch ball will definitely stay in my competition bag! 

Player 2. Mega Buck Amateur Bowler

Name: Andrew 

Rev Rate Medium

Ball Speed Medium

Style of lane play: inside out 

Favorite ball size: 8.510 inches


I threw the balls on Wood, and Synthetic.  I also used the balls on a Sport pattern, a short house pattern and a long house pattern.  The differences in the balls remained the same on each condition and surfaces.  I like the feel of the 8.550 inch ball the best.  The 8.550 ball hit harder than the 8.585 inch ball but less than the 8.510 inch ball.  The 8.510 inch ball carried the best and hit the hardest.  The 8.595 inch ball seemed to be hard to rev.    It was very hard to kick out the corner pin.  This ball on impact made the pins fly higher.  The differences in span seemed enormous but when the balls were checked for span they all measured the same. I think that the smaller the ball, the more angular the ball is and better the carry is in general.  Light hits seemed to carry better with the 8.585 inch ball.  The 8.585 inch ball was good, but if I had my choice I would prefer the 8.510 inch ball because it struck the most.  

Player 3.  High Average League Bowler

Name: Ron Sr.

Rev Rate Medium

Ball Speed Medium

Style of lane play: outside 

Favorite ball size: 8.510 inches

Comments: I tested the balls on Guardian surface in one of the houses. I then went to a house that had wood. However, this house was a little drier when I did the test. There was a difference in ball reaction from the two houses. In the house that had guardian, I did not see a big difference in all four of the balls.  I really liked how the smaller ball carried the pins, and rolled off my hand. It had a very angular entry into the pocket, which was very predictable. I like the feel of the smaller ball. It really feels good in the hand. The ball with the 8.585 inch diameter felt different in the hand, and the carry was not as predictable as the smaller ball. The ball with the 8.595 inch diameter felt stretched in the hand and was hard to rev up. It didn’t seem to be as smooth or controllable as the smaller ball. On the wood condition, this ball moved a lot quicker than the smaller ball and it seemed to lose its hitting power when it got to the pocket. The 8.510 inch ball rolled the same as it did in the guardian house. It was very controllable and hit the pocket very well with great carry. The 8.550 inch ball did hit harder than the 8.585 ball, but it didn’t carry as well as the 8.510 ball. If I had my choice of ball, it would be in favor of the smallest ball because of how controlling it was and the hitting power it displayed when I threw it.

Manufacturer Differences

We decided to test our balls as well as competitors balls for size.  Our balls averaged 8.585 inches.  Our competitor balls ranged from 8.545 inches to an illegal 8.607 inches.

Ebonite currently uses the 8.585 inch specification on all bowling balls to allow for maximum resurfacing of its products.   The following chart is an average of 2 balls.  

Ball Name Average Diameter  (inches)

Ebonite V2 Clean 8.585

Ebonite Primal Instinct 8.585

Hammer Deal 8.585

Hammer Switch Blade 8.585

Storm Depth Charge 8.607

Storm Triple Xtreme 8.590

Brunswick Ultimate Inferno 8.577

Brunswick Inferno 8.558

Columbia Shock 8.545

Columbia Alter Ego 8.565

Track Untamed Animal 8.550

Track Animal 8.577

Ebonite uses the 8.585 inch specification on all bowling balls to allow for maximum resurfacing of its products. 

There were some interesting results about size noted by all participants.  Everyone notice a significant difference in the feel of the balls.  The radius of each ball was different based on the size and each player noticed this difference even though the balls have the same span measurements.  The smaller ball felt like it was drilled shorter than the larger ball.  The legal limit on ball size is also very noticeable when using a quarter scales see pictures 1 and 2.  Even though both of these balls are within ABC/WIBC specifications there is a lot of room in tolerance.  Everyone also agreed that there was some difference between the balls.


Currently other manufacture’s products diameters are different and vary from ball to ball.  The ABC/WIBC specification for ball diameter is large enough to see differences by players of different types, styles, and abilities.  Even though not completely conclusive from our small test, it can be said that from a player standpoint that the size of a bowling ball does play a role in ball preference and performance.  In this preliminary test, all players seemed to prefer the 8.510 inch ball over the other sizes.  A variety of reasons can be attributed to this, from the way the ball feels in a player’s hand, the increase in rev rate from a smaller ball, or because the smaller ball was lighter and offers more control for a bowler.  We will continue to test these difference size balls.  We will also begin to collect C.A.T.S. data as well as use Ebonite Bowler’s Map to help conclude an opinion on our early findings.  Who knows, maybe we as a result of this experiment we might end up reducing our manufacturing ball specification.  For now, at least it appears that size does matter. 


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