What is the difference between Pin up and Pin down Drilling on a Bowling Ball?

Posted by Ronald Hickland on

The explanation given in this blog is valid for 95% of bowlers. However, there are always exceptions to the rule. For this blog, we will stick to the majority of bowlers who will be reading it. If you feel that you are in the other 5%, check out this video to learn more about ball motion.

The above pictures are of the exact same ball with two different layouts.  The colors indicate the numerical impact that drilling has on the core shape. As you put holes in a bowling ball, the colors shift based on the size and depth of each hole.  When thrown by the bowler, the bowler's axis point will follow one of the colored paths. Here is a video where the green arrow illustrates axis point: 

Axis point is a key in determining the proper bowling ball layout. If you don’t know yours, don’t worry! Your pro shop should know how to find it for you.

Bowling Ball Cores Affect Ball Motion

Bowling ball cores have an effect on the ball motion. The impact occurs primarily down lane. In fact, the core’s biggest impact happens during the last 20 feet of the lane.  This is where the ball is at its slowest speed and highest rev rate.  To break it down in simple terms. The higher the rev rate, the more impact the core can have on the overall ball motion.

This video shows the bowling ball's rev rate changing as it goes down the lane.

By changing the drilling location, i.e. Pin Up vs. Pin Down, the ball motion can be tweaked.  For most bowlers, the major difference when changing the drilling location will be

  • Pin Down under the finger holes =  a gradual shape hook, earlier in transition
  • Pin Up above the finger holes = a sharper shape hook, later in transition

Pin Down Drilling

This type of drilling has an effect of promoting more total hook and less entry angle.

Helpful for:

  • Lower rev players
  • Higher ball speeds
  • Bowling on a heavy oiled or longer length patterns
  • Looking for a more gradual hook

Pin Up Drilling

This type of drilling has an effect of promoting less total hook and more entry angle

Helpful for

  • Higher rev players
  • Slower ball speeds
  • Bowling on a lighter oiled or shorter length patterns
  • Looking for a sharper hook

Hole Size Matters as well as a Consistent Feel

For most performance core shapes, in order to change the ball motion measurably, you need at least a 1” drill bit going 2 ½ inches deep.  Whether drilling pin up or pin down, most of the time drilling the finger holes will only have a slight impact on the ball motion.

The thumb hole typically is bigger and deeper, since most people use a thumb slug. If you own your own bowling ball you should really use a thumb slug. They give you a consistent feel since they are made of a single solid material. This is different than the ball as the coverstock and core materials can vary greatly in feel. Consistency is a key to repetition and that is what bowling well is all about.   

How Much Difference Can You Get From A Bowling Ball?

Pin up vs Pin down

In general, Pin Up versus Pin Down will exhibit a board or two of ball reaction difference. In our example, the difference is less than 1 board. The first image below shows the path of a ball drilled pin down.  The second image shows the path of the same ball drilled pin up.

The bottom line is that it can matter. However, if you average less than 180, don’t be so concerned about having a pin up and a pin down ball. Pick your favorite layout. Most people drill pin up to start for their first ball.  Instead of focusing on layout, use the rest of the information below to change your ball motion. If you average more than 180, you should have Pin up and Pin down balls in your arsenal.

Clean Your Ball Every Shot

Not wiping your ball off every shot can have 2 or more boards LOSS in reaction in three shots. That is why wiping your ball off with an anytime approved cleaner like That Purple Stuff every shot is important.



You Can Change Your Ball Reaction During Competition

By using That Wow Factor TR for increased length and less total hook or That Wow Factor HM for earlier and more total hook, you can change your ball reaction by as much as 8 boards while you are bowling. The ball can be returned to its original performance by using That Purple Stuff to clean it. 

Changing the Surface of Your Bowling Ball

An even bigger change in ball reaction comes from using Abralon (sanding) or polishing a ball. This can change your ball reaction by 10+ boards. However, altering the surface of the ball cannot be done during competition.

The 4 Types of Ball Motion

The biggest change in ball reaction comes from having multiple bowling balls with different ball motions. This can change your ball reaction by 20+ boards. We recommend having balls from each category: Angular, Continuous, Traction, and Straight.  Check out our Ball Motion Chart to see where your current balls fall.


Pin Up vs Pin Down Up to 2 boards of reaction difference
Not wiping your ball off every shot 2+ boards of LOSS in reaction
That Wow Factor TR or HM  Up to 8 boards of reaction difference
Sand or Polish 10+ boards of reaction difference
The 4 Types of Ball Motion 20+ boards of reaction difference


If you like this type of information and would like to receive more in detail, join our staff.  We also do Q&A with industry experts on all topics related to bowling.

Thanks for checking out this blog.  Here's a sneak peek at something we have coming up. This was done on a brand new bowling ball.

Education is #CreatingTheDifference


  • Check with your local pro shop so they can check your fit to make sure you aren’t tracking over the holes

    CtD Bowling on

  • I just bought a Hammer Purple Reactive and it track over the thumb. My Hy-Road tracks pretty well and doesn’t ever go over the thumb.

    James Spear on

  • I bought a pearl bowling ball and I am older. I throw with decent revs and slower speed how should I have the ball drilled to keep the ball from hooking to quick

    Jerry Roach on

  • Thanks. This helped me a lot. Been a long time since I bowled and the balls have changed extensively. I carried over a 200 average 25 years ago. I like down and in around the 10th board. Would you suggest pin up or pin down. I like a good finish on the end..

    Myron on

  • Thank you

    Denise Massey on

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