Most bowlers aren’t aware of how customizable the game really is. It’s quite common for a bowler to just assume that thumb holes and conventional throwing mechanics are the only way to go. After all, alternative bowling grips that promote hook or increase accuracy are rarely talked about in mainstream coverage of the game.

The truth is that you can make your bowling balls and bowling equipment work for you! When it comes to your ball, you can purchase alterations or modified bowling balls with different grips tailored to your hand and throwing style.

If you’re looking to increase your number of strikes and become a more accurate bowler for a reasonable price, we’re here to help. With the right bowling grips in your arsenal, beginners can find a more stable shot while experts can up their control and pin violence to insane levels. It all just depends on what works best for you on the lane.

What are the different bowling grip options and how do they affect your shot?

If you’re ready to shop for bowling balls for upcoming league nights or amateur tournaments, there are a few different bowling grip styles for you to consider. However, all of these grip styles use the same three fingers.

What fingers do you use when bowling?

All of the grips we’ll profile below use three of the five fingers on your throwing hand — your thumb, ring, and middle finger. Grips are changed not by changing the fingers you use, but by changing the placement of your fingers in the ball.

With that in mind, here are the three different grip styles you can choose from when customizing a ball or altering one for your throwing style.

Conventional grip

A conventional bowling ball grip is the most widely-used grip in the game today. When you use a house ball and play for fun at your local alley, it’s almost certain that the ball you’re using utilizes a conventional grip setup.

When using a conventional grip, you insert your thumb into the ball’s thumb hole and then place your ring finger and middle finger in the other two. Middle and ring fingers should go down to the second knuckle, facilitating a more secure grip and stable release.

Why use a conventional grip?

The security provided by a conventional grip is essential for most bowlers just learning the game. When you throw with a conventional bowling grip, you get the most straight-line control and can put your whole body behind a shot for power. It’s a fantastic grip when learning the basics, and it’s also a great option for picking up single-pin spares.

Why not?

Hook shot artists aren’t going to love the muted curves of this stock grip option. With your thumb completely inserted in the thumb hole and your other two fingers down to the second knuckle, you have less time and room for creativity at the end of your throw. For those looking for added pin carry and violence, conventional grips are not the answer.

Do any pro bowlers use conventional grip?

Yes! While most pro bowlers use more hook-oriented grips, top bowlers such as Jason Belmonte and Osku Palermo prefer the conventional grip setup.

Semi-fingertip grip

The next step towards hook supremacy in terms of bowling grips, the semi-fingertip grip is a modified version of a conventional grip. With this grip, you still place your thumb all the way down into the thumb hole of your bowling ball. However, you modify the grips with your ring finger and middle finger by placing them into their assigned holes down to the space between your first and second knuckles.

Why use a semi-fingertip grip?

For those with their own ball, using inserts or slugs to promote a semi-fingertip grip will increase hook potential and the number of entry angles you have to play with. And compared to a fingertip or no-finger grip, there’s an added sense of control that will help you connect with the pins with regularity without skittering your ball into the gutters.

Why not?

A semi-fingertip grip is a good compromise grip. However, it can prove too insecure for beginners and too tame for experts. If you’re looking to get maximum revolutions on your shot and want your angles sharper than sharp, this might not be the way to go. And if you are a newbie struggling with control issues, search for a ball with a conventional grip and go from there.

Fingertip grip

Here’s where the hooks really get wild. A fingertip grip is often the sign of an advanced player ready to do damage with sharp angles and violent hooks. To execute a fingertip grip, insert your thumb completely into the thumb hole of your ball. Then, place your ring and middle finger into the ball only down to the first knuckle.

Why use a fingertip grip?

Hooks are plentiful with a fingertip grip. Whether you ship a ball home with a pre-made fingertip set-up or modify a ball yourself, you’re promising yourself a level of angularity that other bowling grips simply can’t match. Throw a ball with a conventional grip and then throw one the same way with a fingertip layout. You’re going to be blown away by the creativity that a fingertip grip promotes at its best.

Why not?

Are you a control freak? Are you a new bowler who already struggles to throw a ball in a straight line? There’s no reason to use a fingertip grip if you’re not ready for it, or if you’d rather use straight-ahead power for your shot. Fingertip grips change the roll path of your ball and can make your throws unpredictable if you’re not sure what you’re doing. Don’t go this route until you’ve gotten far enough in your bowling journey to make it work for you.

Do different bowling balls have different bowling grips? Can you alter the finger holes on your own ball?

Yes and yes! If you’ve purchased a ball online before with either your credit card or PayPal information, you may have seen a variety of grip options available for the same ball. Yet, if you’ve shopped in a major online marketplace that’s not bowling-specific, you may have put a ball in your cart with no knowledge of the grip options available to you.

Most new reactive resin bowling balls can be drilled to order by the company’s that manufacture them or the pro shops that you frequent. Whether you want a ball with a conventional grip, semi-fingertip grip, or fingertip grip, you can make your wants and needs known and get a ball drilled with you in mind.

Now, if you already own a bowling ball with a certain grip structure and want to alter it, there are options available to you as well! Most bowling balls have conventional grip structures, but can be altered to a semi-fingertip or fingertip grip with the help of slugs or inserts that keep your fingers from going too far into the ball. Check with your local pro shop for potential modification options and be sure to ask questions! They may be able to recommend certain alterations to your bowling ball that will be of major use to your particular shot style.

Which bowling ball grips should you use? Should I get grips in my bowling ball?

It depends on what you’re trying to accomplish at the bowling alley and your level of expertise. If you’re a hook-dominant bowler looking for added revs and jaw-dropping angularity, chances are that you’ll want to bypass a conventional layout in favor of a semi-fingertip or fingertip grip. And if you’re a beginner just trying to keep your ball on the lanes to and through the pins, you might want to stick with a conventional grip until you get your bowling sea legs underneath you.

Given time, you can always change your bowling grip preference to match your evolving shot and throwing style. Some bowlers move away from a conventional grip and then come back over time, looking for more stability and straight-line oomph. Some straight bowlers get bored and start playing around with fingertip grips for a jolt of hooking fun.

Use the bowling ball grips that work best for you and give you the best chance of having fun at the lanes. And if you need to change things up, go right ahead. There’s no need to stay static if you’re growing as a bowler and want to try new things!