Being prepared for a successful night on the bowling lane is about more than just your bowling ball. Ten-pin bowling is all about having the proper equipment and taking a nuanced approach to your game preparation. While bowling alleys provide balls, shoes, and other needed accessories for a cost, a serious bowler should head to their local bowling alley prepared with their bowling equipment. Oftentimes, having your main equipment will spell the difference between lower scores and reaching your potential in a given bowling game.

Before your rent shoes from your local bowling center and join the ranks of casual bowlers who sacrifice performance for convenience, you should look at your game and start building your equipment arsenal for your nights out at the lanes.

What are the things that you need to consider in playing bowling?

You should always consider your comfort, your health, and your particular bowling style when gathering equipment to bowl. Some novice players are content to wear bowling shoes provided by their local bowling alley. However, house shoes have plenty of disadvantages. They’ve likely been used countless times before, making them much less comfy than if you brought your bowling shoes tailored to your feet. Such comfort is critical to making the most of your bowling games, as your shoes (and other equipment) function as an extension of your body.

And when you’re attacking bowling pins with shot after shot, you shouldn’t be attacking your own body. From owning your shoes to bringing bowling towels to wick away potentially dangerous moisture, you should work on protecting your body from potential injury. This includes wrapping up the fingers on your bowling hand with protective tape, wearing an arm sleeve if you have preexisting injury issues, and just generally paying attention to what your body has to say.

Finally, always work to tailor your bowling equipment to your particular level and style of play. For example, players who want a bit more hook on their throws might consider inserts for the thumb hole and adjacent holes of their bowling ball. This changes the grip orientation and provides an opportunity for increased entry angles to the pin pocket. Knocking down ten pins at a time is always a challenge. Make sure your equipment is made to help you meet that challenge.

Speaking of your equipment, it’s time to take a deep dive into what you should bring to the bowling alley for everything from casual sessions to intense league nights. From items that promote better grip of your bowling ball to items that keep you from injuring yourself with a throw, the following pieces of bowling equipment are must-haves for a devoted bowling aficionado.

What basic equipment is needed for bowling?

Bowling balls for strikes (and spares)

Before you settle on the latest reactive resin bowling ball or a trusty urethane option, you need to figure out the kinds of balls that are a good fit for your unique bowling shot. Let’s take a look at the different types of basic bowling shots for a better idea of what you should be looking for when purchasing a ball.

What are the four basic bowling shots?

The four basic bowling shots are as follows: straight bowling shots, hook shots, backup bowling shots, and hybrid bowling shots. Straight bowling shots are about placement and power. Hook shots are about ball reactivity and arm motion. Backup shots require an expert technique to pull off a reverse hook. And hybrid shots are expert throws that marry elements of the three aforementioned shots to maximum effect.

Needless to say, it’s hard to perfect any of these shots with a worn-out house bowling ball. And, it’s often hard to pick up both strikes and spares with the same ball. Test out different balls throughout your bowling journey, making notes on the compositions and nuances you like. Investing a few hundred dollars in a quality bowling ball arsenal will go a long way towards improving your bowling scores.

Quality bowling shoes

Normal shoes won’t cut during your long bowling nights. And, they’re likely banned from use to safeguard the flat surface of the approach and bowling lane. A high-quality bowling shoe is built to both conform to your feet and provide optimal grip and slide during your throws. To hit your targets consistently and cause continuous havoc at the other end of the lane, your footwork needs to be on point. It’s a key part of the sport and often the thing that separates lesser bowlers from the best.

Spend the money on some nice shoes. It’ll do you and your bowling game wonders.

A strong bowling towel

Don’t just grab a hand towel from your linen closet. Spend the extra few dollars on a microfiber towel that’s constructed to sop up everything from sweat to lane oil. Wiping off your ball and bowling hand consistently will improve your grip and give you a better command of the bowling surface on the whole.

Comfortable athletic clothes

Don’t knock bowling shirts until you try them. They are made to move with a bowler when they shoot, rather than constricting your torso at the exact wrong time. If you’re not into bowling shirt style, that’s okay too! Look for clothing made for active pursuits and sports in general. The comfier you are and the more that your clothes work with you instead of against you, the better position you’ll be in to dominate at the alley.

A spacious bowling bag

Rolling bowling bags (or tote bowling bags) are essential for those bowlers who play more often than not. The best bowling bags have pockets for several types of equipment and allow you to carry everything with you while staying organized. You can fit a pair of shoes (or multiple pairs), a few different bowling balls, and accessories like gloves and tape all in one compact package.

What optional bowling equipment should you consider for your next trip to the bowling center?

Bowling wrist guards

Do you have preexisting wrist problems? Wrist guards will help you limit the impact of previous injuries on your game, while also helping to protect you from additional injury. A good bowling wrist guard stabilizes the wrist of your throwing hand. That’s critical in keeping your shot aligned and stopping a weaker wrist from snapping dangerously on a hook shot or spare throw.

Compression arm sleeves

For those who have conditions like arthritis or elbow tendonitis, compression arm sleeves change the game. The right bowling sleeve will promote better blood flow, muscle recovery, and overall arm health. Rather than dealing with arm pain for days after a long bowling session, you can mitigate things with the help of a well-crafted compression arm sleeve.

Bowling tape

Finger injuries are the number-one complaint about bowlers around the world. Why not protect your fingers from potential sprains and breaks by stabilizing them with some extra-strong bowling tape. And for those with injury histories, kinesiology tape is also a smart investment. It’s approved by physical therapists for alleviating pain and improving circulation when playing sports.

Other equipment you feel you might need

Bring anything to the bowling alley you think you might need to succeed. Do you need a warm pair of gloves to keep your hands in shape for a long night of play? Are you more comfortable wearing a hat that catches sweat and keeps your hair out of your eyes? Make the bowling equipment calls that are right for you and that will help you get into the zone where spares become strikes and scores increase dramatically.