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Do Bowling Balls Come Pre-Drilled? What You Need to Know

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As a new or aspiring bowler, one of the first questions you might have is whether bowling balls come pre-drilled with the finger and thumb holes, or if you need to get them customized at a pro shop. The answer has important implications for the cost, convenience, and performance of your bowling equipment.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the world of pre-drilled and custom-drilled bowling balls. You’ll learn the key differences, the advantages and disadvantages of each option, and the factors to consider when deciding which type of ball is right for your bowling needs. By the end, you’ll have a clear understanding of when a pre-drilled ball makes sense versus when you should opt for a custom-drilled option.

Let’s dive in and get you ready to hit the lanes with the best possible bowling ball setup!

What is a Pre-Drilled Bowling Ball?

A pre-drilled bowling ball is one that comes with the finger and thumb holes already drilled by the manufacturer. This is in contrast to a “blank” bowling ball that requires custom drilling and fitting by a professional at a pro shop or bowling alley.

The pre-drilled layout and hole sizes on a factory-produced ball are designed to accommodate a “standard” hand size and grip. This makes pre-drilled balls a convenient and accessible option, especially for new bowlers who don’t yet have a customized ball.

Advantages of a Pre-Drilled Bowling Ball

The primary advantage of a pre-drilled bowling ball is the immediate usability and convenience it provides. Here are some of the key benefits:

  1. Plug-and-Play Convenience – With a pre-drilled ball, you can simply pick it up and start bowling right away. There’s no need to schedule an appointment at a pro shop, wait for the drilling, and then return to have the ball fitted. This makes pre-drilled balls an attractive option for beginners, casual bowlers, or anyone who wants to start playing without delay.
  2. Potential Cost Savings – Custom drilling a bowling ball at a pro shop can cost anywhere from $30 to $100 or more, depending on the complexity of the layout and any additional services like weight drilling. Opting for a pre-drilled ball allows you to avoid these upfront costs, at least initially.
  3. Flexibility to Try Different Balls – If you’re unsure of the right ball weight, coverstock, or other specifications for your game, a pre-drilled ball lets you experiment with different options without having to pay for custom drilling each time. This can be especially helpful when you’re first starting out and figuring out your preferences.

Disadvantages of a Pre-Drilled Bowling Ball

While pre-drilled bowling balls offer convenience and cost savings, they do come with some drawbacks to consider:

  1. Suboptimal Fit – The pre-drilled finger and thumb holes may not perfectly match the size and shape of your hand. This can lead to an imperfect grip and potentially impact your control and consistency when bowling.
  2. Limited Customization – With a pre-drilled ball, you’re limited to the drilling layout and specifications chosen by the manufacturer. This means you can’t optimize the balance hole, pin placement, and other factors to suit your unique bowling style and release.
  3. Resale Challenges – If you decide to sell your pre-drilled bowling ball in the future, the fixed drilling layout may make it less appealing to potential buyers. They’ll have to either adapt to the existing holes or pay to have the ball re-drilled, which can detract from the ball’s resale value.

When is a Pre-Drilled Bowling Ball Appropriate?

Given the pros and cons, a pre-drilled bowling ball can be a suitable option in the following scenarios:

  • For Beginners and Casual Bowlers – If you’re new to the sport or only bowl casually, a pre-drilled ball can be a great starting point. It allows you to start bowling right away without the added cost and hassle of custom drilling. As you improve and develop a more consistent bowling style, you can then consider upgrading to a custom-drilled ball.
  • When Trying Out Different Ball Types – Pre-drilled balls give you the flexibility to experiment with various ball weights, coverstock materials, and other specifications without committing to custom drilling each time. This can be helpful as you figure out your preferences and optimal ball characteristics.
  • For “Average” Hand Sizes – If your hand size and grip are relatively close to the standard specifications used by manufacturers, a pre-drilled ball may provide a decent enough fit. Bowlers with “average” hand dimensions are more likely to be able to adapt to a pre-drilled layout.

When is a Custom Drilled Bowling Ball Preferable?

While pre-drilled balls have their place, there are many situations where a custom-drilled bowling ball is the better choice:

  • For Serious or Competitive Bowlers – If you’re an avid or competitive bowler, a custom-drilled ball is generally the way to go. The ability to optimize the drilling layout for your unique hand size, grip strength, and bowling style can provide significant performance benefits that help take your game to the next level.
  • For Unique Hand Sizes or Gripping Needs – Bowlers with particularly large or small hands, or unique gripping preferences, are unlikely to find a satisfactory fit with a pre-drilled ball. Custom drilling allows you to get a perfect, personalized fit that maximizes comfort, control, and consistency.
  • To Optimize Ball Performance – By custom-drilling your ball, a professional can position the finger and thumb holes, balance hole, and other features in a way that perfectly complements your bowling mechanics and style. This level of customization simply isn’t possible with a pre-drilled ball.

Tips for Choosing and Using a Pre-Drilled Bowling Ball

If you do decide to go with a pre-drilled bowling ball, keep the following tips in mind:

  1. Consider Your Hand Size – Carefully measure your hand dimensions and compare them to the standard specifications used by manufacturers for their pre-drilled balls. This will help you select a model that’s more likely to provide a comfortable, secure grip.
  2. Understand the Drilling Layout – Before purchasing a pre-drilled ball, research the specific drilling layout and hole sizes. This will give you a better sense of how well it may (or may not) fit your hand and bowling style.
  3. Be Prepared to Upgrade – Remember that a pre-drilled ball is a starting point. As you improve your skills and develop a more consistent bowling technique, you’ll likely want to eventually upgrade to a custom-drilled ball that’s optimized for your needs.
  4. Consider Resale Value – If you think you may want to sell your pre-drilled bowling ball in the future, keep resale value in mind. The fixed drilling layout may make it less appealing to potential buyers down the line.


Bowling balls can come either pre-drilled or as a “blank” that requires custom drilling. Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages, making them suitable for different types of bowlers and situations.

Pre-drilled balls offer convenience and cost savings, making them a great choice for beginners, casual bowlers, and those wanting to experiment with different ball types. However, they lack the customization and optimal fit that a custom-drilled ball can provide.

Serious and competitive bowlers, as well as those with unique hand sizes or gripping needs, will generally benefit more from investing in a custom-drilled ball. This allows for maximum performance optimization and a truly personalized fit.

Ultimately, the decision between a pre-drilled or custom-drilled bowling ball comes down to your current skill level, bowling goals, and personal preferences. By understanding the pros and cons of each option, you can make the best choice to elevate your bowling game and enjoy the sport to the fullest.

Happy bowling!