Bowling for left-handed bowlers: the complete guide

left-handed bowler

As a child when my family would go bowling, there were 3 right-handed bowlers(all us kids), and 2 left-handed bowlers(the parents).

Are there differences between right and left-handed bowlers? well, of course, there are. From shoes to bowling balls to even wrist braces and even how oil patterns affect the ball and its hook. There are plenty of differences and tons of questions.

Being left-handed is unique all in itself and has its many challenges. Bowling while being left-handed is no different.

Are there left handed bowling balls?

All bowling balls are the same before the holes are drilled for the player’s hand. That being said, there is no such thing as a left-handed bowling ball. 

Being a left-handed bowler you should have your own bowling ball. Bowling alleys house balls are pretty much all drilled for right-handed players. Not saying you can’t play with a right-handed bowling ball, it’s just that your game will suffer a bit since a right-handed bowling ball isn’t made to be thrown by a left-handed player. 

I’m sure that as a left-handed person you understand the difficulty of using tools made for right-handed people and how difficult it makes whatever task you need to do that much more difficult. Well, even though all bowling balls appear to be the same, they aren’t.

Left-handed bowling balls are different in 2 ways. The first is the placement of the ring finger hole is behind the middle finger and the second is that the the weight placement is in front of the thumb hole and a bit to the left. Some people think this makes it easier for lefties to hook the ball. 

Note: when getting the finger holes drilled, make sure to account for the natural finger swell you will experience while bowling.

To the untrained eye it is hard to tell the difference by just looking at a bowling ball if it is drilled for a left or right handed bowler. As a left handed bowler that should be one thing to ALWAYS keep an eye out for. Especially if money is scarce and you buy used bowling equipment.

Remember that the large majority of the population is right handed, so odds are that a large majority of the used bowling balls being sold are drilled for right handed bowlers. Even if the description says its drilled for left handed bowlers, it is up to you to do your due diligence to know what a drilled  left handed bowling ball looks like.

Some sellers might not be the original owners and wouldn’t know that there is even a difference. Don’t get ripped off by not knowing your tools.

For those who want to develop as a bowler and are willing to invest in their equipment some serious research should be done to figure out which bowling ball or balls will best work for you. A small framed left handed woman will have different needs than a large left handed man. Finger holes will be different sizes and that will effect the ball. 

Weight is another factor. Not many women can throw a 15lbs or 16lbs bowling ball. So what works for 1 left handed bowler wont always work for another. With so many different types of balls to choose from, your options are endless. 

If you are unsure of where to start and dont want any confusion, it’s best to go to your local pro shop and speak with the associate. They can give you all the information you need as far as the best types of balls for left handed bowlers, weights and so on and so forth.

If you search online for best bowling balls for left handed bowlers you will certainly find articles with a list of a few different brands of balls, but that doesnt mean that any are right for you. Like I said earlier, what works for one wont work for all.

A bowling ball is a very personal piece of equipment, and you dont want to buy something without being fully knowledgeable about it. Now if you are a bit of a bowling genius and you feel comfortable buying a bowling ball this way than I say go right ahead.

If you know of a a few left handed bowlers who have a certain type of ball and you see it listed and you feel comfortable to buy it. Go right ahead.

Just remember to be cautious when doing so. If you’re just in it for the fun and want a ball that will work for you do a bit of research or just talk to your local pro shop. They’ll  be able to help.

What is the pocket for a left-handed bowler?

For the greatest opportunity in getting a strike, bowlers what to hit their pocket. The pocket in bowling is the area in the set of pins a bowler aims for in order to increase their chances of getting a strike. Knowing how to hit the pocket with the right speeds and hook should ensure you get a strike every time.

Tip: bowling pins weigh close to 4lbs a piece, so remember when bowling that you are trying to knock down upwards of 40lbs with whatever weight bowling ball you have. Make sure you know how to throw that thing.

Now, there is a pocket for both right and left handed bowlers and they are both different. The pocket for right handed bowlers is between the 1 pin and the 3 pin, for left handed bowlers it is between the 1 pin and the 2 pin. You’re going to want your ball to hit these areas on an angle and not straight. By hitting it straight you’re definitely not going to get a strike and will have to come back to pick up the spare, which would stink to high heavens if it turns out to be the dreaded 7 – 10 split.

what a mess

So you should know how to put a bit of a hook on your bowling ball if not…practice that before worrying about hitting the pocket. Everything comes in time. Becoming a better bowler will come with practice and education.

Be aware that just knowing the location of the pocket is not enough to guarantee you’ll get a strike. The oil patterns of the bowling lane also play a factor. Being a left handed bowler you have a slight advantage of being able to bowl on a side of the lane that wont be used much, ensuring there is more oil for your ball.

Tip: I shouldn’t have to say this but I will, please make sure to be using a left handed bowling ball when bowling if you are left handed, which I’m assuming you are if you’re reading an article about how to find the pocket for left handed bowlers. Remember that a LARGE majority of house bowling balls are meant for right handed people. Ask an attendant for a left handed bowling ball or buy your own. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Click here for a good cheap beginner/spare bowling ball from Amazon…please note you will need to get the holes drilled to fit your fingers…bowling balls ordered online do not come with pre-drilled holes.

However, more oil means nothing if it isnt in the right spots. If you’re just a casual bowler than this wont be a problem for you to worry about. For those who bowl in leagues and compete, you’ll want to learn how to read bowling lanes and their oil patterns.

Are bowling lanes flat? Click here to learn more

It also helps to know the initial alignment and your lane adjustments if you need to make corrections.

The initial alignment is where you’ll be standing before you throw your bowling ball. For a left handed bowler you will want to stand at the 15 board and throw your bowling ball over the 2nd arrow.

If for some reason your first throw doesnt result in a strike, take a few deep breaths and reposition yourself to throw where the pins are still standing. This may mean throwing over the 1 or 3 arrow. Remember that is what they are there for, to help you align your shot.

As you grow as a bowler, the pocket, lane conditions, oil patterns and even the different types of bowling balls will all become easier for you to understand and remember.

It is possible to bowl a strike even if you dont hit the pocket, but for consistency, you will want to learn where it is and the best way to get there.

Do left handed bowlers have an advantage?

Many people would say that left handed bowlers do not only have an advantage, but that they have a huge advantage. Since left handed bowlers can use a side of the lane that isn’t touched by right handed bowlers, who make up a large number of bowlers.

There would be more oil on the lane for the left handed bowler to take advantage of. And since there would be more oil, the left handed bowler wouldn’t need to change up bowling balls as often, if ever, as a right handed bowler, or change lane positions.

The way a left handed bowlers finger holes are drilled on their bowling ball can also make it appear as if the left handed bowler has an advantage. See, the finger holes on a left handers bowling ball are drilled right above the weight in the ball where the bulk of the weight is. The holes themselves being in that position can have a huge effect on how the ball rolls depending on how the bowler throws their ball.

Its believed that it makes it easier for the ball to hook. But just because you’re a lefty, doesn’t mean you’d be able to do that. That’s still a skill you’d have to master.

So even though it may seem that if you’re a lefty you have all these advantages working in your favor, those advantages can also become disadvantages.

If you’re the only left handed bowler at a tournament, yes, you have the advantage. Nobody will be bowling “with” you on the lane. And by putting quotes around the word WITH, I mean that nobody will be using the oil on the lane with you. As if you are bowling on your own lane, even if another person is sharing the lane with you.

Now, if there happens to be another bowler, or 2 who also bowl left handed then things tend to change. Most left handed bowlers aren’t as used to changing up as much as right handed bowlers. So when they do have to compete with another lefty they have a hard time knowing when to change balls or positions on the lane.

Which is why even if you are the only lefty on your team or even league you should practice like right handed bowlers. You never know when you’re going to compete against another lefty. You should always be prepared.

It also wouldn’t hurt to learn who all the other left handed bowlers you could possibly have to bowl against were. If you knew that in your league that put of the 10 other teams, there were 4 other left handed bowlers, you could properly prepare yourself to go against them. Whereas they might not have done this. Also giving you the advantage.

If you learn ahead of time how and when to switch up your balls or position on the lane before your game suffered you’d make yourself a better bowler. You would appear to know the future since, like stated before, left handed bowlers don’t have to change up as much a right handed bowlers.

Knowing how to do so does give you an advantage, and a good one at that.

Knowing what bowling balls work for your style isnt necessarily an advantage, but will come in handy if you know a ball change is needed soon. So make sure to have the right bowling balls with the finger holes drilled right, along with any accessories you’d need.

That’s basic knowledge, but many people think all you need to do is to put your fingers in the holes and throw the ball right down the center of the lane as hard as you can and you’re gold. Not true. If you’re serious about bowling, you’ll take it seriously and learn how to throw your ball properly to get strikes.

You’ll learn about other bowlers you compete against, and you’ll learn about yourself. Learn how to give yourself the advantage, even if you compete against nothing but left handed bowlers.

Additional questions 

What is the difference between right and left-handed bowling shoes?

The difference between right and left-handed bowling shoes is easy to recognize and remember. All you have to do is look at the soles of the shoes.

Right-handed bowlers will have the sliding pad on their left shoe as that is the foot in which they use to slide, and left-handed bowlers will have their sliding pad on the right shoe.

Cheaper bowling shoes will have padding on both shoes for both right and left-handed bowlers. House bowling shoes are also this way.

Can you switch between your right and left hand in bowling? 

yes, if it’s just a fun game between family and/or friends. On the other hand, if you are in a USBC sanctioned league, the answer is a big fat no.

According to the United States Bowling Congress once a bowler has bowled their first shot they have to continue to use that hand unless they get injured and get approval from the tournament manager.

Many would suggest you learn to bowl with both hands in the event of an injury. It would be bad enough that you were in pain, don’t let your game suffer as well.

Is there a difference between left-handed and right-handed bowling balls?

Yes, but it is very small. The ring finger hole is drilled 1/8 inch further from the thumb hole. So when choosing a ball from your local bowling alley to a game this will be hard to spot, make sure to ask an attendant which bowling balls are for lefties. 

They may keep them behind the counter since the large majority of house bowling balls are made for right-handed people.

If you plan on bowling regularly, your safest bet is to buy your own bowling ball, take it to your local pro shop and have them drill the holes for you. I’d also suggest to just start with a plastic/polyester bowling ball. They are the equivalent to house bowling balls, don’t cost much, and you can pick the one you think looks cool.

Also, don’t worry that I said “plastic” either. I don’t mean a child’s ball. It’s not a toy.

Take note that if you are left-handed and you bowl with a ball meant for right-handed people, your game will suffer. You won’t be learning how to use what was meant for you to use and therefore just wasting your time.

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