Balance Holes bowling balls (Effective on August 1, 2020)

No balance holes starting Aug. 1 - The rule eliminating balance holes in bowling balls takes effect Aug. 1, the start of the 2020-2021 bowling season. The rule states all holes in a bowling ball must be used on every delivery; any hole not used is considered a balance hole, making the ball illegal.

Bowlers who do not use their thumb no longer can have a thumb hole, as it now is considered a balance hole. They also need to mark their ball to show where they place their palm on delivery.

 Click here for an FAQ on balance holes and gripping holes.

​USBC youth Age Division Change (Effective on August 1, 2020)

The maximum age for USBC Youth Membership will be 18 starting Aug 1, 2020.

The decision to lower to the maximum age from 20 to 18, with agreement from the Bowling Proprietors' Association of America and the International Bowling Campus Youth Committee, was announced last year and will align bowling with other youth sports.

Click here to read more and for FAQ

Cleaning bowling balls (Effective on August 1, 2019)

Rule 18 - Bowling Ball - Altering Surface  (More information click here)

While bowling in USBC competition, a bowling ball cannot:

 a. Have the surface altered by the use of an abrasive

 b. Be cleaned with any liquid substance or cleaning agent

 c. Have any foreign material on it including, but not limited to, powder, rosin, marker or paint.

All bowling balls so altered or cleaned must be removed from the competition.  Note: Should a foreign substance appear on the outer surface of a bowling ball which cannot be removed with a dry towel, an approved cleaner may be use with consent from a league or tournament officer.

Commonly Asked Questions - Rule 18.

18/1 When may I alter the surface of my bowling ball?

You are permitted to sand, polish or clean the surface of your bowling ball prior to the start of the competition.  However, once tournament or league play begins, altering the surface of a bowling ball is strictly prohibited.   This includes balls that have not yet been introduced into play.

18/2 A tournament consists of doubles and singles events.   The singles event is bowled first immediately followed by the doubles.  Can I "alter the surface of" my bowling ball between events?

No.  Rule 18 does not all the outer surface of any bowling ball to be altered after the start of the competition.  Since the tournament is conducting singles and doubles concurrently, you cannot alter the surface of the bowling ball between events.

18/3 Can a bowler use an abrasive, cleaner or polish on just the track or only just a portion of the track of the ball?

No.  USBC specifications require that the entire surface of the ball be prepared in a uniform manner.  Preparing the surface of a ball in any other manner would be a violation of Rule 17a, Item 1.  the penalty for a violation of this rule can include disqualification forfeiture, removal from the league, and/or suspension of USBC membership.

Q1 Does the start of competition include the practice/shadow ball session?

No.  The start of competition is defined as the point the first ball is thrown by any participant for score.

Q2 Can products such as "easy slide" or rosin from "puff balls" be removed from the surface of the bowling ball through the use of a dry towel, so that the bowling ball is considered legal? (Whether applied to the bowling ball directly or through transfer from the hand to the bowling ball.)

Bowlers are permitted to used powder or rosin on their fingers or thumb.  However, when applying properly, no residue should be transferred to the outer surface of the ball.  Altering the surface of the ball does not have to be an abrasive.  Altering the surface of the ball would be applying any product on the outer surface of the ball or into the finger holes directly.

18 & older bowlers bowling with Youth Bowlers (17 and under).  (Effective on August 1, 2019)

Any individual 18 years of age or older must complete SafeSport's Core Center for SafeSport prior to participating in the league that has at least one youth bowler.  Training is required for those who have regular contact with minor athletes.   This does not apply to tournaments since tournaments are not a competition that has regular matches.  SafeSport policy requires this to be a yearly training, in which after the initial training only the refresher course needs to be taken.  SafeSport training is free to USBC members and should be access from the following page:,_SafeSport_Training/

Balling Ball Holes and Balance

The 'new' balance/holes rule will take effect on 8/1/2020.  In the meantime, USBC is allowing balls to be drilled to conform to either the current rule or the 'new' rule.  Below is a summary of what is allowed under each rule.  As of 8/1/2020 all balls must conform to the 'new' rule.

'NEW" RULE: The new rule is pretty simple.  Key points are as follows:

  • If there is a hole in any bowling ball, it MUST be used for gripping purposes on every shot thrown with that ball.  That does NOT include 'vent' holes which can be used on any hole.
  • The 'new' balance rules for ball are that a ball may be out of balance in any direction (side to side, front to back or top to bottom) by no more than 3 ounces.
  • You may NOT have a balance hole.
  • If you are throwing no thumb, you cannot have a thumbhole to use for instance when you want the ball to go straighter such as a spare shot.
  • Plugging the balance hole on a ball with one will most likely NOT make the ball out of compliance because the 'new' rule give more latitude in these variances.
  • Balls drilled without a thumb should be marked as to the 'orientation' of the grip.

CURRENT/"OLD" RULE: The current rule allows for a little more flexibility with the use of holes but still maintains a lesser allowable imbalance.  Key points are as follows:

  • In delivering the ball, there may be ONE unused hole in the ball.  This could be a thumb hole (if throwing no thumb) or a weight hole if using both fingers and thumb.
  • A bull with a thumb hole AND a weight hole cannot be thrown without the thumb in the ball.
  • A ball may be out of balance by no more than 1 ounce (front to back, side to side) and/or 3 ounces top to bottom.
  • A ball with a weight hole and a thumb hole CANNOT be thrown with no thumb for strikes and then the thumb used for spare or other shots.

VIOLATIONS of either rule as told by the USBC Rules can be a ZERO for the GAME