"Should I PLUG That New Ball?"
Now and then, a myth raises its ugly head. This myth says a bowling ball should never be plugged and re-drilled. The pundits contend that doing so will somehow have a negative effect on the ball’s performance. According to the stated logic of this myth, ball-plugging material is not as dense as the surface of the ball and thus will in some way affect the way it rolls.
Let’s say you do extensive research, then go out and spend $250 or so on a particular high-performance ball you think will match¹ up to a certain oil pattern. You drill the ball using a specific layout², then bowl on that oil pattern.
And the ball…is…a…dud.
In no way does this new ball give you the type of performance you were looking for. You try a few of your magic tricks: changing your hand position, adjusting your loft, playing different angles, increasing or decreasing ball speed, altering the ball’s surface…all to no avail. The ball just isn't knocking down the pins. Do you sell the it? Give it away? Throw it away? Or do you plug the ball and re-drill it with a new layout and/or new pitches?
Go with the third option: plug and re-drill. A number of studies have shown that plugging and re-drilling a ball does not affect key characteristics such as RG, PSA or differential in any perceivable manner. Stated another way, if you were to plug a ball, then re-drill it exactly the way it was drilled the first time, it would behave exactly the way it did the first time.
Armed with this information, you can go to your pro shop expert and discuss ways to make changes that will improve how the ball performs. In virtually all cases, this means a different layout, and sometimes the use of different pitches³. In absolutely all cases, plugging and re-drilling saves you a ton of money. There is no downside.
¹ Matching up: Determining which bowling ball and which layout will knock down the most pins.
² Layout: A geometric determination of where holes are to be drilled, making use of such factors as a ball’s coverstock, weight block design, center of gravity, pin location, preferred spin axis and the bowler’s positive axis point, in order to allow the ball to perform at an optimum level on a given oil pattern. This information page from Storm Bowling tells more about PSA and PAP.
³ Pitches: The angles in which the holes are drilled. When angled away from the ball’s center, holes are said to have reverse pitch; holes angled toward the center have forward pitch. Thumb hole pitches—reverse, forward, or none at all—are a matter of choice, including one other factor: side (lateral) pitch. Finger holes always have lateral (left-to-right) pitch because they are not drilled on a center line.