What Do the Numbers on a Bowling Ball Mean?

If you’re an avid bowler like me, you probably noticed those numbers on your bowling balls and wondered about what they could mean. There are varying answers for this – from indication of weight to the serial numbers of that particular ball. So, what do they actually mean?

The numbers on a bowling ball mean different things. In bowling alleys, the large numbers found on bowling balls indicate the weight, usually ranging from 6 to 16 lbs. Smaller numbers typically indicate the serial number of the ball.

Large Numbers on Bowling Balls

For enthusiasts like me who don’t have their own bowling balls or for those who don’t bowl frequently enough, renting a house ball from the bowling alley is an excellent and cost-effective solution. Additionally, if you’re like me, you might have wondered what those large numbers are.

As mentioned, those large numbers indicate the weight of the ball. House balls are available in several ranges of weights, typically from 6 to 16 lbs. While adults usually use house balls that weigh 8 lbs and above, bowling alleys have generally lighter balls for younger players.

Indicating the weight as numbers can make it easy to differentiate the bowling balls from each other. It can also be a point of reference for novice bowlers when choosing a house ball. This is because you must select a ball with the appropriate weight for your height and weight.

Choosing a House Ball


If you want to play a great game, you will need a ball that’s suitable for your weight and height. The general rule of thumb for adults is that they should choose a bowling ball that’s only a maximum of 10% of their total body weight.

Any heavier than that would be too heavy to roll on the lane properly. For example, if you weigh around 140 lbs, you should select a ball that’s not heavier than 14 lbs. In terms of bowling ball numbers, this will usually mean the ball with the number 14 indicated on it.

However, if you’re a novice, it might be best to start lighter as you will need to get used to how the ball fits in your hand.


Another factor you need to consider is the fit of the ball, which typically includes the gripping holes’ sizes and the distance between your finger and thumbholes.

When it comes to the fit, it’s best if you try out several balls and see which one fits best and most comfortable in your hand.

Series of Small Numbers on House Balls

Besides those large numbers, you might also be wondering about the series of numbers indicated on bowling balls. As mentioned, these small numbers usually mean the serial numbers of the balls.

These serial numbers are typically preceded by the code USBC. These numbers can help you identify crucial information about the ball. These include things like its manufacturing date, its type, and more.

Aside from this, serial numbers have a crucial role when it comes to competitions and tournaments. They are necessary to keep the ball legal in such cases. This is because any USBC-certified competition must have an approved list for the bowling balls that can be used in the tournament.

Serial numbers help tournament officials identify whether the ball is part of their approved list or if you’re required to use another one.

Suppose your serial number has rubbed off over time with constant use. In that case, you can have it re-engraved to keep its identification.

Other Markings on Bowling Balls

Aside from serial numbers and weight indications, you can also find other markings on bowling balls, such as the USBC logo and its brand logo. These two markings are also essential identification markings, especially for official competitions.


Besides the serial number and weight indication number, you will also find the USBC Star logo, which is a requirement for manufacturers, not players.

As such, you don’t have to worry too much about this if it rubs off due to continuous use. Re-engraving isn’t a requirement for this marking.

Brand Logo

Bowling balls also come with the brand’s logo marked on the top. It’s another crucial element in competitions and tournaments. However, unlike serial numbers, players aren’t allowed to re-engrave the ball’s original brand logo if it fades due to consistent use.

Moreover, if the brand logo disappears, you need to change balls as they will no longer be allowed for use in official tournaments and competitions.

Are You Allowed to Put Other Markings on Bowling Balls?

The short answer to this is no, you’re not if you’re participating in USBC-certified tournaments and competitions.

The USBC has strict rules when it comes to the equipment that can be used in tournaments. They state that the ball’s surface must be free of any markings, grooves, depressions, etc.

Unless they’re made by the manufacturers, you’re not allowed to modify your ball with customizations in any way for official tournaments. Other markings like chips and indentations that come from wear and tear aren’t included in these restrictions.

Aside from engravings, you also can’t put any foreign materials on the ball’s outer surface. However, these rules only apply to players participating in USBC-sanctioned tournaments, so you don’t have to worry about all these rules if you’re just a casual player having fun.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of whether you’re a pro or a casual player, finding the right bowling ball for your playing style is undeniably crucial when it comes to achieving the perfect game. The numbers found on bowling balls are just some of the elements you need to understand if you want to find the ideal ball for you.

From its weight to its make, these numbers help you identify and learn more about the ball you’re using. You can use these as a point of reference whenever you’re renting a bowling ball or when you decide to invest in your own ball.