Two-handed delivery requires new look at USBC rules


    USBC Equipment Specifications and Certification

    By Jeff Henry, USBC Rules Department

    USBCLogoRed_small.jpg The emergence and growing popularity of what is known as the "two-handed" delivery in bowling has caused the United States Bowling Congress (USBC) to consider its impact on the rules and application of the sport's specifications.

    How does this style affect USBC rules related to a legal delivery? Do players violate the rules if they switch styles and throw at spares or their first deliveries in the more traditional one-handed approach? And does the style affect the application of specifications related to balance of the bowling ball and/or the allowance and use of the gripping holes? Those are just a few of the issues to be considered.

    First let's look at the delivery itself. Per USBC official rules, a delivery is defined as the act of releasing the ball into the playing territory. Historically, this has been done primarily by gripping the ball with one hand, swinging the ball with one arm and simply releasing the ball onto the lane.

    Today the two-handed bowler places both hands on the ball (he/she may or may not use gripping holes) and leaves them on the ball throughout the swing until the release, at which point he or she is able to impart a considerable amount of revolutions to the ball.

    Reviewing video of a two-hander's mechanics reveals that each player has a dominant hand. While both hands are in contact with the ball throughout the swing for balance purposes, at the point of release, the top hand peels away, leaving the player to release the ball and impart force with one hand.


    Team USA's Cassidy Schaub - Two-handed Release

    Team USA's Cassidy Schaub - Side View

    © Courtesy of Cary Pon, USBC Coaching.

    Editor's Note: Still online on is the title match of the 2006 Vienna Open between Wu Siu Hong from Hong Kong and Osku Palermaa, the two-hander from Finland.

    Therefore, using our definition of a delivery, each player can be classified as either right-handed or left-handed. (This is usually easily determined by which side of the body he or she swings the ball.)

    Classifying each player as right- or left-handed then allows USBC to determine whether the player violates the restriction of using one hand to change styles and shoot either spares or a first ball with the one-handed style.

    A right-handed player who shoots a 10-pin one-handed with his/her right hand does not violate USBC rules. However, if that same player decided to throw the spare left-handed, it would be against the rules.

    As stated above, the growing popularity of the two-handed style has caused USBC to consider its impact on the equipment specifications. Issues include the definition and use of gripping holes and how to measure the balance in a ball.

    USBC specifications allow for the use of up to five holes for gripping. The intent of the specification was to allow individuals who have difficulty holding a ball with fewer digits to drill extra holes and allow them to participate. Over the years, players have become creative and have tested the limits of the specification.

    This has included anything from drilling a so-called extra finger hole wide of the normal span to have two grips to fingertip and conventional of two thumb holes on opposite sides of the finger holes (Mike Lastowski used such a ball to win the 1983 ABC Masters).

    While a change was made several years ago to require gripping holes to be covered during a delivery, the current application would still allow a two-handed player to drill a set of finger holes for each hand on opposite sides of the ball. This allows a player to insert fingers from both hands to assist in maintaining the grip and imparting force on the ball.

    USBC has modified its application of the specification to now require a player to be able to demonstrate that he/she can use all of the gripping holes with one hand at the same time. The player is not required to use all the holes in any specific delivery, but they must be able to demonstrate that each hole can reasonably be used for gripping purposes. Any hole that cannot be reasonably shown to be used with a single hand would be classified as a balance hole.

    The application of the requirement will require some judgment. For example, if a player has a one-inch hole that he or she can barely reach with the tip of the little finger, it is not reasonable that the hole was drilled for gripping purposes and it would therefore be considered a balance hole.

    I recently inspected a ball of a well-known driller which had a traditional fingertip grip, a side balance hole and an additional ¬ĺ-inch hole drilled about one-inch deep in the middle of the grip. When I questioned the ball, its owner advised that the extra hole was an additional gripping hole used when shooting spares. It was obvious the hole was not intended for or ever used for gripping. The new application will preclude a manipulation of the specification's intent.

    As in the recent past, while not required to be used, all gripping holes must be covered throughout the approach and delivery. This means that a player not using the thumb hole must lay the ball in the palm of his/her hand such that the palm or thumb covers the thumb hole. If the player rotates the ball in manner that results in the thumb hole being fully exposed, they are in violation of USBC rules and following a warning, be subject to disqualification from the competition.

    Requiring all gripping holes to be used by one hand will also simplify questions about how to measure a ball to ensure it meets USBC's static weight balance requirements.

    In the past, allowing gripping holes all over the ball created confusion about how to measure to ensure they met the one ounce side and finger/thumb maximums. Centralizing the gripping holes will make it easier to identify where the ball needs to be measured to determine if it is compliant. Measuring instructions and examples can be found in the USBC Equipment Specifications and Certification section.

    The natural evolution of the sport and the continued success of players such as USBC Team USA's Cassidy Schaub, Jason Belmonte of Australia, and Finn Osku Palermaa will lead to the continued growth of the two-handed style.

    USBC has and will continue to determine how the changing dynamics of the sport impact the rules and specifications.