I finally had a chance to try Bill Hall’s Tri-Grip on Tuesday.
Knowing my lifetime of wrist woes and that I’d write about my experience, the famed coach and long-time ball driller on the PBA Tour graciously sent me a free copy of his Tri-Grip video.
The video runs about 20 minutes and after viewing a few parts a couple of extra times, I feel like I could have gone and drilled a Tri-Grip ball for myself (I have drilled all my own equipment for years).
But I decided it would be smart to enlist the assistance of someone with Tri-Grip experience and Bill recommended Jeff Taylor of Phoenix Pro Shop at Ten Pin Alley in the Madison suburb of Fitchburg. Taylor and the great folks at Badger Pro Shop in Madison are the locals with Tri-Grip expertise and I would have felt just as confident working with Badger Pro Shop.
You can hear Bill talk about the Tri-Grip in his recent appearance on Phantom Radio here.
The Tri-Grip is akin to an offset grip but it’s more complex than that — I’ve tried an offset grip and the Tri-Grip feels very different. I can’t offer more details because it is a product Bill is selling. But a picture of my first Tri-Grip ball is attached to this blog.
For those who don’t know the story, I broke my wrist when I was 10 years old and didn’t go to the doctor for about 10 days. When I finally did, the doctor wanted to re-break it and set it properly, but I chickened out. I wasn’t seriously into bowling and really didn’t think about anything other than avoiding a scary re-break — I was 10, after all!
As a result, I’ve had wrist pain to one degree or another for as long as I can remember as a bowler, stretching back to my teen years.
I started developing serious issues in the mid-1980s and had carpal tunnel surgery two days after I won the U.S. Team Trials in 1985. Prior to that surgery I had spent much of 1985 on prescription Naproxen twice a day at 750 mg. Naproxen is the pharmaceutical term for what is sold as Aleve over the counter in 220 mg pills.
Things went fairly well for the rest of 1985 and 1986 and I was able to maintain a high roll that tracked on the edge of my middle finger and close to my thumb. Physically, those years were the best I ever bowled.
But once I went on the PBA Tour full time in 1987 and 1988, my wrist started getting worse, my roll got weaker (dropping away from my finger and thumb) and ultimately I was forced to quit.
In early 1989, I had complicated bone graft reconstructive surgery with the world’s best hand surgeon at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., then had a clean-up procedure that August with the same doctor.
My surgeon, Dr. Ronald Linscheid, told me I’d likely never bowl at a top level again, but I was able to return to everything but the PBA Tour full time. My wrist has little flexibility and it gets stiffer and more sore with every day of bowling and the Tour is just too much of a grind.
Over the years, I have tried almost everything to alleviate those problems — all without success. Wrist devices haven’t worked. Different grips haven’t worked. I dropped to 15 pounds as I got older, but that didn’t help my wrist, and a try at 14 pounds made no difference.
Trust me, if it’s out there, I’ve probably tried it.
Basically, I’ve just bowled through the problems the best I can. With a lot of Aleve, the pain usually is tolerable. But when I get past two straight days of bowling, the stiffness and pain gets progressively worse and prevents me from getting through the ball quickly and cleanly.
To say I am skeptical of anything helping me is not a knock against anything I try — it’s an acknowledgment that I have some unique issues.
But I will try just about anything.
Which brought me to Bill and his Tri-Grip, and to Ten Pin on Tuesday for a finalization of my Tri-Grip and a first trial session.
Tuesday was an especially good day for a trial session because my wrist still was pretty stiff and sore after a pair of PBA50 Regionals over the weekend in which I finished fifth and second.
In throwing a ball with my current grip on Tuesday, I could not stay behind it at all — not that I do that very well anymore at any time! — and even rolling off the side my release was very slow and far from as clean as I am after, say, a week with no bowling.
The Tri-Grip was totally different.
From what Taylor had said, I expected to be able to roll up the back of the ball with ease but that was not the case. I was able to get behind it better and with less pain with the Tri-Grip, but it took a lot of conscious effort and my release was very inconsistent.
However, when I simply let my hand go into the ball with no effort to cock it in any way, I was able to come off the side of the ball with virtually no extra effort, and much quicker and cleaner than with my regular grip.
It is not an exaggeration to say that a ball has not come off my hand like that for more than a quarter century.
It took me a half-dozen shots to figure it out, but when I did I was releasing balls with much less conscious effort, more ball speed and probably a touch more revs than I have in years.
Before I said anything, Taylor picked up on those differences just from watching me throw the Tri-Grip ball and a regular grip ball.
Within 10 to 15 minutes of practice, I made the decision to plug and try three more balls with the Tri-Grip to give me a mini-arsenal I can try in practice, league and maybe tournaments.
Please don’t take this as any absolute endorsement of the Tri-Grip as a ringing success for me!
Basically, I’ve seen enough to want to take the next step, which is the mini arsenal in some competition to see how it impacts performance and holds up over hours of bowling.
I will take the Tri-Grip test ball, a Storm HY-ROAD PEARL, with me to this weekend’s PBA Midwest Regional Players Championship at Super Bowl in Peru, Ill., which features the Tournament of Champions pattern and is being webcast on Xtra Frame. As much hook as the TOC pattern seems to offer and considering how much the older synthetic surface at Super Bowl typically hooks, I have a feeling I might get to use the HY ROAD PEARL.
The other balls Taylor will plug and put my Tri-Grip in are a REIGN OF POWER (low-pin, strong drilling angle for heavy oil), VICTORY ROAD SOLID (high-pin, strong drilling angle for medium conditions), and a CROSSROAD (pin-in-the-palm because I like that as an alternative reaction).
Another caution in taking this as any absolute endorsement of the Tri-Grip is that my wrist issues are unique and what I experience isn’t likely to be what anyone else experiences.
Then again, if something can help me, it’s doing something nothing else has been able to do in a quarter century.
I will write more on how the Tri-Grip works as I have opportunities to use it, so follow my blog to follow my progress with it.