There are many types of bowling balls on the market today. Each of them are made of unique materials and designed to produce different types of performance. Understanding what bowling balls are made of, can help you match the best bal for your style and level of play.
The type ball that most recreational bowlers will recognize is the polyester bowling ball, which is commonly referred to as a “plastic” bowling ball. Polyester bowling balls have been available since the 1960s. They generally have a lower cost compared to the other types of bowling balls. They are very durable, which is why they are used as “house” balls on the racks of most bowling alleys. The durability comes from the hard, low friction nature of the polyester cover. This low friction nature causes the “plastic” ball to skid more and maintain a straighter trajectory. “Plastic” balls are primarily used by beginning bowlers; however, many experienced and professional bowlers use them for spare shots and for very dry lane conditions.
In the late 1970s, bowling manufacturers experimented with coverstocks softer than polyester in order to create more “hook” potential. The result of these experiments was a polyurethane coverstock, or urethane for short. Urethane has a higher friction surface than polyester which allows the ball to grab the surface better so it will hook more. Urethane bowling balls can be easily sanded or polished to control its hook potential. Urethane is the preferred coverstock for beginning hook bowlers. It is also the ball of choice for many experienced bowlers when bowling on very dry lanes.
In the early 1990s, ball manufacturer started adding resin particles to their urethane coverstocks. The resin made the ball tackier than plain urethane which increased its hook potential. A side effect of the resin is that it makes the ball hydroplane on the oil more than plain urethane. The combination of the increased skid on oil and stronger hooking ability on dry boards gives the resin ball a bigger backend reaction for more striking power than prior ball types. Reactive resin is the primary coverstock for most experienced bowlers on most lane conditions.
Experienced bowlers preferred the smooth reaction and controllability of urethane, but they could not refuse the power provided by reactive resin balls. The ball manufacturers response to this situation was to add textured particles such as ceramics and glass to the resin enhanced polyurethane balls. The added texture gave the ball more grip in the oil for a smooth, controllable hook style, while maintaining the powerful backend of reactive resin. The hook potential for most particle bowling balls is higher than all of the other types of coverstocks. This extremely high hook potential means that most particle balls are for use on oily lane conditions only. However, ball makers are constantly tinkering with the quantity and size of the particles used, so particle balls are becoming more versatile across many types of lane conditioning.
Now when it comes to deciding which bowling ball is best suited for you, it may not be the latest and greatest technological wonder. Ultimately, it comes down to your style and skill that will determine which bowling ball is best and how well you bowl. The bowling ball is only the tool that you use to release that skill. Here’s to your bowling success.