Bowling Ball Surface Guide

A bowler must understand the composition of a bowling ball to level up his game and make a name in the bowling world. 

Today, I will shed some light on the importance of learning about bowling ball surfaces. Learning valuable information about various bowling ball surfaces and surface maintenance can help you make great strides in bowling and pick the right choice when buying a new bowling ball. 

Narrowing it down, a ball features two pivotal components: the weight block and the coverstock. Since we are focusing on the surface of a bowling ball at the moment, I’ll only talk about coverstocks. 

Coverstocks are the outer layer or shell of a bowling ball. It is what we see and plays an instrumental role in determining the hook potential of a ball.  

Now, there are generally 4 different types of coverstocks, namely polyester, urethane, reactive resin, and particle (proactive). Let’s learn more about these surfaces. 


The 4 Bowling Ball Surface Types & What They Do

1. Polyester

Polyester is a fancy word for plastic. A bowling ball that features a polyester coverstock excels at straight shots. 

Boasting a smooth surface, a polyester ball generates less friction and thus, doesn’t produce as much hook as the other types of balls. It has a controlled, predictable movement and is the go-to ball for most amateurs simply because it is easy to use. 

To accommodate the needs and skill levels of amateurs and recreational players, you will find bowling arenas mostly stocking up on polyester balls. 

However, it would be a grave misjudgment to undermine the benefits of a polyester bowling ball. Even the veterans and experts of the game sometimes rely on a factory-finish polyester bowling ball to shoot spares—particularly the corner pins. 

As for bowling ball surface maintenance, a polyester ball is fairly easy to clean and maintain, unlike other types of bowling balls. Since it doesn’t have pores, it doesn’t accumulate much dirt and oil.


  • Shoots straight
  • Predictable motion
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Great for shooting spares
  • More affordable than other types of balls


  • No hook potential
  • Least aggressive of all balls

2. Urethane

Upgrading to a urethane bowling ball is a good way to introduce yourself to the art of hooking. 

Comparatively more durable than a plastic ball, it is also better at generating friction between the ball and lane. The production of greater friction allows a urethane bowling ball to have more hook potential than a plastic ball. 

Greater friction on the surface of the ball also means fewer deflections, which results in improved ball reaction and pin carry action. 

A urethane bowling ball offers controlled motion and decent hook potential. This type of ball is often used by players who can produce higher revolutions on the ball. 

It is also known to be advantageous on dry lanes.  

Advancing to a urethane bowling ball is a natural way of improving your game after mastering the plastic ball.

Like plastic balls, urethane bowling balls are also non-porous, making them relatively easy to sand and polish. 


  • Greater hook potential than plastic balls
  • Controlled motion
  • Good for dry lanes
  • Easy to maintain
  • A step up from plastic balls


  • Less effective angle to the pocket 

3. Reactive Resin 

Reactive resin bowling balls are known to be less durable than plastic and urethane bowling balls. However, what they lack in durability, they make up for in the production of greater friction, hook potential, and pin-carry action.

Generally speaking, reactive resin balls are categorized into 3 types: Pearl, Solid, and Hybrid. 

Out of the three, Pearl generates the least friction and thus, has the least hooking potential while Solid has the most hooking potential because it can generate greater friction. 

Meanwhile, a Hybrid languishes smack in the middle of the two with its hooking ability and friction generation.

True to its name, reactive resin balls are extremely reactive, making them difficult to control. Failure to control a reactive resin ball can result in disastrous erratic shots. 

Only expert bowlers can use this ball to their advantage. Seasoned players rely on this ball for its fantastic hook potential and to navigate through various lane reactions. 


  • Greater friction
  • Higher hooking potential than plastic and urethane balls
  • Versatile
  • Great striking power


  • Difficult to control
  • Less durable than plastic and urethane bowling balls

4. Particle (Proactive)

Ideal for heavily-oiled lanes, a particle (proactive) ball can be considered the gym-going version of a reactive resin ball. This type of ball generates the most friction and therefore, has the most hooking potential.

A particle proactive bowling ball is mostly used by experts who look for reactions in a high-speed ball. 

This bowling ball surface has minute particles added to it, giving the ball a rough and lumpy texture. However, it is these particles that help the ball grab the lane surface better. 


  • Ideal for heavily oiled lanes
  • Generates the most friction
  • Has the most hooking potential
  • Reactive even in high speed


  • Not suitable for amateurs
  • Difficult to control

Adjusting the Surface of a Bowling Ball

If you aren’t happy with the box finish or your ball’s track area has become dull, you can alter the surface of a bowling ball as per your need with sanding pads and polish. By using the right sanding pad and grit finish, you can even return a ball to its factory finish. 

Pads are available in various grit levels. Take note that pads with higher grit levels are less abrasive than pads with a lower grit. 

A higher grit pad results in smoother surfaces, thereby facilitating a longer hook period for the bowling ball. Meanwhile, lower grit pads result in a rougher ball surface, thus enabling the ball to hook sooner. 

A 1000 grit or 2000 grit surface is perfect for medium oil lane conditions, while a 4000 grit level will give a ball some surface sheen.

What about polished balls? Well, compared to sanded bowling balls, they tend to hook farther down the lane towards the pin deck. 

A sanded ball usually starts hooking towards the end of the oil pattern.  

If you aren’t adept at sanding, you can always use a ball spinner or a ball cup to get the job done and get rid of lane shine.

Final Note

Now that you have a better idea of how certain bowling ball surfaces work, you should be able to carefully select the balls that’ll benefit you. It also doesn’t hurt to ask around at the pro shop, if you need an expert’s opinion.

Additionally, I would also recommend you learn how to make surface adjustments to your advantage. You can only do that by trial and error though, so invest in some sanding pads and polish and slowly find your ideal ball surface.