Types of Bowling Balls

Bowling balls are classified based on their coverstock, which refers to their outer surface. Plastic, urethane, reactive resin, and proactive bowling balls are the four types most commonly used today.

Each coverstock exhibits a range of reactions to the lane conditions, which can dramatically impact your bowling score. 

When browsing for bowling balls, you must first be familiar with all the different bowling balls available on the market today in order to find the right one according to the criteria you’ve set.


Understanding Different Types of Bowling Balls

As mentioned, “coverstock” is the term for the outer surface of the bowling ball. 

It establishes direct contact with the lane and causes friction, both of which aid a bowler in maneuvering hook potential. As a result, the coverstock dictates the performance of the bowling ball which makes it one of the most influential elements of the game.

Let’s look at the performance benefits of each type so you can pick the right bowling ball for your next bowling game.

Plastic Bowling Ball

Ever since the 1960s, the plastic bowling ball has been the most popular coverstock material for bowling balls. 

The reason for its popularity with bowlers is pretty obvious. Usually made from polyester, these bowling balls are relatively light, priced comparatively lower than their counterparts, and have an edge when it comes to feel. 

The plastic ball also offers a very smooth surface and a firm grip, making it a great fit for beginners. When it comes to friction, however, plastic bowling balls exhibit mediocre performance when rolled down the lane.

A plastic bowling ball has the least hook potential of all types of bowling balls and while it won’t be the best choice for hooking, a plastic bowling ball works great for spares as it cuts down angles to the pins, making it easier for bowlers to predict its reaction. 

For this reason, it was initially used as an ideal coverstock for a strike shot because it’s good at running straight up the boards of the lane.

Whether you’re a beginner who wants to avoid hooking the roll or an experienced bowler looking for a great bowling ball to hit spares with, having some polyester bowling balls in your arsenal will have you covered.

Urethane Bowling Ball

Urethane bowling balls offer more friction, and by default, better hook potential than a plastic coverstock ball. 

Urethane bowling balls also enable less deflection owing to the increased friction which can help you pull off all types of high-level techniques. If you struggle with hook shots, however, a urethane bowling ball might not fit the bill for you.

Urethane bowling balls also contribute to an improved pin action by giving you more control over their reaction. More durable than plastic, urethane coverstock has the potential to protect your bowling ball from all sorts of mechanical abrasions that come with racking up hours at your local bowling alley.

Urethane balls also offer a lot of variability. They’re available in different styles, patterns, and weights, so you can pick a urethane ball that best suits your abilities and preferences.

Reactive Resin Bowling Ball

These balls offer a serious edge over plastic balls as well as urethane ones. 

They initiate an incredible hook and pin action by increasing friction and allow you the freedom to control your shots. 

This type of bowling ball can react to a range of lane oil patterns and densities seamlessly, which means it’s highly sensitive to the condition of the lane. This allows intermediate and advanced bowlers to take advantage of specific lanes, although this requires a lot of experience.

Every bowling alley has different lane oil conditions, so using a reactive resin bowling ball might not be ideal for beginners. 

As you become a better bowler, however, you’ll learn to manipulate the ball into hooking shots, letting you take advantage of this unique coverstock material.

An advanced bowler looking for significant hook ability can benefit from adding this ball to his/her bowling ball collection.

Particle (Proactive) Bowling Ball

Particle and reactive resin coverstocks have similarities in their designs. The defining factor is that particle bowling balls have microscopic material added to them during production which gives them a bumpy feel.

This change in feel and texture of the outermost layer works as an added advantage. It allows the ball to make more contact with the bowling lane’s surface. 

If you use a slo-mo camera, you might actually be able to see the ball’s material dig into the bowling lane!

These bowling balls create the most friction available on heavy-oil lanes. And the more friction a ball has, the more challenging reactions it exhibits to a hook and shot. 

If you’re not careful, your throw can potentially go off track real quick.

A lot of beginners and inexperienced bowlers face issues with using a particle bowling ball so if you feel like the equipment is not working for you or is stunting your growth, look for other ball types or give yourself time to master it. 

It’s generally used by intermediate bowlers and advanced bowlers.

Understanding Weight Blocks

While majorly distinguished by their coverstocks, bowling balls can be categorized based on other factors too. One such determining factor is the weight block.

A weight block of a bowling ball is found right beneath the outermost layer, or coverstock, as it is most commonly called. Well-balanced weight blocks leverage the laws of physics and help professional bowlers garner the momentum to knock out strike after strike as they play.

The two main types of weight blocks are:

High Mass

The high-mass weight block is a thin puddle or pancake-shaped block found inside the coverstock along with a large region of filler material. 

This generally has a higher density compared to the filler material found inside the casing of a bowling ball. As a result, the top half of the ball weighs significantly more than the lower half of the bowling ball. 

This piece of genius engineering is known as a three-piece construction, consisting only of a thin coverstock, pancake-shaped weight block, and filler material.

Low Mass

As bowling balls found their footing in the sports industry in the 1980s and 1990s, experimentation began. Manufacturers responded to the demand and played around with the arrangements of components of the bowling ball. 

That’s where low-mass weight blocks came in. A low-mass block, unlike its high-mass counterpart, does not have a specific density or shape. 

It’s generally placed towards the center of the bowling ball and is large and dense. The added and, most of the time, uniform pressure offers a heavier roll and works well with almost all lane conditions. 

This results in an increase in hook potential.

The clever engineering and arrangement, consisting of a thick coverstock and a dynamic weight, is called a two-piece construction.

Understanding the Influence of Lane Conditions on Different Bowling Balls

If you’ve found the perfect ball, have precise posture and hand movements, and still encounter difficulties in striking the pins down, maybe it’s time to pay attention to the conditions of the bowling alleys you frequent.

Dry Bowling Lanes

Dry bowling lanes tend to create more friction between the two major components, the bowling ball and the bowling lane. If you’re in a bowling alley that has a dry bowling lane, use a plastic (polyester) bowling ball for all your throws.

Medium- to Heavy-Oil Bowling Lanes 

Medium- to heavy-oil bowling lanes offer comparatively less friction than dry bowling lanes. If you’re looking to throw a curveball or get maximum strikes, opt for a bowling ball that will give you the most grip. 

From plastic bowling balls to urethane and proactive balls, all types work well in these lanes, except for reactive resin bowling balls.

Heavily Oiled Lanes

This could mean the lane has a lot of oil at the starting point (compared to other lane conditions) or it could mean that the oil pattern goes farther down the lane. 

This definition varies from one bowling alley to the next. Proactive balls are usually used in these types of lanes.

What Is The Right Type of Bowling Ball for You?

Choosing the right bowling ball can have a drastic impact on your performance. It will enable you to level up your bowling skills by improving your scores and helping you hit strikes consistently.

With so many types of bowling balls, finding the right fit can be pretty tedious. This is something that you can’t take recommendations on because what works for others may not work as well for you. 

Neither can you pick a bowling ball off the rack and make your way to the bowling lane and expect great results.

To find the right type of bowling ball, you have to follow a systematic approach.

  • Weight: Ideally, the weight of your ball should be 10% of your body weight, not exceeding 16 pounds.
  • Coverstock: According to the condition of the lane and your experience level, you can determine what the best coverstock is for you.
  • Pick and choose your ball: Once you’ve determined the ideal weight and coverstock for you, visit a pro shop to find the perfect bowling ball. 

You can also find a large collection of bowling balls online. 

Get Your Own Ball

Purchasing a bowling ball can get really expensive. Unlike old times when one bowling ball would last you a good five–ten years, most bowling balls on the market today lack versatility and long-term usability. 

Make sure you do in-depth research before you browse through the different types of bowling balls. While the factors we’ve discussed are all important, it’s well worth considering how your fingers fit with a ball before making a purchase.

Pre-drilled house bowling balls have standard finger holes. This one-size-fits-all approach means that you grip the ball harder than you normally would, impacting your bowling outcome. 

If pre-drilled house bowling balls don’t cut it for you, you can purchase an undrilled bowling ball and then get the ball drilled to fit your preferences. Make sure to go to a professional driller when drilling holes in your bowling ball. 

Professionals will use their expertise to develop just the right layout for you.

Customizing the finger holes will give you more control over your ball resulting in better bowling scores and decreasing the risk of sustaining injuries. 

To level up your bowling skills, don’t forget to practice every day – even the best bowling ball won’t perform in the hands of an amateur!