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What are Bowling Balls Made Of? Top Materials and Coverstocks

types of bowling ballsAt first glance, all bowling balls might look similar, but in reality there are a few different types that you’ll want to employ for different purposes. Some are ideal for beginners and are quite inexpensive, while others are designed for high performance and are used mostly by competitive league bowlers and even professionals. Certain balls are also more useful in particular lane conditions, whether dry or oily. The material the balls are made of is their most important distinction, and the outside of the ball is commonly referred to as the its “coverstock.” This article will answer the persistent question of what are bowling balls made of so you’ll know what is best suited for your own game.

Major Different Types of Bowling Balls

Plastic/Polyester – The ball you’ll first encounter on your bowling journey is the polyester, also often referred to as plastic, ball. These balls are the cheapest and also those best designed for straight bowlers, as opposed to those who throw with a curve or spin. These entry level balls have been common since the 1960s when they replaced rubber bowling balls, which had been the popular material of the previous era. Polyester bowling balls skid more and have less friction against the lane surface. This allows them to keep a straighter trajectory as they head on their way towards the pins.

Plastic balls are what you’ll see on the racks of your local alley as the “house” balls, but there’s still an important difference between those and getting one of your own. First, you get your own ball drilled to fit your own hand, and you can choose a style you like and also avoid the often dinged and worn out balls that you’ll typically see at the alley.

Urethane – Plastic balls are great for novices, sure, but there comes a time when bowlers ought to graduate to the next level. That usually comes with urethane bowling balls, which are a good choice for intermediate bowlers. These balls were developed in the decade after plastic balls became popular, and one of their main purposes was to make the ball hook more. Specifically, urethane will have more friction on the lane surface, and this reaction causes it to hook. As such, a bowler who is starting to learn how to hook will want to have a urethane ball in his or her arsenal. But when it’s time to “graduate,” don’t toss out that plastic ball: since it’s the straightest type of ball you’ll want to keep it to use as a spare ball when you typically throw a straight shot.

Resin/Reactive Resin – Bowling ball companies have always strove to innovate, as we described in the shift from polyester to urethane in order to achieve a coverstock that would hook more. The final major category of bowling ball is the same story. This time it came about twenty years after urethane balls hit the market, and the goal was similar: to make the ball hook even more, especially in conditions with heavy oil on the lanes. To achieve this, these companies started to introduce resin particles to a urethane ball, wihch makes the ball grip the lane better and hook more. It also hooks well on drier lanes, giving you a very strong strike potential no matter the conditions. These balls can be known as reactive resin or resin balls, and they are the ones most frequently used by competitive bowlers and professionals. There are many subcategories to this final type, as the particles can vary in size and can be applied in different quantities. These make reactive resin balls highly versatile to suit any needs of more experienced bowlers.

In conclusion, the question of what is a bowling ball made of has a bit of nuance to it. Plastic balls don’t cost very much and are very good for beginning bowlers who throw a straight shot. Urethane balls have increased hook potential on the lane because they generate more friction, and are considered an intermediate step. Most competitive bowlers opt for a third category, resin or reactive resin, which are urethane coverstocks with added particles that give strong hook power. No matter where you are in your own journey, any of these types of bowling balls can be useful. A plastic ball can be a great spare ball, even for a professional, while urethane balls are great for drier lanes. We hope this article has been helpful; if you have any questions about what bowling balls are made of and what the differences are, let us know in the comments below.


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