Choosing the best bowling ball for you means understanding how different qualities affect the ball's performance. What types of bowling balls are there? We'll break down some of the key features that make each bowling ball different.
Besides weight, bowling balls can differ in several important areas. These include the material, core, and brand.
The coverstock material is one of the most important qualities in a bowling ball. Common materials include:
- Reactive Resin
The core style also has a strong influence on how a ball performs. There are three main styles of core:
There are dozens of brands that manufacture bowling balls, but these six are among the best:
In this article, we'll look at each of these areas in detail. You'll learn how the material and core affect your ball's performance and we'll also look at some of the top brands in bowling and some of the best bowling balls they offer. Read on to learn all about it!
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What materials are bowling balls made of?
Bowling balls are essentially weight blocks coated in a coverstock. The material used for the coverstock influences how the ball interacts with the lane.
The coverstock can be made of plastic, urethane, reactive resin, or particle. We'll look at each and what distinguishes them.
Bowling balls with plastic coverstocks are the most affordable on the market. For this reason, most of the balls you'll find for free use at your local bowling alley are made of plastic.
Cost-effectiveness isn't the only advantage that plastic bowling balls have, though. These balls don't absorb oil from the bowling lanes. This means that they are great for shooting straight down the center of the lane and to use on lanes with a lighter coat of oil.
Plastic bowling balls' lack of oil absorption also makes them the easiest to clean.
More advanced players tend to favor more reactive balls that allow them to hook more. But even some pros keep plastic balls, like the one below, on hand to pick up spares.
A urethane coverstock is more reactive than plastic. This means that they offer better hooking potential than their plastic counterparts. This is great for bowlers who want to try more intricate throws without spending a fortune.
On top of that, they are also more durable, meaning they will last you more rounds than a plastic ball. This can help offset the fact that they tend to be more expensive than plastic balls. Still, they are more affordable than resin or particle balls.
While urethane balls do absorb some oil, they don't absorb as much as resin or particle coverstocks. This makes them ideal for relatively dry lanes or throwing after several other players.
As the name suggests, these resin bowling balls are going to react to both the lane as well as the user. Using resin bowling balls takes practice, but offers a lot of control when mastered.
Reactive resin bowling balls can generate a lot of friction, even on heavily oiled lanes. This means more pin impact and greater potential for potent hooks.
There are three types of reactive resin coverstocks: solid, pearl, and hybrid. Let's look at each!
Of the resin coverstocks, this provides the most friction. These bowling balls will hook sooner and less sharply than pearl or hybrid balls.
Pearl bowling balls create less friction, so they hook more sharply once they hit the break point, resulting in more back-end reaction.
Hybrid balls, as the name suggests, combine the qualities of the solid and pearl coverstocks. This means that they react earlier than pearl balls, but they have a stronger reaction at the break point than solid.
Particle or Proactive balls are very hard to come by. These balls have a rough surface that is meant for rolling through heavily oiled lanes.
These balls are very reactive, which means you get more control but also that there is a larger learning curve to using them. They tend to hook early compared to other balls.
As resin coverstocks improved, particle coverstocks became even less common than they were before. The Hammer Scandal was one of the most popular. Though it is out of production, the Scandal/S, below, is designed to replicate the Scandal's feel and performance.
What types of cores are there for bowling balls?
The core of a bowling ball determines its weight distribution and influences how it handles on the lane. Let's look at the different types of core:
Bowling balls with pancake cores have a weighted puck near the coverstock instead of near the center of the ball.
This weight falls in line with the axis the ball rolls on when rolled in a straight line. The result is that these balls maintain a linear trajectory well, but don't perform as well for hooks.
This type of core is common in plastic and urethane balls.
As you might guess, symmetrical core bowling balls distribute the weight symmetrically. This means they tend to have a cleaner arc, especially when rolled at lower speeds.
This makes them easier to control, but less capable of sharp hooks.
The asymmetrical distribution of weight in these balls means they have a greater learning curve than either pancake or symmetrical cores.
However, it also means there is more potential for sharp hooks and angular motion than with other balls. These are great for more advanced players.
What are the best bowling ball brands?
There is a multitude of great bowling ball manufacturers on the market today. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of brands out to make a quick buck on cheap products.
Stick with brands with a great reputation for quality products. Let's look at some of the best!
Storm has been around since 1985 and they produce some of the best bowling balls and other bowling-related products. They also own the popular bowling brands Roto Grip and 900 Global.
Storm's IQ Tour Emerald and Phaze III balls were among those chosen as the best balls of 2022 by Sports Illustrated.
The Brunswick Corporation has been running since 1845. While they've been manufacturing supplies for billiards longer than bowling, they were the first to popularize bowling balls made of materials besides wood.
They still make some of the best bowling balls in the game. Sports Illustrated named the Brunswick Tzone the Best Overall Bowling Ball of 2022.
Pyramid is a relatively young company, starting up in 2011 to meet the demand for high-quality bowling products that don't cost an arm and a leg. The company promises to be "by bowlers, for bowlers" and offers over 200 products.
Pyramid's Path Rising was chosen as a runner-up for the best ball of 2022 by Sports Illustrated.
Ebonite is another legacy bowling company that goes all the way back to 1905.
They manufacture bowling balls at a range of price points and performance levels to suit your needs, including this solid-reactive ball:
Hammer was one of the early adopters of urethane balls and the first company to put a logo on the side of their bowling balls.
Like other brands on our list, Hammer also produces a ball that made Sports Illustrated's top bowling balls of 2022 list: the Black Widow 2.0.
Michigan-based Motiv started by manufacturing cores for other bowling brands, including Brunswick. When Brunswick moved their manufacturing from Michigan to Mexico, Motiv launched its own line of bowling balls.
They produce a wide array of great balls and bowling accessories, and their Venom Shock is also among those named the best bowling balls of 2022 by Sports Illustrated.
What weight bowling ball should I use?
Now you know more about materials, cores, and brands for choosing the best bowling ball, but there's still the question of weight.
Bowling balls generally weigh between 10 and 16 pounds. The general rule of thumb for bowlers is to choose a ball that weighs 10% of your body weight, but a maximum of 16 pounds.
You may find you prefer a lighter ball when playing with the house balls available at a bowling alley, but when playing with a custom ball you prefer an extra pound or two. Personal preferences vary, so don't be afraid to try out a few weights to see what feels best for you.
We've seen some of the top brands when it comes to bowling balls so you can rest assured your next bowling ball will come from a quality manufacturer.
We've also seen the advantages and disadvantages of different materials and core styles. You also know more about how to choose a weight that suits you.
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