What You Need to Know About How to Choose Bowling Ball Coverstock
The sport of bowling surprisingly dates as far back as ancient Egypt. The materials used and the rules followed were undoubtedly a little different back then, but as the sport of bowling has changed and adapted, it has become the world’s most popular participatory sport. It is also one of the easiest sports to jump into without any experience. I’m not to saying becoming a professional bowler is easy. It takes a lot of time and practice. But, anyone can pick up a bowling ball and comprehend the basics quite simply. It is a sport that is widely enjoyed both recreationally and competitively. And when you know how to choose a bowling ball coverstock you can begin to truly appreciate the nuances of the sport.
While dedication and practice are key to upping your bowling game, sometimes going from an amateur to someone with a little more skill can be as simple as choosing the right bowling ball. Today, there are a plethora of bowling balls on the market, and with so many options, it can feel a bit overwhelming when it comes time to choose one. While you might be drawn to a certain ball simply because of how it looks, there is more to selecting a bowling ball than simply considering its aesthetic appeal. The main components to consider when choosing a new ball are the Weight Block and the Coverstock. With so many options ahead of you, the task to choose the proper ball might feel a bit daunting, but with this helpful guide, you’ll be hitting the lanes with your new bowling ball in no time.
The coverstock, which is the outer shell of the bowling ball, comes in a variety of materials. At first, it might seem that the coverstock is simply what makes up the aesthetics of a bowling ball, and while that isn’t entirely false – the coverstock does determine how your ball will ultimately look – it also impacts performance and how your ball will handle on the lanes.
Before diving straight into the different coverstock materials available, you will want to decide what it is that you want your ball to do. If there is a particular place where you always go bowling, ensuring that your coverstock material works well with the lane conditions is important to getting the results you want as well. Different materials will affect how your bowl performs and reacts to the lane surface. Friction is created when you roll your ball down the lane, and how much friction is created will affect the hook potential which will vary depending on the type of coverstock you have chosen.
Plastic aka Polyester Coverstock
Polyester coverstock, sometimes referred to as plastic, is the most affordable coverstock material available on the market. Polyester is quite hard and durable, which along with its low price point, makes it great for beginners that tend to be a little tougher on their bowlers as they learn to bowl properly. The polyester material is also very smooth which means there is less friction and therefore less hook potential as the ball rolls down the lane. For this reason, polyester coverstock is great for beginners that are learning to bowl straight or for more advanced bowlers that need a more predictable reaction from their ball when shooting spares.
Urethane coverstock is the bowling ball material that is considered to have started the “hook revolution”. The material was used first in the ‘80s when manufacturers were looking to achieve a higher hook potential in comparison to the more limited straight reaction they were getting from polyester balls. While Urethane coverstock does not provide the highest amount of hook potential, it does tend to hook more than plastic bowling balls. This type of material allows for a more gradual hook with a smaller entry angle which is a step up from polyester, but still easier to control for beginners or someone learning to hook their ball for the first time.
Urethane bowling balls are more porous than plastic ones, meaning they are capable of building more friction for a higher hook potential. However, Urethane coverstock still does not absorb as much oil as other materials, so if you are bowling on a slick lane, the arch of your ball’s hook might be diminished. Urethane balls also tend to react earlier which can be a benefit if you are bowling on shorter patterned lanes. Overall, urethane coverstock is a great step up from polyester as it increases hook potential while still being very controllable.
Reactive Resin aka “Reactive” or “Reactive Ball”
Reactive resin coverstocks are less durable than polyester or urethane bowling balls. But they do offer the highest hook potential and pin action. Resin coverstocks became popular as more advanced bowlers sought more aggressive reactions with a wider range of ball motion and capabilities. Reactive coverstock is similar in some ways to urethane coverstock materials. The difference is a blend of various additives that provide more friction when the ball rolls down the lane. However, because there is more friction with reactive resin bowling balls, they are more sensitive to lane conditions making them less predictable and harder to control. For this reason, reactive resin balls are typically chosen by those with more advanced skills that are capable of better control.
There are three different types of reactive coverstocks which allow users to more finely tune and personalize their ball to get the reaction they want:
Solid Reactive Coverstock
The solid reactive coverstock is the more common of the three different types. Solid reactive bowling balls absorb the most oil and therefore achieve the most friction when rolling down the lane. This type of coverstock can be found on mid-range to high-end balls with users that are looking for a higher potential of lane reactions and performance. If you are an experienced bowler with good control, a solid reactive bowling ball is an excellent choice. However, because this type of coverstock material is more porous and absorbs more oil, it does require more maintenance and upkeep.
Pearl Reactive Coverstock
The pearl reactive coverstock material is similar to the solid coverstock, except that it has an additional material blended in that reduces its friction. This slight variance in the material allows for pearl reactive bowling balls to shoot further down the lane in a straight line before hooking more aggressively as it approaches the pocket on the backend of the lane. Advanced bowlers will sometimes start with a reactive solid ball and then move to a reactive pearl later in the game once the shot begins to break down from a decrease in oil on the lane. The pearl coverstocks are also a great option for bowlers that tend to have slower speeds as the ball will travel farther down the lane before starting to hook.
Hybrid Reactive Coverstock
Hybrid reactive coverstocks are exactly what the name suggests, a combination of both a solid and a pearl reactive coverstock. By creating a material that is a combination of the two it allows bowlers to take advantage of the benefits of both the solid and the pearl coverstocks. A hybrid will essentially hook a little earlier than a pearl but will go longer than a solid. This makes hybrids a great choice for bowlers looking to achieve a more balanced hook that will break at a more controllable point on the lane. Hybrid reactive coverstocks are also a good choice to consider if you want the more advanced benefits of a reactive bowling ball but don’t want to constantly switch between types depending on the lane conditions.
Weight Blocks and How to Choose Your Ideal Bowling Ball Weight
Once you have decided on the coverstock material that best suits your needs and experience level, you can give the weight of your ball some thought. Standard house bowling balls range in weight from 6 to 16lbs. If you are completely new to bowling and have never picked up a heavier house ball, you might have found that it seemed much heavier than you can handle. However, if you are planning to get your own ball and become more experienced, a heavier ball between 12 to 16 lbs is ideal. The reason heavier house balls often seem too heavy to handle is because they were not made to specifically fit your hand. Holding a heavier ball becomes much easier when you have your own ball properly fitted. For more information refer to How To Choose The Correct Bowling Ball Weight For Your Body And Style.
So, what weight should you choose then? Well, there used to be a saying that bowlers should pick a ball that is about 10 percent of their body weight. However, this statement is a little generic and does not account for other factors that can affect how a person throws a ball, like age and mobility. The most important thing is that you feel comfortable throwing the ball and do not feel off balance when you hold it. The idea that the heavier the ball is, the easier you will knock down pins is not entirely invalid, but if your ball is so heavy that you can’t throw it or control it properly then you still likely won’t have success getting consistent strikes. You’ll want something that is at least 12 pounds to get good pin action, but from there it just depends on what weight feels comfortable for you.
Understanding Weight Blocks
While the shape of a weight block can vary, most modern bowling ball manufacturers use some type of weight that sits at the core of the ball. However, earlier models and lower-level performance balls will sometimes have what is called a pancake weight block.
Pancake Weight Blocks
Pancake weight blocks are sometimes referred to as high mass weights. They are shaped somewhat like a pancake and sit closer to the outside shell. This type of weight distribution allows the bowler to get a lot of length down the lane without any hook action. These weights aren’t typically used as often anymore except with alley balls. This is because they don’t allow for as many reactions on the lane. However, they are good if you are just starting out and aren’t ready to learn how to hook your ball.
Symmetrical Core Weight Blocks
Symmetrical weight blocks, or low mass weights, can come in a variety of shapes but are typically shaped like a light bulb. This type of weight block keeps the weight balanced and consistent while also allowing for more hook potential. Symmetrical cores also allow for bowlers to get more personalized finger hole configurations without affecting the weight or balance of the ball.
How to Clean Your Bowling Ball
Keeping your bowling ball performance properly requires regular maintenance. Every time you bowl, your ball absorbs dirt and oil from the lane which can build up and get absorbed into the coverstock overtime. If the oil and grime are allowed to set in, your ball will lose friction and its hook potential will diminish. A simple everyday way to keep your ball in top shape is to wipe it down with a microfiber towel after each use. Before storing your ball, you should also spray it with a cleaner and wipe it down. You can easily find cleaners at any pro bowling shop or online as well.
However, another method of cleaning your bowling ball is to resurface it. This process essentially sands off some of the surface to create grit which allows the ball to grip the lane better. This method should only be attempted if you are experienced, as sanding off too much or improperly sanding your ball can negatively affect how it reacts on the lane.
Sanding Your Bowling Ball
Sanding or resurfacing your bowling ball at home can help it maintain its grip and hook potential. There are two main types of sanding pads that you can use: Abralon and Siaair. Both of these types of pads can help you resurface your ball and achieve consistent scratch patterns. The main difference is that Siaair pads have a little more variety in grits and tend to last longer. However, the Abralon pads are more popular and are easier to find as well as being more affordable.
If you don’t have time to read this full article this video can help. It gives very high level overview of how to choose a bowling ball coverstock.
What kind of coverstock do you use? Do you have any additional tips or tricks to choosing a coverstock? Do you find that similar coverstocks across different brands react the same? Let us know in the comments below.