What are Bowling Balls Made Of? – A User Guide

Bowling balls are of different kinds and different materials. They are of different types and sizes as well. However, all balls tend to have one essential feature: they have holes in them in which a player can stick the fingers and thumb for a grip.

As far as the material is concerned, different kinds have been popular over the years in the process of manufacturing bowling balls. The most frequently used materials of the best bowling balls coverstocks are hard rubber, polyester, urethane, resin urethane, and reactive urethane.

Coverstock: Aggression Solid
Coverstock: Aggression Solid
Coverstock: Aggression Solid
Coverstock: Aggression Solid

Short History of Bowling Ball Materials

Back in the 1960s, the most popular balls were made of hard rubber. In the subsequent decade, that is, in the 1970s, polyester balls arrived on the scene. The polyester variety became so popular that a good number of bowling alleys still use them. In the 1980s, the urethane balls stole the limelight. Even today, most of the balls are made of resin urethane. This variety matured in the early 1990s, when reactive urethane started being used.

Coverstock Materials

Plastic or Polyester

The most inexpensive (and hence most common) material used in making bowling balls is polyester, a kind of plastic. These balls are very hard and durable, able to withstand a lot of abuse. For these reasons, they are usually the ones used as house balls in bowling alleys. Performance-wise, these balls tend to skid more than the other types, making fine control a bit more difficult. They are also not easy to hook, doesn’t have that much hook potential, because of the lack of friction between the bowling ball and the lane surface. Because of this, most professional players shun plastic balls, although they might be sufficient for beginning to casual players.

polyester bowling ball

The plastic or polyester types of balls are great for straight bowlers plus they are great for spare shots as well as for dry walkways. They’re durable and ideal for practice. For that beginner this is an excellent bowling ball to purchase which is economical. The ball may also be personalized when it comes to weight, color and then any other kinds that you simply might be thinking about for that ball to become unique and simple to recognize.

Urethane or Polyurethane

The urethane ball might not be starting as low as the sooner version, but it’s also economical. A ball will work for connecting as it features a greater friction surface. This is an excellent selection for the moderate bowler, because it requires with additional control compared to plastic or polyester version. Any of the types of balls which have reactive resin will work for elevated skid as well as for a more powerful striking energy.

Another material used in bowling balls is polyurethane. Balls made of this material are a bit softer than polyester balls, and have more friction between the ball and the lane surface. Because of this, polyurethane balls are much easier to hook than plastic balls. They have become the regulation standard for this reason. The hooking potential can be increased or decreased by sanding or buffing the ball.


Reactive Resin

Reactive resin is a relatively newer material. These are still primarily made of urethane, but particles of resin are added to the coating or coverstock. These sticky particles of resin give these balls even more friction than plain urethane balls, and in the hands of experienced players these balls can be made to hook even further.

Reactive resin bowling ball

There is more than just one type of reactive resin used in the making of bowling balls. This reactive material is known for its aggressive nature and has been in use since the 1990s now. However, there are now more than just one kind of reactive resins. Let’s take a look:

Solid Reactive Balls

This type has the maximum amount of pores on its surface that allows the ball to be the most reactive out of all other kinds. Compared to pearl reactive balls, the solid ones tend to experience a “low energy” moment as they travel further and further.

Pearl Reactive Balls

The addition of “mice” flakes makes the ball’s surface slightly shiny but more reactive to high friction surfaces. This reaction to friction gives them a high skid motion.

Hybrid Reactive Balls

The name itself suggests that these balls are a combination of two things. Hybrid reactive balls consist of a combination of pearl and solid balls, making the best out of their top qualities and benefits.


Finally, so called particle products incorporate, in addition to these resin particles, glass and ceramic particles into urethane coverstocks. This addition increases hooking power even further, making these balls the choice for a lot of professional bowlers. These balls are also seen to be more controllable than any other in terms of both hooking and speed.

Of course, the better balls such as particle products are going to be more expensive than simple plastic or polyurethane balls. The more expensive choices can represent quite an investment, and casual bowlers would want to look at those that are more within their budget. These polyurethane balls have the advantage of having better traction on the polyurethane finish used on most wooden lanes.

The most recent kind of bowling ball is made of proactive urethane, which gives the ball a different kind of a feel and improves the traction. It may be compared to an all-weather tire. An even newer variety is the particle technology. Additionally, today’s balls come in various colors, and some have a coat of high-gloss polish.

bowling ball coverstock timeline

Core Materials

Bowling balls, as you already know, consist of multiple layers and parts. This includes the core, the shell, and the finger holes. There are different materials used to make these balls, which eventually leads to different pricing and quality standards, too. The coverstock is made of various materials, as discussed above, but another important factor to think about is the core’s material. The core material tells us a lot about the ball’s performance and its quality as well.

Generally, cores are made when a heavy substance like barium is added to polyester/plastic or ceramic. Manufacturers use millable ceramic materials to make cores, which are more prone to losing their shape when finger holes are drilled or due to any other kinds of impacts. These types of cores have a mix of ceramic material and a binding agent. Cores with fired ceramics are much stronger and do not deform when you drill them for finger holes.

bowling ball core

There are different types of cores, depending on their shape and the material they are made of. These include:

Pancake Shape Core

These cores have a “puddle-like” shape, almost like a flat pancake. They are a low-performance core usually made with plastic, polyester, or low-grade urethane.

Symmetrical Core

Balls with a symmetrical core do not have to be symmetrical on both axes. They are either symmetrical horizontally or vertically. These balls are usually made of urethane or reactive resin.

Asymmetrical Core

As the name may suggest, these types of cores tend to have an uneven distribution of weight in one part of the ball rather than equal distribution. These are also made of the same materials as symmetrical ones, but they have a more vigorous and aggressive movement compared to the smooth and consistent movement of symmetrical cores.

So Which Bowling Ball Material to Choose?

Reactive resin balls are a perfect choice for more experienced bowler because it has added resins to it that move perfectly on the lane surface on a faster speed. A mix of the urethane and resin is great for controllability. It’s smooth types of bowling balls and also the resin aspect enables it to possess energy. It’s utilized in oily lane conditions and isn’t for that novice but they’re great for the moderate bowlers who’ve some experience of the overall game. They’re economical and great for connecting. A ball that’s made purely of resin is easily the most costly and also the professional which has mastered the various moves uses it.

When selecting an inexpensive ball or perhaps an costly one you will find several points to consider. The load from the ball along with the position from the drilled finger holes must be considered. The ball shouldn’t be a lot more than 10% of the body weight though for that professional the ball might be heavier. Once the ball has been acquired, both of your hands ought to be used to be able to avoid injuries towards the arms and back.

Budget plastic types of bowling balls are ideal for beginners as they could hit hooks directly plus they roll straight. Particle balls are chosen by professional bowlers for some particular bowling situation. It is made up of glass that helps the ball get a good grip on the lane, it is also best for hook shot and with faster speed.


Now that you have the idea of the different bowling balls materials, it is up to you to choose which of this will more likely give you a good play and which is the right ball for you. There is no need to buy really expensive ones. Most of the bowling balls fit the criteria of an excellent ball. What is important is you are comfortable in using it and it can help you perform at your best.

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Written by Shannon Cothran