Which bowling ball is right for me

Walking into a bowling pro shop looking for a bowling ball is like walking into a shoe store looking for a running shoe.  You probably ask yourself:

  • Are the cheaper ones as effective as the expensive ones?
  • What do those "features" mean?
  • Will the staff be helpful, or just point me to the most "profitable" items for them?

This guide will help you choose which bowling ball will be right for you.  First, let's talk about the different coverstocks you may encounter.

Rubber:  Used to be the ball of choice for durability reasons, now you're more likely to find this in Uncle Harold's basement than in a pro shop.  With today's modern game, this ball has went the way of the dodo bird. 

Plastic/Polyester:  This is a smooth coverstock, with very small hooking potential.  Companies like Brunswick have taken these to a whole new level with "Viz-A-Balls," which have anything from a beer bottle inside to Spongebob Squarepants outside.   No matter the level of bowler, everyone should have one at least for spare conversions.

Urethane:  You will begin to see smaller amounts of hook with these bowling balls, as it generates friction with the lane surface.  These balls are best suited for beginners or drier lane conditions. 

Reactive Resin:  The invention of reactive resin coverstocks started a scoring explosion at all levels of bowling in the late 1980's.  Microscopic pores are created chemically in the coverstock's surface to absorb lane oil and increase friction, which in turn means more hook.  The term "skid/hook" is typically used with these coverstocks, as the energy the ball is storing going down the lane is released sharply when the coverstock meets the dry backend.

Particle Resin:  Earlier in this decade, it was found by putting compounds such as mica in the coverstock, you could gain even more friction on the heaviest of oil conditions.  In a fight with the "laneman," who tries to put down more oil to combat these newest bowling balls, bowling manufacturers are still taking the lead.  These balls offer a smoother transition in the back part of the lane then reactive resin does.

So now that you know the different types of bowling balls, which one is right for you?

If you are a league bowler, and sometimes bowl in a tournament or two, you will be able to combat most lane conditions with a 3 ball setup:

A Particle Resin ball set up for maximum hook, kept dull.  This is the ball you'll go to when you wish to play deep inside. or when heavy oil is the condition of the day.  This ball will also work on most Typical House Shots (or "THS") in the early stages of the night.

A Reactive Resin ball set up for length, polished.  Every league bowler should have a "benchmark" ball, that is, a controllable ball you can throw to see what the lanes are doing in practice.  With this ball, you will be able to see if you can stay with it, or if you need your stronger ball.  There might even be times you need your weakest ball!

A plastic/polyester bowling ball.  You will use this ball primarily for spare shooting, but lane conditions can also get so dry that you will actually have to use this ball as your strike ball! 

For most of the general bowling population (and there are a lot of you...over 54 million bowlers bowled at least one game in 2007), having just a plastic/polyester ball that fits your hand will be sufficient enough. 

A final word on ball weight.  The train of thought in bowling is that you should throw the heaviest ball you can handle.  However, you should not sacrifice control in your armswing for ball weight.  If you can't hit your target consistantly with a 16 lb ball, you shouldn't throw that weight.  The average weight thrown today is 15 lbs, and that is what the majority of pro shop proprietors will carry.

By using this guide, you should be able to build your bowling arsenal with confidence!

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