Different Types of Bowling Balls


Believe it or not, there is nothing universal in the bowling world. In fact, some bowling enthusiasts might not even know the different types of bowling balls that exist today.

Picking the right ball can tremendously improve the score and consistency. However, it can be a struggle for beginners to find the best bowling ball as there is no single parameter that distinguishes one type of ball from the others.

Give this article a read to learn all about various balls and find the type of bowling ball that will work for your game.

Different Bowling Ball Classifications

Every one of four people is into bowling. However, not every ball is suitable for all situations in a game. Therefore, we have categorized the types of bowling balls based on different parameters to give you a thorough insight into this essential equipment of the game.

Use of Bowling Balls

Bowling is fun and requires you to maintain a proper balance to ace the game. Bowling balls are designed for people of different ages and use. Depending on the use, the four major types of balls are:

Kids’ Bowling Balls

Rolling a bowling ball can be very exciting, especially for kids. This activity is not only a source of amusement, but it also provides avenues for exercise. There are a number of bowling balls available for kids varying in designs, weight, and set of holes.

The ideal ball weight of a bowling ball is crucial in the game, and it generally ranges from 2.5kg to 7.2kg. It is better to get your kid the one bowling ball that is the lightest at the beginning for practice. A light ball is relatively easier to handle, thereby preventing the chances of accidental drops. You can gradually increase the weight later as per the handling ability of the kid.

Since most kids’ bowling balls do not come with holes, it is better to visit a professional bowling shop and have the undrilled bowling ball drilled according to the measurements of your kid’s hand.

Most bowling balls for kids come with trendy and explosive patterns. These vibrant designs and colors prove helpful in keeping the children interested in the game. These balls are also easy to use, so kids can practice different techniques and movements.

kids bowling ball

House Bowling Balls

House bowling balls can be your ticket for fun at lanes as they are freely available for use for open bowlers. All you need to do is get your rental bowling shoes and head towards the rack for the balls. This type of bowling ball is available in different weights, ranging from 6-16 lbs. Most modern house bowling balls are made using polyester to ensure durability.

This broad variation in weight makes them useful for both adults and kids. Similarly, the balls have a range of sizes for gripping holes in order to accommodate hands of different shapes and sizes. Try to go for the right bowling ball that feels good in your hand.

When it comes to the design, house bowling balls feature beautiful patterns and designs to make them look attractive. This feature proves a role in the selection of balls, especially for recreational bowlers.

These balls are relatively more uniform internally as compared to professional ones to offer a balanced experience for bowlers. If you are new to this game, it’s better to use a house ball of the bowling center rather than getting your own ball. Develop your interest in the game by using free house balls, and then invest in your own bowling ball if you intend to participate in gaming sessions on a regular basis.

Professional Bowling Balls

Professional bowling balls, as the name suggests, are useful for professional games. These are, by far, the highest-quality bowling balls on the market, and for this reason, they tend to fall on the higher end of the cost spectrum.

This type of bowling ball is suitable for professional bowlers with advanced bowling skills. The balls generally feature reactive resin or particle cover stock. Moreover, they can react to varying lane oil densities seamlessly by providing high traction.

The impeccable combination of reactive cover stocks and high-end core technologies also offers the possibility for powerful pin reactions. Thanks to their excellent oil absorption ability, professional bowling balls don’t skid in oily lane situations at the bowling alley.

The weight of such reactive resin balls generally ranges from 12 to 16 lbs. The finger holes are usually not pre-drilled, and you have to get them done yourself in a pro-shop for the right grip.

Appealing aesthetics and unique designs make you want these professional bowling balls even more. In fact, this feature also gives the bowler a psychological advantage in the bowling alley even before starting the actual game.

professional bowling balls

USBC Approved (United States Bowling Congress)

Bowling is quite popular in the States, and people take it quite seriously. For this reason, the United States Bowling Congress has established some ground rules for bowling balls.

USBC-approved bowling balls are made while keeping certain physical requirements in view. They weigh no more than 16 lbs and feature a diameter ranging from 8.500 inches to 8.595 inches. Some other factors include surface roughness, surface hardness, as well as hole drilling limitations. Moreover, the weight holes are banned in approved balls for the prevention of consequences like changing bowling ball dynamics.

Core Type

For a casual observer, a bowling ball is merely a sphere. However, in reality, bowling balls are available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. The type of bowling ball is based on the core included:

Pancake

A pancake core got its name for its shape since it resembles “pancakes,” “puddles,” or “pucks.” It is the most conventional type of core and is covered with mostly plastic cover stock. Since the puddle-type core is stuffed with a filler material, it tends to increase the weight of the balls. Such cores are generally found in entry-level bowling polyester and urethane balls. The balls containing such cores are referred to as low-performance bowling balls.

Whether they are shaped like pancakes or small pucks, the performance level of all cores is almost similar. They embody low RG differential and higher RGs, which is why they offer less flare and hook potential when compared to other types. However, they ensure better control and stability as compared to symmetrical cores.

The balls containing such a core lack any space between the low RG axis and the center of gravity marker and, therefore, are known as the “pin-in” balls in the industry. The layout strategies for such balls are relatively limited.

These cores are considered to be bigger than others. While the added weight makes it a bit difficult to handle the ball, at the same time, it is beneficial in lowering the flare potential. Moreover, pancake cores are generally considered as a further type of symmetrical cores due to the weight distribution resemblance.

Symmetrical

The symmetrical core is relatively a more advanced core technology. While most people think that pancake core and symmetrical core are similar, professional bowlers and pro-shop operators beg to differ. A bowling ball holding the symmetrical core has equal weight on both sides, and therefore, is known as the symmetrical core ball.

Such balls mainly stand out from the other types of balls for their low to intermediate differential potential. Such balls provide decent flare potential with a much low breakpoint hook potential.

There are further two types of symmetrical core based on the geometries they possess: axisymmetric geometry and non-axisymmetric geometry. While a core with axisymmetric geometry can be easily made by revolving a 2D profile about a central axis, the non-axisymmetric symmetrical core is relatively much more complicated.

One of the most prominent plus points of symmetrical cores is they tend to provide very smooth arc movements as compared to asymmetrical bowling balls. The convenient arc movements prove really helpful for players who like to throw the bowling ball at a slow speed. Moreover, balls having a symmetrical core roll very well on drier bowling lanes, making them suitable for such conditions.

Thanks to the equal weight distribution and better rolling ability, symmetrical bowling balls are a good option for amateurs lacking control over hooks. When it comes to the pin impact, the symmetric core offers satisfactory performance.

Considering the different game styles, crankers generally avoid such balls because of their low aggression, while strokers find them useful for a more traditional bowling game. Similarly, the better stability, predictability, and control make these symmetric balls a go-to choice for beginners.

Symmetrical bowling ball

Asymmetrical

The major difference between symmetrical core and asymmetrical core is the number of distinct principal mass moments of inertia. While the former has only two distinct principal mass moments of inertia, the latter has three.

In bowling terminology, balls having asymmetrical cores have unequal distribution of weight. These cores are equipped with both a differential as well as a high intermediate differential. This type of cores comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Similarly, balls containing them vary in their RGs, differentials, and intermediate differentials. Depending on the geometry, the core can be simple or complex.

The general perception about asymmetrical cores is that they are capable of producing better angular movements as compared to their symmetrical counterparts. However, they do not work well on straight tracks.

These types of balls are quite popular among players for producing extreme flare potential and less response time. They respond very fast, and there is noticeable breakpoint friction. Moreover, these balls are an excellent choice for those who want to purchase a bowling ball that is very high on revolution.

Being quite aggressive, a bowling ball with an asymmetrical core proves highly suitable for almost all types of lane conditions. You can also find various types of asymmetric balls depending on the cover stock materials. In recent years, different asymmetric bowling balls are designed that are specific to the type of bowling lanes they are used on, thereby improving the gaming experience of the bowler.

Holes on the Balls

Another parameter that is used to classify bowling balls is the finger holes on them. Depending on the holes, bowling balls have the following major types:

Pre-drilled Balls

The most conventional type of bowling ball has pre-drilled holes. Pre-drilled balls come with a varying number of holes on the ball surface, depending on the type and weight of the balls. Generally, the number of holes ranges from 2-12. This number varies according to the needs and preferences of the game.

Additionally, these holes are even named as per their usage. They might include insert holes, balance holes, and gripping holes. The insert holes are round-shaped tubes made from urethane and allow the bowler to fit the gripping fingers. Contrary to this, the balance hole does not provide any gripping functionality but is instead used to keep the static weight of the balls as per standard requirements. Lastly, the gripping holes accommodate both the fingers and thumbs of users to provide a better grip during bowling.

Intact Balls

Since pre-drilled balls are a talk of the past now, the bowling industry has now shifted to intact balls. As the name suggests, intact balls lack pre-drilled holes and, therefore, have their surfaces intact. While there is no major difference in functionality between a pre-drilled bowling ball and an intact ball, the latter provides more control and utility to an individual.

After you get yourself a new intact ball, you have to get the holes drilled from a pro-shop. The best thing about such balls is that you have the choice to get them drilled according to your preference. The holes can be drilled according to your hand’s measurement, and therefore, you can enjoy a custom fit.

Not only is the custom fit super trendy these days, but it also makes the bowling ball exclusive for you. The holes drilled according to your hand size and shape offer a better grip and control over the bowling ball during the game.

Weight Block

While dealing with bowling balls, there is another factor that requires consideration: the weight block present inside the bowling ball beneath the cover stock. There are two types of weight blocks: low mass and high mass that are parameters for the classification of the bowling balls. Let’s discuss them one by one.

High Mass

A high mass block is basically shaped like a pancake, and the balls containing such weight blocks are known as high mass bowling balls. When it comes to the placement, a pancake-shaped weight block is placed near the shell (cover stock) of the bowling ball.

This type of ball is beneficial in multiple ways. Since the high mass weight block prevents the bowling ball from getting into heavy rolling, it promotes a lot of length down the lane. This helps in improving the game for bowlers.

different types bowling balls

Low Mass

Low mass weight blocks come in different shapes, sizes, and densities to meet certain preferences. This type of weight block is placed in the center of bowling balls, which allows even weight distribution across the balls. Balls with low mass weight blocks are referred to as low mass bowling balls.

When it comes to performance, low mass bowling balls provide tremendous hook potential. Moreover, these balls offer heavy rolling on the lanes. This feature makes them immensely popular among players looking for a bowling ball that goes well on various lane conditions effortlessly.

Bowling Ball Materials

The cover stock or shell is the outermost part of the bowling balls. The materials used in the construction of the cover stock play a key role in distinguishing different types of bowling balls. While the cover stock material alters the durability, strength, and control of the ball, it is also influential on the bowler’s performance.

Similarly, the material also determines the performance of the balls on different lane conditions by influencing the friction between the bowling ball and the lane surface. In short, the type of material used in the cover stock determines how the bowling ball performs and reacts on the lane.

There are generally four different types of bowling ball materials: plastic or polyester bowling balls, polyurethane or urethane bowling balls, reactive resin bowling balls, and proactive or particle bowling balls.

One of the most commonly used cover stock materials is polyester or plastic. A cover stock made from plastic has a very smooth surface and provides enough friction. The reason for the popularity of a plastic bowling ball is its relatively lower price as compared to other expensive materials. Plus, since these plastic bowling balls are relatively easier to handle, they are a great choice for beginners who desire to have their own equipment without investing a fortune. While they are also a good option for intermediate and advanced bowlers, they tend to avoid using them due to their low hooking potential. When it comes to durability, they are hard and tend to last long.

Another material used in the construction of bowling balls is urethane. Urethane bowling balls are better than a plastic ball in many ways. A urethane bowling ball is not only way more durable but also features a superior hooking potential. The material also offers higher friction between the urethane bowling balls and surface, and the excellent pin action makes it quite popular among seasoned players. Owing to the excellent performance and increased shelf life, urethane balls are relatively expensive, but they are worth the investment.

If friction and hook potential are your priorities, then you must get your hands on a reactive resin bowling ball. These balls offer maximum friction and are extremely versatile. They are highly used by professionals to improve gaming as they offer great control. While such balls come with an expensive price tag, they can be a great investment in the long run. You can literally use these balls on any kind of lane conditions. Though the material is not as durable as of a plastic and urethane bowling ball, it serves the purpose exceptionally.

The next material used in the cover stock of the bowling ball is particle or proactive. Since particle or proactive bowling balls are mainly used by advanced players and experts, most seasoned players are not acquainted with it. The reason why these are not suitable for amateurs is the irregular surface and the advanced training required for their handling. The textured surface of a particle bowling ball makes it capable of tackling oily lane conditions of the bowling alley and also increases the friction to improve the overall performance during the game.

Conclusion

The market is currently flooded with various types of bowling balls. The difference in features can make the purchase a daunting task for some of you. Therefore, picking the best bowling balls requires you to think with an open mind in order to avoid any regret in the future. The right way to make the decision is by setting your priorities and requirements straight and then choosing a bowling ball. Hopefully, this article has provided you with a fair idea about the different types of balls. Make sure to go for a type of bowling ball that is versatile and suits your bowling needs well.

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