Types of Bowling Balls

Modern Bowling Balls

Today’s bowlers have literally hundreds of bowling ball options available to them. They come at all different price points, with a wide variety of different types of coverstocks, core types, and colors all designed to tackle a wide variety of different lane conditions. Most bowlers really have no idea what they’re looking at when they evaluate different bowling balls, different drilling layouts, and different coverstocks. Additionally, they really struggle when they attempt to choose a ball that suits their game. In this article, we’ll discuss the main components of bowling balls and some popular brands you can choose from depending on your bowling style.

Main Components

Bowling balls have two main components: the coverstock and the core. Bowling balls consist of other important components; however, to understand modern bowling balls it is best to think of them as only two parts.

The Coverstock

Most bowlers today would agree that the coverstock is responsible for roughly 60% of a balls on-lane performance. Bowling ball manufactures today generally offer three types of coverstock: Polyester, Urethane, and Reactive Resin. Let’s start by discussing Polyurethane coverstock.

The Polyester (Plastic) Coverstock

Most bowlers today use polyester, or plastic, coverstocks. Polyester coverstocks are generally harder and less porous than many other types of coverstock, which creates less friction on the bowling lane. Polyester coverstocks are used for mainly three reasons:

  • Beginner or recreational bowlers use polyester coverstocks because they are low cost, fairly durable for long-term use, and easy to control.
  • Competitive bowlers often use polyester coverstocks on spare balls, since polyester does not require much hook, allowing the bowler to throw straight.
  • Both beginner and competitive bowlers find that at times low friction polyester balls still give them the best chance at striking.

Polyester coverstocks are the most popular coverstock used today by both beginner and recreational bowlers. We’ll now discuss another type of coverstock commonly used by entry-level bowlers.

The Urethane Coverstock

Today, urethane balls are targeted for entry-level bowlers ready to learn how to hook a ball down the lane, because of the friction they produce. While urethane coverstock has largely been replaced by reactive resin, urethane coverstock remains popular with entry-levels bowlers because they are reasonably priced and relatively predictable on-lane. Most manufacturers now produce several balls with urethane coverstocks for entry-level bowlers, who are not advanced enough to use reactive resin coverstocks.

The Reactive Resin Coverstock

Reactive resin coverstock fundamentally changed professional bowling when reactive resins became available. Reactive resins produce significantly more friction lane surfaces, resulting in greater hooks and greater angles into the pocket. Most mid-range to high performance bowling balls being sold today have reactive resin coverstocks. Though each and every bowling ball is different, manufactures classify reactive resin covers into three groups: reactive solid, reactive pearl, and reactive hybrid.

  • Reactive Solid: Reactive solid coverstocks are the basic formulation of reactive resin. Generally, reactive solid coverstocks are more smooth and produce more friction in the oil than reactive pearl and reactive hybrid coverstocks.
  • Reactive Pearl: Reactive pearl coverstocks are the same as reactive solids, except they contain one more additive: mica. Mica makes the coverstock have lower friction in the oiled part of bowling lanes, causing the ball to hook less at the front of the lane.
  • Reactive Hybrid: Hybrid coverstocks are a combination of solid and pearl coverstocks. Reactive hybrids can be customized to the bowler’s hook choice by having part solid coverstock and part pearl. The ball’s reaction on the lane depends on the amount of each coverstock.

The coverstock makes up only part of the bowling ball. While different coverstocks result in different actions of ball, the core is equally important to your bowling ball’s performance depending on your core selection.

The Core

Modern-day bowling ball cores come in a wide variety of types, shapes, and sizes. There are three main types of bowling ball cores that we’ll discuss: pancake-type, symmetrical, and asymmetrical.


Pancake-type cores are literally bowling ball cores shaped like “pancakes.” They’re small and flat. The shape of pancake-type cores creates very little friction within the ball. A common characteristic of this type of core is that they generally are limited in the amount of angle or hook you can put in the swing. They are considered “pin-in” balls, which means they are meant for more traditional bowling methods, such as “aim and throw.”


Symmetrical cores are large cores found in two-piece balls. Symmetrical cores tend to be smoother or me even on the lane. Generally, symmetrical cores are found in most “house” bowling balls unless otherwise expressed by the bowling alley. Symmetrical cores are primarily used by entry-level and recreational bowlers.


Asymmetrical cores come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes. These cores produce more angle on the lane, which helps with hooking your ball. Asymmetrical bowling ball cores are generally used by only professional bowlers because of the complexity of the ball make-up. Even small variations in swing, cause asymmetrical balls to hook and curve differently. The cores are also the most customizable and are can be created based on your bowline style.


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