What Are Bowling Balls Made Of? An Overview of the Different Types and Properties

Initially crafted from hardwood, these balls have transformed over the years, adopting new materials and technologies to enhance player performance and adapt to varying lane conditions. Today, they are a sophisticated blend of science and engineering, tailored to suit different styles and preferences.

The composition and manufacturing process of these balls is quite interesting. It involves a blend of materials ranging from polyester to resin, each offering distinct advantages in terms of durability, performance, and cost.

This article will explore more about the materials used and the whole process of how these balls are made.

Key Takeaways

  • Bowling balls today are made from advanced materials like polyester, urethane, and reactive resin, each offering unique benefits for durability, performance, and style. The choice of material affects the ball’s behavior on the lane, influencing factors like friction, hook potential, and overall control.
  • The core of the ball, often made from materials such as barium, bismuth graphite, or iron oxide, plays a crucial role in the ball’s motion and stability. High-end balls may feature ceramic cores for enhanced energy retention and a more powerful impact.
  • Different types of bowling balls, including plastic, urethane, reactive resin, particle, and hybrid balls, cater to various skill levels and lane conditions. Choosing the right type is essential for maximizing performance and enjoying the game, whether for casual play or professional competition.

So, What They Are Made Of?

BOWLING BALLS material powder

Today’s bowling spheres are technological marvels, crafted from a variety of advanced materials, each selected for its specific properties to enhance performance. The core and the coverstock are the two primary components, and they are made from distinct materials to serve different functions.

The Core

The core is essentially the engine of the ball. Modern cores are usually made from dense materials like barium, bismuth graphite, or iron oxide.

These materials are chosen for their ability to influence the ball’s motion and stability. Some high-end balls even feature ceramic cores, renowned for their ability to retain energy and not absorb it, offering a more powerful impact.

Coverstock Types

The coverstock is the outer shell of the ball and is crucial in determining how it interacts with the lane. There are three main types of coverstock materials used today:

  • Polyester: This is the least expensive option and is often found in entry-level balls. Polyester offers a smooth surface, leading to less friction and hook on the lane, making it an excellent choice for straight bowlers or beginners.
  • Urethane: Urethane coverstocks are a step up from polyester, offering more friction and, consequently, a greater hook potential. They are more durable than polyester and provide a middle ground between control and power, suitable for intermediate players.
  • Reactive Resin: The most advanced and expensive of the three, reactive resin coverstocks are designed for professional use. They offer the highest degree of friction, hook, and durability. This material has revolutionized the sport, allowing for a greater range of techniques and styles.

Advanced Compositions

Some balls feature an additional outer core layer, encasing the main core. This layer is engineered to achieve the desired weight and balance, further refining the ball’s performance.

Surface Texture

The final surface of the ball is meticulously crafted for size, shape, and texture. The texture, whether smooth or rough, influences the amount of friction and traction the ball achieves on the lanes.

Tools like grinders or lathes are employed to fine-tune these attributes, ensuring that the ball meets the specific needs of the player and the conditions of the lanes.

Why is a Specific Combination of Materials Important?

BOWLING BALLS shape not finished

The specific combination of materials in a bowling ball is crucial for several reasons, each contributing to the overall performance and suitability of the ball for different players and conditions.

Performance Customization

Different materials offer varying degrees of hardness, friction, and weight distribution. By selecting the right combination, manufacturers can create balls that cater to different styles and skill levels.

For instance, a beginner may benefit from a polyester coverstock due to its predictable and straight path, while a professional might opt for a reactive resin coverstock for its aggressive hook and high friction.

Weight and Balance

The core’s material and design are pivotal in determining the ball’s weight distribution. A well-designed core can provide a ball with either a smooth, balanced roll or a dynamic, angular motion.

Advanced players often seek balls with asymmetric cores that offer a more aggressive hook, while symmetric cores are favored for their even and controlled roll.

Lane Adaptability

Different lane conditions require different types of balls. Oily lanes reduce friction, necessitating a ball with a rougher texture and more reactive material to grip the lane.

Conversely, dry lanes require smoother balls that won’t overreact. The right combination of core and coverstock materials ensures that the ball performs optimally under varying conditions.

Durability and Longevity

The choice of materials also affects the ball’s durability. Polyester, being less porous, tends to last longer but offers less hook potential.

Reactive resin, while providing superior performance, may wear down faster due to its higher porosity. Therefore, the material choice is a balance between performance and longevity.

Energy Transfer and Pin Action

The core’s material influences how energy is transferred from the ball to the pins. Ceramic and dense metal cores retain more energy upon impact, resulting in more explosive pin action.

This aspect is crucial for achieving strikes, especially in competitive play.

Custom Fit and Comfort

The process of drilling finger holes is affected by the material of the ball. Softer materials are easier to drill and can be customized for a perfect fit, ensuring comfort and reducing the risk of injury.

This customization is vital for serious players who spend long hours practicing and competing.

What Are the Most Common Types of Bowling Balls?

There is a wide range of models available. The most important thing to keep in mind is that they will have an impact on your playing performance.

There are features like size, grip, and weight, that could affect how you play.

Plastic or Polyester Balls

These are the most basic types and are ideal for beginners or casual bowlers. Their main characteristic is the smooth surface, which limits the ball’s ability to hook or curve.

They’re often used for straight shots, especially for knocking down spares where precision is key. Due to their affordability and durability, they are also commonly found in bowling alleys for general use.

Urethane Balls

A step up from plastic, urethane balls offer more hook potential and durability. They have a softer surface, which provides more friction on the lane than plastic balls.

This increased friction allows for a greater hook, making them suitable for bowlers looking to develop or improve their hook technique. Urethane balls are popular among intermediate bowlers who have mastered the basics and are ready to experiment with more complex bowling styles.

Reactive Resin Balls

Reactive Resin Balls

These are a favorite among professional and advanced bowlers. Reactive resin balls have a tacky coverstock that grips the lane better than plastic or urethane, leading to a sharper hook.

They come in various sub-types, each offering different levels of friction and reaction on the lane. These include solid reactive, pearl reactive, and hybrid reactive.

Solid reactive balls have the most grip and are best for oily lane conditions, while pearl reactive balls offer a delayed reaction, suitable for drier lanes. Hybrid reactive balls strike a balance between the two.

Particle (Proactive) Balls

These balls are similar to reactive resin balls but with an added texture to the coverstock. This texture, often made from glass or other materials, increases the ball’s traction on the lane.

Particle balls are designed for heavy oil conditions and offer a high level of hook potential. They are generally used by highly skilled bowlers who can control and take advantage of their aggressive nature.

Hybrid Balls

Hybrid balls are designed to offer the best of both worlds. They usually combine different materials in the coverstock, like urethane and reactive resin, to provide a balance between control and power.

These balls are versatile and can adapt to a variety of lane conditions, making them a good choice for bowlers who play in different environments.


Are there bowling balls with no holes?

Yes, there are bowling balls with no holes, also known as holeless balls. They are usually used in five-pin bowling, candlepin bowling, duckpin bowling, and European nine-pin bowling. They are small enough to be held in the palm and do not require any finger holes.

How do bowling balls curve?

Bowling balls curve because of the spin applied to the ball when it is released from the bowler’s hand. The spin creates a force that acts against the ball’s forward motion and causes it to veer off course. The amount of spin and the direction of the spin determines how much and which way the ball will curve.

How do you bowl left-handed?

To bowl left-handed, you need to use a bowling ball that is drilled for left-handed bowlers, or a holeless ball. You also need to adjust your stance, and grip, and aim to the left side of the lane. You should stand at the 15 board and throw your ball over the 2nd arrow. You should also rotate your hand slightly to the side and let the ball spin off your fingers.

Can heat crack a bowling ball?

Yes, heat can crack a bowling ball. Extreme heat can cause the material of the ball to degrade, making it more likely to crack. It can also cause the air inside the ball to expand, putting pressure on the material and leading to cracks. To prevent heat damage, you should store your bowling ball in a cool and dry place, away from direct sunlight or high temperatures.


Bowling balls have come a long way from their simple wooden beginnings. Today, they are sophisticated pieces of sports equipment, crafted from a variety of materials to suit different playing styles and conditions.

Whether you’re a beginner, an intermediate player, or a professional, there’s a type of ball designed for your skill level and preferences. The right ball can make a significant difference in your bowling experience, whether you’re aiming for a casual game with friends or competing in a professional tournament.