Bowling Ball Coverstocks Demystified

Bowling balls are made of the weight block and the coverstock. The weight block is the inner part of the ball, and this is covered by a shell. The outer part is what is called the coverstock. These are made of different materials, and selecting correctly is important. Since the coverstock makes contact with the lane, it determines the hook potential of the entire ball. The different materials have different levels of friction.

Bowling ball coverstocks are made of six main materials. The four best-preferred coverstock materials are plastic, urethane, reactive resin, and particle/ proactive. The other two are rubber and epoxy.

1) Plastic or Polyester

Plastic coverstocks are best for beginners. The balls are usually small enough to fit in hand, and the balls have the very little friction. This means they have the least hook potential of all bowling ball coverstocks. Such balls have a longer skid and a controllable ball motion in the back end. Plastic balls will help you gain control in case the lane oil conditions break down. Heavy oil conditions will, however, make the plastic ball overskid. Balls with plastic coverstocks are the least aggressive.

These balls are also ideal for experienced bowlers who need to shoot spares. Most significantly, the ball helps in the tricky corner pin spares. Also, shooting on dry lanes is best done with such balls. In general, this coverstock is good for situations where you need to make a straight shot. The reaction is quite easy to predict as the ball has very low friction.

2) Urethane

Urethane bowling balls were introduced in the 1980’s and are sometimes referred to as AMF Angle Balls. The name is a reference to the ball’s greater angle of entry into the pocket. The material has higher hook potential compared to plastic and polyester balls. Still, the hook potential is rather mild in comparison to other types of balls. Urethane balls are also capable of covering more boards than plastic and rubber coverstocks and are capable of transferring a lot more energy to the pins. Urethane provides the basic material used in the making of reactive resin, particle, and hybrid coverstocks. These are the most aggressive balls in the game. For this reason, urethane coverstocks are considered to have revolutionized the game of bowling.

Urethane balls offer considerable skid distance on the front of the lane. However, compared to plastic balls, the skid distance is a lot shorter.

Such balls are great for beginners since they give you a chance to learn how to hook the balls. Experienced bowlers also enjoy the control offered in the hook release of this type of coverstock. In very oily lanes, urethane balls provide less skid than plastic ones, and are, therefore, a better choice.

3) Particle

Particle bowling balls are best preferred in heavily oiled lanes. These coverstocks were developed in the 1990’s. Their manufacture involves the use of small particles and reactive urethane. The microscopic particles can be seen as reflective surfaces if the ball is held against a bright light. You can also see the reflection of light when a photo of the ball is taken with a flash camera. The ball has a rough and bumpy feel because of the extra particles.

Because of the addition of extra material, these balls have greater friction. On dryer lanes, the ball will lose energy too early because of excessive friction, and energy on the back end will be very poorly conserved. That translates to very little energy for impact with the pins.

Particle balls have a structure that is very similar to reactive resin. Both coverstocks are made from urethane.

4) Reactive Resin

Reactive resin bowling balls were also developed in the 1990’s. Just like particle balls, these are developed from the urethane. Specifically, they are made through the addition of reactive resin to a urethane base, and this results in a ball with much greater friction. The addition of reactive resin to the urethane base makes the ball develop bumps, and this makes it skid less on oily lanes.

Presently, reactive resin balls are the most popular in the world. They have great carry percentage and enter the pocket at a greater angle than plastic or rubber balls.

Reactive resin coverstocks are further classified into solid, pearl and hybrid balls. Solid types react the easiest among the three types as they have the greatest number of pores on the surfaces. Pearl reactive resin balls are made with mica, and this makes the pores even rougher. This causes the ball to react very fast to friction. Like particle balls, pearl reactive resin coverstocks have a glittering look. Hybrid reactive resin balls are made from a combination of pearl and solid coverstocks. This allows users to take advantage of the positive properties of each type of ball.

5) Rubber

Rubber coverstocks were popular before the 1990’s. The end of the rubber coverstock era came with the development of urethane balls and the subsequent development of reactive resin and particle balls. Reactions of the rubber and urethane balls are quite similar. Rubber offers greater reaction to friction than plastic, although by a very small degree. It is not as versatile as urethane.

Drilling of rubber coverstocks results in the emission of a foul odor due to the heat. Modern technology has led to the end of the rubber coverstock era.

6) Epoxy

Epoxy coverstocks offer increased traction of the balls through the lane. A significant advantage of the balls is the high hook potential. Its reception has not been very good because of the durability of the balls. Because of this, epoxy balls only made a brief introduction to the bowling ball market; then production was halted. The technology employed in the creation of epoxy balls has to be improved for the coverstock to be accepted in the industry.


Bowling balls are classified depending on the material used to make the coverstock. These materials have different properties, and this will affect your performance in the game. It is important to pick a ball that suits your level of experience and the condition of the lane.

Need a ball? Check out our review on the Storm Tropical Storm.

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