It is said that the bowling ball makes the bowler. In other words, using the right type of bowling ball for your style of bowling can increase your score; using the wrong type of ball can have the opposite effect. Before the 20th century, bowling balls were fashioned out of hard woods. This changed in the 20th century when using hard rubber was introduced to the manufacturing process. Polyester or plastic balls were introduced in the 1950s and become popular in the 1970s. Then, in the 1980s, polyurethane began to be produced.
Polyurethane bowling balls have greater friction on the bowling lane, allowing the bowler to throw the ball in the “pocket” or the space located between the two front bowling pins. Putting the ball in the pocket usually results in a strike. In the 1990s reactive resin began to be used by bowling ball manufacturers. This type of ball has pores on its surface that absorb the oil from the bowling lane thus increasing lane friction. Bowling balls known as particle balls were made beginning in the late 1990s. Particle balls absorb even more oil than balls made out of reactive resin.
Today, bowling balls come in a variety of colors, various weights, and are made from different materials. Check our reviews of some of the best bowling balls on the market. Prices can range from less than $50.00 (US) to about $300 (US). The materials used in making bowling balls dictate the price. For example, balls made from polyester and plastic are the least expensive, followed by urethane balls, to the highest priced reactive urethane (resin) balls. Ten-pin bowling (the most common type of bowling in the United States) balls have three holes – one hole for your thumb, one for your middle finger, and one for your ring finger. The United States Bowling Congress regulates bowling ball requirements including size, hardness, number of holes, and provides a list of bowling balls that are approved for competition. Other types of bowling include 5-pin bowling, candlepin bowling, and duckpin bowling. The balls used in these types of bowling are smaller, lighter, may have holes, and are usually held in the palm of your hand.
A bowling ball begins as an asymmetrical core comprised of a resin mixture poured into a mould. The core or nucleus of the ball also contains an orb made out of metal that is placed off center. The ball’s interior is designed in this way so that it curves down the bowling lane when you ‘throw’ it. Each core weighs precisely 10.7 pounds. Once the core is poured into the mould, it takes days for the core to harden.
Once hardened, the core is removed from the mould, washed with special stones that dent its surface so that it can bond with the resin exterior, and placed into a new mould. The outer coating of the bowling ball, a polyurethane mix, is pumped into the mould. Bowling balls can be any number of colors or multiple colors. It is at this stage that the color(s) is added. Bowling balls come in various weights – usually in pounds of two (e.g., 6 lbs., 8 lbs., 10 lbs….16 lbs.). Adding a more concentrated version of the polyurethane mix to the mould creates the desired weight.
The mould is removed once the bowling ball is hardened and the bowling ball company’s logo and name is engraved onto the ball. In addition to the company’s logo and name, each bowling ball is required to have the name of the ball, the center of gravity before drilling, the Pin also known as the orientation of the core, as well as the axes of the low and/or high radius of gyration, the logo of the USBC, and the ball’s unique serial number.
The ball is then polished to a high sheen. Points are then placed on the ball where finger holes need to be drilled. If drilling happens during manufacturing, it is usually an automated process.
When pro shops or other stores purchase bowling balls to sell, they usually purchase them without the holes drilled. This enables you to have the shop custom fit your grip to the bowling ball, drilling the holes to your specifications.
Bowling ball technology, specifically the materials used in making the balls, are changing and advancing all of the time. The process of making a bowling ball essentially remains the same. However, if you are in the market for a new bowling ball, it is a good idea to do some research before you purchase one to make sure that you select the best fit for your style of bowling.