How to buy a bowling ball is not easy, so I created an easy a buying guide. I have wanted to do this for awhile now and finally got around to it. Maybe you need help with a first ball purchase or you are thinking about replacing one you already bought. Even if you are the beginner who has never bowled, or someone who has bowled very little. Chances are you have noticed that the ball choices nowadays are overwhelming. So, I thought it would be helpful to include a guide on my site to help everyone who visits, by making it easier to make the best decision possible. I hope I made it as simple as possible, but included the most important and helpful information with a twist. How to buy a bowling ball-made easy.
Key Factors on How to Buy a Bowling Ball
When choosing a ball, there are some key factors to consider.We all have budget restrictions, and bowl on different conditions. The ball you are considering could be for a child or an adult.Our age and physical conditioning also come into play.These are some key factors to consider in choosing a bowling ball. So, lets break them down into the key factors to consider.
- Cost – How much do you want to spend
- Lane oil – Are you bowling on dry to medium oil, or heavy lane oil
- Weight – How heavy is too heavy
The average weight for beginners is about 10% of your body weight. So, if a person weighs 100lbs, the ball should be 10lbs. This is just a guide, and many bowlers throw heavier or lighter balls and feel fine with it. Here is an average guide.
- Kids -under 11 or 12, the ball matches their age. They range 6-10lb balls normally
- Teenagers – range from 12 to the max weight 16lb
- Adult Women- usually feel comfortable around 12-14lb balls
- Adult Men-15-16lb balls
- Seniors- 12-14lb balls
If you have never picked up a ball, or bowled a game before, then you need to try it first. Go to the local lanes, rent some shoes and try a house ball off the rack and see how you like the game.Try it for a few games, and maybe different weights in the house balls.
Ideally, you want to be able to bowl three games and not feel any fatigue. Don’t try to use a ball that is too heavy, it can cause injury. A lighter ball may help you.
After bowling a few games, you might be satisfied with using a straight ball technique. That’s fine. You could choose an inexpensive polyester ball. Others will want more of a challenge and have a desire to learn to hook bowl.
If so, then you may want a little more expensive ball. The choices are yours to make, and local pro shops can help a lot. Here is some basic information on bowling balls.
Bowling Ball Coverstock Types
It is the bowling ball coverstock types that we are referring to when we talk about different types of bowling balls. This is the outer surface of the ball.There are three main types of ball coverstocks available today, There are differences in the cores, but that will be discussed later.
- Polyester (plastic)
- Polyurethane (Urethane)
- Reactive Resin
Polyester (Plastic) Bowling Balls
This is the ball that is the cheapest to buy and would be for the complete beginner or someone who is bowling on dry lanes. This ball will not have any hooking ability and is
primarily for bowlers who are satisfied with rolling the ball straight to the pocket.
A more advanced bowler could also use a plastic ball as a spare ball for converting corner pin spares. Some high-end plastic balls have a weight block, and give advanced bowlers the lowest hooking ball for dry lanes.
- Cost – generally cost $40 to $80 with some higher tech balls costing $100 or more. There are custom balls available costing $200 or more for special designs.
- Conditions- Dry lanes or spare ball use
- Weight – all weights available(6, 8-16lbs)
- Core Type- Mostly Asymmetric, a few Symmetric cores
- Performance rating – 0 to entry level
- 29 -Plastic Balls from $25 to $50
- 56 -Plastic Balls from $51 to $100
- 309-Plastic Balls from $101 to $200
- 1 – Plastic Balls from $201 and above
Solid Core Plastic Balls Without a Weight Block
Look at the image of the core of the Pyramid Path Ball above.Then notice, it has no core image inside of the ball. Those balls are solid core balls without any weight block. Balls that have no weight block are designed for going straight and having the least ability to hook. Consequently,this makes them a great ball for straight bowlers, or for a spare ball that does not hook.
Pancake or Very Small Weight Block
The smaller weight blocks are to help keep the ball stable and straight and give a bit of a harder hit to the pins.
They also mainly make-up for the weight lost when the finger holes are drilled into the ball.
It keep the ball from wobbling while it rolls down the lane and also ensure it has legal weight displacement.
The pancake block has very little effect on the hooking ability of the ball.
Plastic Balls with Full Sized Weight Block
The full sized weight block is for the advanced bowler looking for a ball with the ability to hook for a dry lane condition.
A plastic ball has a hard cover stock witch does not allow for much friction from the lane to help it to hook. A weight block allows for a mild hook.
A bowler having problems with a ball hooking too much on drier conditions, may choose to add a plastic ball with a full weight block to his arsenal.
This will allow the bowler to maintain a controlled hook for better pin carry on the dry lane condition.
Some beginner bowlers just want to see the ball hook, so this is a good inexpensive ball for conventional grip.
Beginners and Intermediate Bowlers
If you are a beginner and you have bowled before, then you have some idea of what you want. Straight bowlers who want to continue to bowl straight at the pocket, should be happy with the cheaper plastic balls. As you can see,they are available in cheaper versions as well as more expensive options for bowlers who want to see some hook in the ball as it rolls toward the pocket. This is the conventional grip type bowler.
If you are thinking that you might want to try hooking the ball, then the Urethane ball is a good choice.ball for bowlers learning to hook the ball for the first time.The lower cost of the urethane ball and comfort of a more controllable hook make it a good choice for beginners.This would be the bowler who is considering a fingertip style drilling.
Urethane Bowling Balls
These balls were the rage of the 80’s years ago. That is when the weight blocks were just being introduced into bowling.
The Blue Hammer urethane balls was one of my original bowling balls. It was a top of the line ball back then, and I loved that ball.
It was a different cover and core back then, but Hammer reintroduced the ball with a newer weight block and slightly different cover. So, it’s a bit higher tech ball now.
They are considered a lower-end beginners ball, and are inexpensive.
Urethane is making a comeback and several titles have been won recently with urethane cover stocks. These balls are less aggressive than the reactive resin, and allow a more controllable hook. That’s what makes them a great ball for beginners learning to hook the ball.
- Cost- generally range from $50 to $200
- Conditions- dry to medium oil
- Weights- 6, 8 thru 16lbs
- Core type- Asymmetric and Symmetric
- Performance rating- pro, high, advanced, performance, and entry levels
Intermediate and Advanced Bowlers
Bowlers who are looking for the best performance they can get are looking at the reactive resin bowling balls. Intermediate bowlers look at cost and bowling balls that have increased friction properties for achieving the best angle for more pin carry.
The advanced bowlers are also interested in friction properties, but also may look for different Rg factors to gain more or less revs on the ball. This will produce dramatic results in pin carry, and also produce some ugly wide splits on missed shots. The trick is to maintain that “sweet spot” for strikes and avoid those poor shots.
Reactive Bowling Balls
Reactive bowling balls have varing amounts of resin particles infused into the formula to make the ball porous and absorb oil. This will actually clean the lane of oil and enable the ball friction to increase.
These balls cost a bit more but can tweak your game and raise your average dramatically. This group is one of the strongest hooking balls on the market and are generally for intermediate league and advanced tournament bowlers. Balls in this category are for serious bowlers who expect high performance from this category. They produce a strong back-end reaction with high pin carry. Lately, however the manufacturers are also offering entry level balls in the reactive ball category as well.
- Cost- range from $51 to $200
- Conditions- some medium oil, mostly heavy oil conditions
- Weights – 10 -16lbs
- Core Type – Asymmetrical and Symmetrical
- Performance- pro, high, advanced, performance, and entry levels
The Reactive Resin bowling balls come in three different categories
- Solid Reactive
- Pearl Reactive
Solid Reactive Bowling Balls
The solid reactive cover stock is referring to the highest amount of porous reactive particles in the cover material. They tend to be slightly more pliable in material hardness as well.
These are the balls that work well on fresh or heavy oil, because they have the highest friction factor.
Solid reactive balls are the smoothest and strongest hooking balls delivering the biggest backend reaction and pin carry. They will hook early and use up energy sooner, delivering a more controlled backend reaction.
These are also made in many degrees of friction levels, allowing for a wide range from strong hooking balls to milder,more controlled versions. These balls are available from entry level to pro level.
The balls surface come in smooth, buffed and sanded covers out of the box. Bowlers can also customize the ball surface to match their individual skills and methods. A shined ball will hook less than the rough sanded dull finishes. So, the surface can be fine tuned with a surface change, making a shined ball dull for a ball that hooks sooner.
- 20 -Solid Reactive Bowling Balls from $51 to $100
- 49 -Solid Reactive Bowling Balls from $101 to $200
Pearl Reactive and Hybrid Reactive Bowling Balls
The pearl and hybrid reactive bowling balls are a combination of polyester (pearl) particles and resin particles that change the way the ball reacts. Pearl reactives are made to skid more through the oil and save energy and delay the hook. Hybrids are the best of both worlds. They allow more friction in the oil, and save some energy for good backend reaction.
Pearl Reactive Bowling Ball
The pearl reactive bowling ball has a cover stock that is lowest in friction of the reactive balls,
and is normally a shiny, somewhat harder finish. They will skid more thru the oil and save up energy. And when they exit the oil pattern, they have enough reactive particles to create friction on the dry. It will go longer and store it’s energy to deliver that strong back-end finish.
This is the ball a bowler will use on the lanes that are a drier condition, or have broken down in league or tournament play. If you bowl in a heavy oil situation, the pearl finish may not do as well as a dull finish ball. This can be tweeked somewhat by ball drilling and RG factors.
- 48 -Pearl Reactive Bowling Balls from $51 to $100
- 41 -Pearl Reactive Bowling Balls from $101 to $200
The hybrid reactive coverstock is one of the newest of the reactive covestocks.
As I mentioned earlier,this is a mix of the pearl and solid formula.
By combining the pearl and solid, the result changes the friction of the ball to react like a solid in the oil and a pearl when it exits the oil and hits the dry surface area of the lane.
So, the ball hooks a little slower in the oil and comes on stronger to the pocket. For that reason, the hybrid is considered to be the best of both worlds, between solid covers and pearl covers.
Also, they have even added a dual core to enhance the effect of the core on the ball performance. I can imagine the physics going on there. The videos below explains some of the physics that the coverstock and the core emparts to the ball.
Here is a video from Byron Tose, Owner operator of Tose Score Board Pro Shop with some helpful tips on How to Buy a Bowling Ball.
How to Buy a Bowling Ball- Use The Perfect Scale
The perfect scale is a copyrighted scale from Bowlingball.com that you can use to determine what ball you may want to buy. With a plastic ball starting at 5, and the highest rating viewed yet at 235, it can help determine how to buy a ball.
Also helpful is the Bowling Ball comparison charts that they offer along with their Perfect Scale. Choose the ball you like and compare it to other balls, maybe one you are already familiar with.
In this video, Team USA Head Coach Rod Ross,along with professional bowler Chris Barnes, discuss the various options to consider when choosing a ball.
Asymmetrical vs Symmetrical
You will see the core in the ball descriptions being described as Asmmetrical or Symmetrical. I often wondered why some balls hooked sharply and some were just smoother hook. Nobody ever mentioned it could be the type of core in the ball making it do that.I would often hear other bowlers mentioned things like”That ball had a great core in it”.
I wondered about it and my basic core education began. And I don’t mean I am expert by any means. I just wanted to find out what the difference between Asymmetrical and Symmetrical cores happened to be.
So, I researched the topic and discovered why some balls had a smooth motion. They were Symmetric cores. Asymetrical cores tend to have a quick snap on the backend. That explained it!
I still use both cores. I prefer the symmetrical cores because of the smoother motion. But, then again, sometimes that little backend kick from the asymmetrical core works better.
If you are interested in the differences between Asymetrical and Symmetrical cores, you may want to read my article on Asymmetrical vs Symmetrical Bowling Balls
Radius of Gyration(RG) and Differential
The Radius of Gyration is a term used to gauge how the weight of the ball is distributed on the (y) axis or the ball pin as the ball rolls down the lane. People often refer to spinning figure skaters. When they have their arms out wide they turn slowly, but when they pull them in they spin very fast. Imagine them holding onto a pole, that would be the ball pin in the core.
High vs Low RG
The scale of RG values range from 2.46 to 2.8.The higher RG balls have higher weight closer to the coverstock. It creates a slower spin and will cause the ball to skid more thru the oil, and give you a delay in your hook. This is good for drier lanes, because It saves energy and allows the ball to go longer or farther down the lane before hooking.
The lower RG has its weight closer to the center of the ball. This will make the ball spin faster. As a result, this would create a lot of hook on a dry lane. So, the lower RG would be better suited for heavier oil conditions.
Lower RG hooks earlier, and uses up its energy sooner, for a milder hook on the backend.All of this change in the ball friction can be adjusted even more. By using different coverstocks that produce higher or lower friction changes the differential or flare on the ball.
A lower RG ball with a low differential will hook sooner, and produce a mild hook.But,a lower RG ball with a high differential or flare creates an earlier hook with a larger/stronger arcing finish.
A higher RG ball with a low differential will create a delayed hook with an angular backend motion. And a higher RG ball with a high differential will produce a ball that goes longer and is stronger and more angular on the backend.
Differential of RG (Track Flare or Hook Potential)
Differential of RG is an indicator of a balls hook potential. High Differential of RG balls have a high hook rating or track flare. Low Differential of RG balls have low track flare. Different drilling layouts can enhance the ball friction in different ways. Consequently, the roll can be tweeked to adjust whether the ball hooks slightly earlier or is delayed.
If you want to see the differential of RG (track flare) on your ball, check the rings of oil left on your ball after it is thrown down the lane. The closer the rings are together, the lower your track flare or differential, the lower your hook potential.
The wider the rings are apart, the higher your differential, and the higher your hook potential. Manufactures have simplified all this and provide hook ratings and flare potential to help you determine what you want.
Here is a video from Storm that visually explains Radius of Gyration,Differential,Symmetrical vs Asymmetrical effects, and a visual of coverstock design.
I hope my discussion is a bit simpler for everyone and the videos help explain things better. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. Let me know how I did or what I could add to make this guide better.