There are two essential parts to any bowling ball which determine its efficiency, efficacy, and potential – the bowling ball cover stock and weight block. Arguably, it’s the bowling ball cover stock which has the biggest impact on your game as a whole. And if you’re not sure what a bowling ball cover stock is and why it’s important to you, you’re behind the eight ball to begin with in your journey towards becoming a top-flight bowler.

Don’t fret. We’re bringing you this article to shine a light on the bowling ball cover stock for you – what it is, what it does, what it’s made of, and why it’s so important to the success or failure of your bowling shot.

What Is A Bowling Ball Cover Stock And What Does It Do?

A bowling ball cover stock refers to the outer layer of your bowling ball – the surface which you see and makes contact with the lanes on your throws. It’s job is to cut through oil, provide needed friction for hook potential and violence, and basically steer your bowling ball’s ship through the oily, sometimes grimy ocean of a bowling lane.

Bowling ball cover stocks are made of several different materials, each with distinct advantages and potential disadvantages for a bowler’s particular game and skill set. We’ll cover the pros and cons of each later, but the four main bowling ball cover stock types are as follows – plastic/polyester, urethane, reactive resin, and particle.

There are sub classifications within each material, allowing players to customize their game even further under the umbrella of a particular composition type. For example, reactive resin bowling balls come under sub classifications of reactive solid, reactive pearl, and reactive hybrid – each providing different durability, friction possibilities, and overall performance.

What Is A Composite Cover Stock On A Bowling Ball?

While we covered the four main bowling ball cover stock types in the previous section, we omitted one which is newer to the market and could end up being a huge feather in the cap of Brunswick who brought this particular cover stock to the light of day.

Composite cover stock technology is a new process through which additives create texture throughout the surface of your bowling ball. Its inherent advantage is that your ball doesn’t lose its overall friction potential with the embedded texturing, resisting the normal “laneshining” which can smooth out your new ball within 20-30 games.

Whereas newer bowling balls see a noticeable drop-off in performance due to laneshining after your first several trips to the bowling alley, composite cover stocks keep their initial luster and firepower. Even if you scuff your ball, you’re merely exposing another textured layer with the same hook potential and friction generation as the one above it.

Composite cover stocks also tend to soak less oil into their pores, still absorbing enough to be effective but without gumming up your ball and killing its performance.

What Is The Best Material For A Bowling Ball?

The real thing to know is that your bowling ball’s cover stock is like a medium for an artist. If you’re a painter, you need a canvas. If you’re a sketch artist, you need a sketchbook. Bowling ball cover stocks are like that, with the right material (medium) providing the right tool for a certain type of bowler to maximize their overall scores.

A plastic/polyester bowling ball provides a very smooth surface, offering the least friction and hook potential. That’s a killer for most intermediate and advanced bowlers, but it’s great for straight-line shooters and picking up spares. The predictable reaction doesn’t give you the pin carry and violence of other cover stocks, but it’s perfect when you need to hit your line perfectly with no variance.

Urethane bowling balls offer more friction between the ball and lane surface than plastic bowling balls. It’s a great intermediate bowling ball, as it still has some predictability and straight-line power, but has enough hook potential for a bowler to play with their shot and increase pin carry and back-end reaction. It’s also extremely durable, making it a great investment for a bowler on a budget.

Reactive resin bowling balls are less durable than plastic or urethane, but they offer a great deal more hook potential and pin action when used correctly. They’re much more sensitive to lane conditions than the previous two we’ve mentioned, so beginning and even intermediate bowlers might have a hard time taming them. But for the right bowler, this cover stock’s reactive nature adds major possibilities and punch to an overall shot.

Particle bowling balls (and by nature, composite cover stock bowling balls) are built for heavy-oil lanes, with surfaces that are textured and bumpy in order to create maximum friction. They have the highest hook potential, so they’re a no-go for straight-line shooters. But, the right bowler can get maximum pin carry and back-end violence out of them.

Quiz 100 different bowlers and you’ll get 100 different answers as to what the best bowling ball cover stock is. In truth, it’s more about feeling out your particular game and finding the right tool for the right shot.

Do Urethane Bowling Balls Absorb Oil?

No. A true urethane bowling ball is built to resist the absorption of oil. It was the cover stock of choice for a lot of bowlers in the 80s because it offers more hook potential and pin carry than a plastic bowling ball, but it was slowly replaced in market share by reactive resin bowling balls in the 90s.

The interesting thing about reactive resin bowling balls is that they’re essentially urethane based with a liquid additive to the cover stock called plasticizer. This additive allows the ball to absorb oil and changes the overall texture of the cover stock. 

Whereas urethane bowling balls don’t have a malleability which allows them to react in accordance with lane conditions, oil absorption gives reactive resin bowling balls a leg up in maximizing a particular bowling lane’s conditions for the effects of pin carry and overall shot violence.

What Are Urethane Bowling Balls Good For?

While urethane bowling balls’ market share may have diminished in favor of reactive resin bowling balls and other cover stocks which are porous and absorb oil, there are distinct advantages to having a urethane bowling ball in your bag.

Firstly, urethane bowling balls are extremely durable. A reactive resin bowling ball’s porous nature means that it gums up quickly. Without constant deep cleaning (which can weaken your bowling ball on its own), reactive resin bowling balls lose their efficacy over time. 

Urethane bowling balls don’t have that problem. They’re also great intermediate bowling balls for someone who needs just enough hook, but wants to keep straight-line control and have a longer shot life on the lane. Finally, they’re most more cost-effective than higher-end technology bowling balls – giving you a cost/use ratio that’s much more appealing if you’re bowling on a budget.

What Is A High Performance Bowling Ball? 

A high performance bowling ball almost always has a polyurethane-based construction, but the separation point between high performance bowling balls and others are additive materials and curing process variations in the bowling ball cover stock and inner-core construction which tailor the ball in calculated ways for different shot types.

These additive materials do everything from add texturing to the cover stock of the ball to unevenly displacing energy with an oddly-shaped weight block to maximize violence at a certain point of a particular hook pattern. High performance bowling balls tend to be high-technology, especially in the composition of the cover stock. 

So, rather than having a ball with blanket hook potential, you can find a cover stock that is built to have that sharp jut you like right at the end of your shot or a more circular hook entrance which allows you to control it longer. There’s hundreds of little ticks and variations on high performance bowling balls, which makes research crucial when it comes to finding the right one to fit your particular shot.

Closing Thoughts

A bowling ball cover stock functions as the single most important part of your bowling ball, determining your ball’s overall hook potential, control, and shot efficacy. The right bowling ball cover stock goes a long way in maximizing your game, while the wrong cover stock will do more harm than good. This article is a tool to get you asking the right questions about your bowling ball cover stock, giving you an advantage in finding the right bowling ball at the right point in your evolution as a bowler.