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PRACTICAL BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO BOWLING BALLS

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Bowling Ball

Watching more experienced and skilled bowlers, nimbly hook their bowling ball down the lane and score a strike can be a bit frustrating for beginner bowlers. I first learned true mechanics of bowling when I was in college. I had bowled before then. But, I never really learned how to bowl. I remember being frustrated because I was able to run a fantastic hook shot one day but not the next. I remember wondering how my bowling skills could fluctuate so much on a day to day basis.

It was not until college that I would learn that it was not my bowling abilities that had changed. But what had changed were the characteristics of the lanes that I was bowling on, and the bowling balls that I was using. For practical purposes I want to concentrate on bowling ball basics and not on lane characteristics. What you as a beginner need to know about bowling balls.

There are several variations of bowling played through out the world. But for the most part these variations are forms of either five-pin bowling or ten-pin bowling. When most people think of bowling they think of what is called ten-pin bowling. Ten-pin bowling is the most popular and the most widely played form of bowling.

Bowling balls used when playing ten-pin bowling have several set physical characteristics. First, ten-pin bowling balls are 8.5 inches in diameter. However, simply stating the diameter of a bowling ball is a bit deceptive. It makes bowling balls seem smaller than they really are. The actual circumference of a ten-pin bowling ball is about 26 inches.

The weight of a bowling ball is between 6 pounds and 16 pounds. There is a wide variation between ball weights to accommodate different physical strengths of bowlers. And to some extent, like in baseball with a baseball bat, the weight of a ball used can depend upon the skill level of the bowler.

The size or circumference of a bowling ball is relatively uniform despite differences in weight. A bowling ball is made up of three distinct parts; the core, the coverstock and the filler. The coverstock is the outside of the bowling ball. It is what makes contact with the lane. The core of the bowling ball is a complex mixture of dense materials that controls it spin and hook.

As a ball becomes smaller in weight the core becomes smaller. The filler is material that fills the void between the coverstock and the core. The density of the filler material used to make a bowling ball will change based on the desired weight of the ball. In essence, because all bowling balls are nearly uniform in size the filler is what enables the uniformity in bowling ball circumference while enabling different bowling ball weight classes. This is accomplished by changing the density of the filler material dependent upon the weight desired.

Although the filler makes up for the weight between different balls the two most important parts of a bowling ball are actually the core and the coverstock. The shape of a bowling balls core can influence whether it hooks and by how much. Public use bowling balls at bowling alleys will have cores that are of uniform shape. This uniformity in shape means the ball will roll relatively straight. Cores, of house balls, are kept uniform, symmetrical, because they are designed to be used by any player of any skill level. Because house balls have very little hook many bowlers like to use them as spare balls.

Just like the core of a bowling ball can affect the action of a bowling ball as it rolls down the lanes, so can the coverstock. Coverstocks can be made of resin, high friction resin, urethane, polyester, plastic or a combination of materials. The material that makes up the coverstock can determine how the ball reacts to lane conditions. A softer (duller ball color) is better for more oily lane conditions and a harder (shinier ball color) reacts better to drier lane conditions. But, whether you use a ball with a harder or softer coverstock for a particular lane condition depends heavily on your skill level, your ability to read lane conditions and what you are trying to accomplish with the shot.

Now you know that not all bowling balls are created equal. House balls are harder to hook because they are not designed for it. So the next time you watch someone with their own bowling ball making it beautifully hook to the target, remember that it may be more the bowling ball than the skill of the bowler.

I hope by reading this you now have a better understanding of bowling ball basics. There are definitely more complex issues surrounding bowling balls. But, the intent was to give you some practical insight into bowling balls that might help you with your bowling game.