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Reactive Bowling Balls, Originally Posted: 1/1/2013; Updated: 8/9/2021

Using different reactive coverstock bowling balls to your advantage will help you overcome lane conditions and enhance your scoring potential.

Solid, Pearl and Hybrid reactive bowling balls are all available when purchasing a bowling ball. The differences in solid reactive, pearl reactive, and hybrid bowling balls are key to matching the right coverstock to the various lane conditions you encounter. Knowledge about coverstock options can go a long way in choosing the right bowling ball.

Reactive resin bowling balls triggered the movement to highly aggressive coverstocks. Reactive coverstocks were initially designed to react a certain way on oily portions of the lane surface and another way on the dry back ends of the lanes.

Reactive coverstocks are composed of similar materials used in regular urethane formations however, they are blended with different additives. Reactive coverstocks with resin additives cause the ball to skip or hydroplane over the oil portions of the lanes providing controllable skid distances in the front ends of the lanes. Reactive balls also provide the "tacky" feeling which translates into additional traction and usually a strong back end reaction on the lane.

Sub-categories of reactive coverstocks we are targeting in this article are the solid coverstock, the pearl coverstock, and hybrid bowling balls.

Solid reactive coverstocks have the greatest amount of microscopic reactive pores on the ball surface compared to other reactive coverstocks. The solid coverstock comes in polished or sanded finishes, and with a rubbing compound buffed finish so the degree of surface friction can be controlled.

Solid reactive coverstocks typically provide a higher coefficient of friction than pearl coverstocks. Because of more surface friction, solid reactive balls tend to hook sooner than pearl reactive balls and also experience a reduction of energy as they travel down the lane compared to pearl reactive coverstock balls.

As a solid reactive ball leaves the oil pattern on the back third of the lane surface, it tends to hook less sharply at the break point to the pocket than does a pearl reactive ball.

Pearl reactive coverstocks emerging in the early 1990's were manufactured with the addition of resin or mica particles and materials blended into the reactive coverstock material. The inclusion of these additives roughens out the microscopic pores causing the ball reaction on dry lanes to be extended in length on the front ends of the lanes.

With the ability to skid decisively on the front end of the lanes and store energy, pearl reactive balls produce stronger hooking ability on the back ends of the lanes than do solid reactive coverstock balls.

The coefficient of friction in pearl reactive balls is lower than in solid reactive balls which generally results in less loss of stored energy as the ball travels down the lane and a sharper reaction from the break point to the pocket compared to solid reactive balls.

In short, the pearl reactive balls have the ability to react quickly to high friction portions of the lane.

Hybrid reactive coverstocks are a combination of solid and pearl reactive covers with the purpose of taking advantage of the benefits of both type of coverstocks.
Hybrid coverstocks offer the mid-lane reaction of a solid coverstock and the back end reaction of a pearl coverstock.

Hybrid balls will give you the front end glide you seek on medium oil conditions and respond at the break point to the pocket similarly to pearl reactive ball coverstocks. Hybrid coverstocks allow for adjusting surface textures in the same way as do pearl and solid reactive balls. Some experimentation with your Hybrid coverstock ball surface is recommended so you will know precisely when to make a switch in bowling balls.

Entry level bowlers looking for a bowling ball should discuss their needs with a pro shop operator or a certified bowling instructor before making a purchase. The goal is to match the coverstock to the lane conditions where entry level players bowl most often.

Experienced bowlers averaging 200 or less should own multiple bowling balls including solid reactive, pearl reactive, and potentially hybrid coverstock bowling balls.

In most cases, advanced bowlers already use reactive bowling balls so the need to invest in more than one bowling ball at any one time is likely unnecessary.

Making changes in equipment at the right time is one reason highly skilled players are successful. Having a mix of reactive equipment is certainly an advantage as lane conditions change. All players should learn as much as possible about the ball surface adjustment process. Surface adjustments provide the right amount of texture on a ball surface to match with the modern oil patterns found in bowling centers across America.

Your pro shop professional can share useful information about ball surface strategies. Together, you can establish a scheduled maintenance procedure and keep your equipment ready to go.

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