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The Evolution of Bowling Balls, Originally Posted: 5/12/2011; Updated: 11/19/2023

Over the past 30 years, technology in the bowling world has increased profoundly, especially in the area of bowling equipment itself. The rubber bowling ball that was invented somewhere in the early 1900's remained the standard for the longest period of time, lasting until around the early 1970's. This is when we saw the development of plastic bowling balls and the “soaker” that was invented by Charles Hamilton. Mr. Hamilton was able to actually soften the coverstock which in return increased the amount of hook that the ball was able to create. This is where the hardness rule was put into effect using a durometer.

In the early 1980's the first urethane ball was invented, this is where we really started to see the ball react differently on the lanes. These balls allowed the bowlers to start inching their feet left and creating more entry angle to the pocket resulting in higher scores. In the late 80's early 90's we saw the release of reactive resin bowling balls, this is where the game starting making a big shift towards what we see in today's game. With the reactive bowling balls, bowlers were able to move farther left and hook the lane. This created the biggest entry angles the game had ever seen and the scores started to skyrocket.
Not only did the coverstocks change but also the inside of the ball known as a core. By putting different shaped cores in the ball not only did the amount of hook increase but also the shape of the ball motion. The number of honor scores hit record highs and then the ball companies really started investing time into research and development of different cores and coverstocks.

From the mid 90's to present-day the technology of bowling equipment is still moving forward. With the invention of symmetrical and asymmetrical cores, bowling ball companies have been able to create more hook in the back of the lane by getting a bowling ball to retain energy until it comes off the end of the oil pattern. This has greatly increased the percentage of striking when the ball hits the pocket and allows a bowler who might not have been able to hook the ball a lot 10 years ago, to being able to hook the ball 10 to 15 boards. As the research and development remains ongoing we continue to see more and more hook out of the new equipment. In today's game it is common to see a bowler carry 6 to 10 bowling balls compared to maybe 2 balls 30 years ago due to the increase in core and cover technology. Instead of the bowler moving his or her feet, it can be easier to grab a ball with a different core or coverstock and throw it is the same location. This allows the bowler to stay in their comfort zone and thus has increased the ability to raise scores yet again.

Jimmy Martin Staff
Storm/Roto Grip Staff

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