Whether you’re just getting into bowling or looking to improve your bowling skills, having the right bowling ball can dramatically boost your game. The ball doesn’t just need to be the right size for your fingers – it also has to fit the exact weight, diameter, and other characteristics that will give you the best accuracy and ball spin.
With so many bowling balls on the market, choosing the best one for you can be a huge challenge. We’re here to help, though, with reviews of nine of the best bowling balls for every type of bowler. We’ll also dive deep into the factors you need to consider when choosing the right bowling ball for your style and skill level and answer some common questions.
Bowling Ball Materials and Construction
Bowling balls are constructed in two parts. There’s the outer shell, which is also known as the coverstock, and the inner sphere, known as the weight block.
The outer shell can be made of several different materials, each of which gives your ball different speed and spin properties. When choosing a coverstock material, keep in mind that this is the part of the ball that’s actually coming in contact with the lane with every bowl. A coverstock material that creates more friction with the lane will roll more slowly, but generate more spin and have more potential for hooking to the left or right.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the four main types of coverstock materials:
- Plastic – Plastic balls are very smooth and generate little friction, so they tend to bowl relatively straight. That makes them popular among beginning bowlers who are just trying to get the mechanics of throwing the ball accurately down pat, without having to worry about hooking. More advanced bowlers may also prefer plastic bowling balls for bowling spares, since accuracy is essential to hit a single specific pin.
- Urethane – This polymer material is the next step up from plastic in terms of hook potential. It’s a good choice for intermediate bowlers looking to add hooks into their bowling after practicing with plastic balls. Many bowlers also prefer urethane balls because they are very accurate to shoot with while offering good pin action.
- Reactive Resin – Reactive resin balls are just that – reactive. They create a lot of friction and so can hook very strongly. In fact, they create so much friction that the hook you’ll see is very dependent on lane surface conditions and very minor mechanics during ball release. Reactive resin balls are generally only used by advanced bowlers, and they are not as durable as plastic or urethane bowling balls.
- Proactive – Also known as “particle” balls, proactive balls have a bumpy exterior that maximizes friction. This is a more specialized ball for expert bowlers to keep in their arsenals, and it primarily makes an appearance on heavily oiled lanes.
When it comes to the weight block inside the ball, things are a bit simpler. High mass weight blocks are pancake-shaped and placed close to the outer shell. This type of weight block causes the ball to roll slowly and prevents it from picking up too much speed. Low mass weight blocks are placed in the center of the bowling ball and allow for more hook potential by allowing the ball to pick up speed on the lane.
How to Choose the Right Bowling Ball for You
Beyond the material and construction, there are a number of different things you need to consider when choosing a bowling ball. Let’s take a look at some of the most important features.
There’s no best ball weight for every type of bowler – it all comes down to personal preference and what feels most comfortable for you. Most adult bowlers will need a ball that’s between 12 and 15 pounds in weight, but you may fall anywhere in this range. Younger bowlers will likely want to opt for a ball that’s between 10 and 12 pounds.
Typically, bowlers will increase their ball weight as they progress in skill. However, if a lighter ball gives you more control, there’s no reason you need to add more weight to your ball. It’s a good idea to practice with balls of different weights to see what feels most natural for you.
Bowling balls are typically drilled for one of two different grip styles. In a conventional grip, your thumb goes all the way into the hole, while your index and middle fingers go in to around the second knuckle. In a fingertip grip, your index and middle fingers only go in about one knuckle each. Most bowling balls at your local lanes use a conventional grip, but you may find that a fingertip grip gives you a smoother release.
It’s also important to think about whether you want inserts for your grips. These are often used for fingertip grip holes, since they give you more friction to hold onto the ball and allow you to apply more spin when releasing the ball. Some bowlers don’t like inserts, though, since they find that it gives them too much stickiness when releasing or forces them to add too much spin. They also need to be replaced occasionally, which can be annoying.
The pitch is the angle of the thumb hole, which is often decided when your new bowling ball is being drilled. This is extremely important since it impacts how easily your thumb will release from the ball and whether you’ll be able to add the spin your desire. Forward pitch, in which your thumb is angled towards the center of the grip, is good for helping you hold onto the ball. Reverse pitch, in which your thumb is angled away from the rest of your grip, is better for letting you release the ball quickly.
- Lane Conditions
For better or worse, there’s no single bowling ball that’s best for every type of bowling lane or pin situation. You’ll want to consider how well-oiled the lanes are and the type of board surface when choosing the outer material that’s right for your game. This will also impact whether you want a low-weight or high-weight ball, whether a fingertip or conventional grip is better, and even what ball weight is right. Many advanced bowlers have a quiver of bowling balls, each tailored for different lane conditions.
The 9 Best Bowling Balls of 2020
1. Sportime UltraFoam Bowling Ball – Best Practice Bowling Ball for Kids
This foam bowling ball is specifically designed for kids. It weighs just 1.7 pounds, so it’s easy for small children to handle – and won’t break their foot if they drop it! You can’t actually take this ball to your local lanes. Rather, it’s designed as a practice ball that you can use to teach your kids about release, timing, spin, and other fundamentals of bowling. Sportime does sell a set of foam pins, so you can set up a practice lane at home relatively easily.
The ball is eight inches in diameter, so it’s significantly smaller than most real kids’ bowling balls. This can be a problem for more advanced training purposes, but on the whole parents found that the ball encourages kids to get better at the sport. The foam construction is virtually indestructible, and friendly patterns on the coverstock help to make the ball more appealing to kids that are new to bowling.
- Practice ball for kids
- Indestructible foam construction
- Works well for practicing release mechanics
- Only eight inches in diameter
- Very lightweight
- Not perfectly round
- Doesn’t work as a real bowling ball
2. Pyramid Path Bowling Ball – Best Bowling Ball for Spares
This polyester plastic bowling ball from Pyramid is ideal for anyone looking for a ball that shoots perfectly straight. It’s outfitted with a pancake-shaped high mass weight block, so it bowls slowly and true. The ball doesn’t have any mass differential, the friction is low, and it’s designed to minimize hook even on relatively dry lanes. It’s perfect if you need to knock out a single pin to finish off a spare.
Pyramid sells this ball at a very reasonable price, which adds to the attraction. It comes in a variety of weights from 8 to 16 pounds and is available in more than 10 different color patterns, so it can be used by just about any bowler. The ball comes undrilled, and you’ll want to use a conventional grip to get the most accuracy from this straight-shooting ball.
- High mass weight block
- Shoots straight with very little hook
- Many weights and color patterns
- Relatively inexpensive
- Not the most versatile bowling ball design
3. Ebonite Maxim Captain Odyssey Bowling Ball – Best Bowling Ball for Beginners
It’s hard to beat this capable bowling ball from Ebonite Bowling Products if you’re an entry-level bowler. The ball is made with a polyester plastic coverstock that adds durability without increasing the friction by much. Meanwhile, a pancake-shaped high mass weight allows the ball to shoot slow and steady. It’s great for accurate, straight bowls that don’t take a lot of spin.
Ebonite makes this ball in weights from 6 to 16 pounds, so it’s versatile enough for bowlers of any age. There’s very little to dislike about the ball, including the price – although it comes undrilled, this bowling ball is very affordably priced.
- Good bowling ball for beginners
- Available in wide weight range
- High mass weight for straight shots
- Relatively inexpensive
- Difficult to impart spin on the ball
4. Brunswick Tzone Deep Space Bowling Ball – Best Plastic Bowling Ball
This plastic bowling ball from Brunswick is a good choice for kids and entry-level adults, as well as intermediate bowlers looking for a ball that can take down spares with ease. The ball has very little friction, allowing it to roll straight and true on just about any lane surface. The high gloss polish removes any trace of friction left on the polyester plastic surface to further increase your accuracy while bowling.
The ball is available in weights ranging from 6 to 15 pounds, so it’s easy to find the weight that works best for you. Just be cautious when choosing a lighter version of this ball, since the plastic coverstock isn’t the most durable and can crack or chip with heavy use.
- Available in wide range of weights
- No friction even on dry lanes
- High gloss polish
- Shoots very straight
- Not the best all-around ball for intermediate bowlers
5. Columbia 300 White Dot Scarlet Bowling Ball – Best Budget Bowling Ball
This impressively inexpensive bowling ball from Columbia 300 is another straight shooter. The low price makes it a very attractive choice for beginners and as a secondary ball reserved for shooting spares. It features a similar polyester plastic coverstock and pancake-shaped high mass weight block to many of the other beginner balls we’ve reviewed. What makes this ball different is that it’s optimized for lightly oiled lanes rather than dry lanes, so you’ll need to be careful of hooking if conditions are really dry.
The ball is designed for kids and adults alike, since it’s available in weights ranging from 6 to 15 pounds. There are a few different colors available, but the scarlet ball stands out in a crowd thanks to the bright and sparkling red finish.
- Shoots very straight
- Wide range of weights
- Multiple colors that stand out
- Not designed for dry lanes
6. Brunswick Twist Sky Blue – Best Reactive Resin Bowling Ball
If you’re looking for a bowling ball with aggressive hooking potential, look no further than this ball from Brunswick. It’s built with a low mass weight block and a reactive resin coverstock, which combine to give this bowling ball a ton of spin. As a result, this ball is primarily recommended for advanced bowlers.
What really sets this ball apart is the fact that it’s designed for dry lane conditions. So, you can use it aggressively at your local lanes even when they aren’t oiled for professional bowlers. The backend reaction of the ball is very easy to control with practice, and the ball’s speed really reduces the length of the lane for throwing.
This bowling ball is available in weights ranging from 8 to 16 pounds. Just be careful when purchasing this ball for kids, since the spin can put them off the sport if they’re not prepared for it.
- Aggressive hooking
- Ideal for advanced bowlers
- Wide weight range available
- Works best on drier lanes
- Difficult for beginners to use
- Reactive resin coverstock isn’t super durable
7. KR Clear Red Rose Bowling Ball – Best Straight-shooting Bowling Ball
This unique bowling ball from Bowlerstore Products is a replica of the famous ball used by Big Ern in the movie Kingpin. It’s designed to shoot perfectly straight thanks to the high weight block and plastic coverstock construction. There’s not a lot to this ball to differentiate it from cheaper competitors, but the red rose design makes it easy to always find your bowling ball when the lane is crowded – plus, you’ll probably draw plenty of compliments on your ball.
Unfortunately, the bowling ball is only made in a single weight: 14 pounds. That’s on the heavier side for a lot of entry-level bowlers and even many advanced women bowlers. So, this bowling ball is more limited in the audience that will be able to use it effectively.
- Shoots extremely straight
- Beautiful design
- Only available in 14-pound weight
8. Hammer Black Widow Bowling Ball – Best Bowling Ball for Hooking
This aggressive hooking ball from Hammer is designed for advanced bowlers. It’s built with a hybrid urethane and reactive resin coverstock and a highly angular center weight block. Altogether, it’s designed to create a very strong mid-lane break that brings the ball right back into the pins for an effective strike. The ball simply does a great job of taking down pins thanks to its accelerating action.
Unfortunately, the Black Widow ball isn’t cheap, and it’s only available in a small weight range from 12 to 16 pounds. But, the price and weight won’t be too off-putting for the advanced bowlers for whom this ball was designed. The ball performs well in just about any lane conditions, so it’s easy to make it your new go-to bowling ball.
- Hybrid coverstock and angular weight block
- Extremely effective hooking
- Mid-lane break and accelerating action
- Designed for advanced bowlers
- Small weight range
9. Roto Grip Halo Bowling Ball – Best Bowling Ball for Well-oiled Lanes
This professional-quality bowling ball from Roto Grip was designed for advanced bowlers who are looking to get an edge over the competition. It features the proprietary MicroTrax-S18 coverstock, which is a custom reactive resin designed to maximize friction even in oily lane conditions. The weight block is asymmetrical as well, meaning that the ball takes a very hard hook back towards the pins just before it reaches the end of the lane.
The extreme hooking action means that you’ll need to spend a few games getting used to this ball. But, keep in mind that the ball will also mellow out with use as the reactive resin coverstock wears down. While the Roto Grip bowling ball isn’t cheap, it’s also very reasonably priced compared to many other advanced balls.
- Proprietary reactive resin cover
- Works well in oily lane conditions
- Asymmetrical weight block
- Reasonably priced
- Small weight range
- Takes some getting used to
- Reactive resin wears down over time
The 5 Best Bowling Ball Brands
Part of choosing the best bowling ball is finding a brand that you trust and can stick with. Many brands have similar, competing offerings, but their balls may offer proprietary coverstocks and other nice features. So, let’s take a look at five of the most reliable bowling ball brands.
- Brunswick – Brunswick is a goliath of bowling, with dozens of ball designs for entry-level and advanced bowlers alike. The company has been around for more than 170 years and has played an outsized role in the proliferation of bowling over the decades. Brunswick balls are revered for their strong performance right out of the box, and you can be confident that Brunswick will always have a ball for you as your skill level increases.
- Storm – Storm produces extremely capable bowling balls at affordable prices. The brand has something of a reputation for catering to beginner and intermediate bowlers, but there are many advanced bowlers who have stuck with the company over the years as well. What sets Storm apart is that the company’s balls are easy to use out of the box, with almost no break-in period.
- Hammer – Hammer is known for it’s high-end bowling balls, so you’ll have to watch out for premium prices with this brand. That said, many bowlers feel the cost of a Hammer ball is completely justified. The company puts an emphasis on emphasis and has led the development of urethane balls for intermediate and advanced bowlers. Even better, most Hammer balls come with a three-year warranty.
- Pyramid – Pyramid is a relatively new bowling ball brand, established less than 10 years ago. However, it’s made significant waves in the bowling market by offering balls for all skill levels at very reasonable prices. It remains to be seen whether Pyramid can keep up with older companies like Brunswick, but the brand’s balls are worth a closer inspection.
- Ebonite – Ebonite is a huge name in bowling, similar to Brunswick. The company owns Hammer, as well as the Columbia, Dyno-Thane, and Track brands. It’s easy to find a bowling ball for any skill level from Ebonite, and long-time bowlers praise the company for its high quality and generally affordable prices.
Frequently Asked Questions
Having the right bowling ball can dramatically improve your game. Whether you need a straight-shooting ball to practice your release or take out a spare, or an aggressively hooking ball to get a strike every time, there are plenty of solid bowling balls available to choose form. With our reviews of the nine best bowling balls, it’s easy to find the right bowling ball for you.