The History of Bowling Balls & What They are made of?

what are Bowling balls made ofAlmost 95 million people around 90 countries worldwide play bowling. Talking about bowling, do you know what is the history of Bowling?

If not, let’s find out together.


History of Bowling Balls


This is the part where we will learn the enchanting history of bowling bowls. So, let’s get down to it.


The making of bowling balls involves an incredibly fascinating process. But, before we get going on how they are made and fill you in with some real technical knowledge, let us have a look at how this sport came into existence in the first place.


A very popular game today, the history of bowling dates back to thousands of years ago. In fact, evidence suggests that a similar game to bowling used to be played during the Egyptian times. In case you are wondering, yes, that is some 5200 BC!


 Interestingly enough, Archaeologists had found wall paintings indicating rocks and such other spherical items being thrown towards different objects. Later in the 1930s, British anthropologist Sir Flinders Petrie happened to discover bowling objects from an Egyptian child’s grave, further emphasizing the idea that a close sport to bowling indeed existed at the time. 


Want to know more about this delightful history? Then, let’s dig a little deeper.

In around 300 A.D, Germany reintroduced a version of the game to the world, where they would play. Bowling as part of their religious rituals to wash off their sins. Gradually bowling picked its popularity worldwide, although its history in the United States is comparatively new. 


In the year 1840, the first indoor bowling alley was built in New York. However, the craze of bowling reached its peak in the USA around the 1940s. In fact, the 1940s to 1970s is now known to be the golden era of bowling, which also gave rise to gambling associated wit the game. The buzz faded off after the period, but with all the ups and downs, bowling still remains an actively played sport today. 


Of course, the game itself evolved over the years. As of today, there are mainly two variations of this game. While in the United States, “Pin-Bowling” is widely famous, “Lawn Bowling” still remains a renowned game in Canada, England, and most countries around Europe.

 Sounds exciting, right?


What are the Bowling balls made of- The Materials


With their distinctive size, weight, surface, and finger holes, it is typically easy to distinguish bowling balls from other types of balls.  Bowling balls are not as simple and take a lot of different materials to make. 

Bowling balls are made in a combination of core and coverstocks. There are mainly 4 types of coverstocks used to make bowling balls. They are plastic, urethane, Reactive Resin, and Particle. 

Plastic Bowling Balls: These balls are strong, durable and smooth. Since they are smooth, they do not create a lot of friction and thereby, a lot of hooking ability. Thus, bowlers do not usually use plastic balls to give the hook to their balls. This ball is used in dry lanes.

Urethane Bowling balls: The Urethane coverstock is very hard, so it can easily create a lot of friction with the surface of bowling lanes. They offer a greater hooking potential than the plastic balls but lower than the reactive resin ones. This ball wwas widely poplular to professional bowler before reactive bowling ball arrives.

Reactive Resin Bowling BallsThese are by far the most popular when it comes to hooking balls. In fact, reactive resin balls have quite a porous surface that reacts to the oil on the lane. As a result, with more friction, the hooking potential also goes up. Furthermore, although it itself is expensive it is cheaper than the other options you get.

Particle Bowling BallsThese are not much in vogue right now but they are what offered the most hooking potential and were the hardest to control. They are quite expensive as well.

In the earliest days, bowling balls were made of a very hard wood known as Lignum Vitae. In fact, most balls in the 1800s were made of this material until rubber balls came into existence in the year 1905.

Since then, bowling balls have only evolved. In the 1950s, manufacturers began using Polyester Plastic to make bowling balls, and in the 1980s, Polyurethane Urethane was used. In the early 1990s, manufacturers began using Reactive Resin, a modified version of urethane, which is designed to provide more friction. 

There is, of course, no doubt about the fact that bowling balls have seen a lot of changes over the years. The modern-day bowling balls are very different from the ones that existed years back. They did not even have the finger holes for that matter. 


 Today, technology has enabled manufacturers to use more exceptional versions of plastic to make the bowling balls, which allows the balls to soak up the oil in the bowling lanes while providing more friction for a smoother game.


How Bowling Balls are made?


Usually, two basic components are used to make bowling balls, one being coverstock and the other being the core. In this section, we will get to the real question: How are these mighty balls made?

 So, bear with me, I am going to show you how these bowling balls are made in the first place.


1. Starting with the Center or Core


The core of bowling balls is often referred to as its engine since it determines the weight and the ball’s performance. The first step to making bowling balls start by forming the core, usually with liquid resins or plastic, which, when solidifies, forms a shape that goes in the middle of the ball. 


Then again, the shape of the core can be both symmetrical and asymmetrical. There are more than thousands of shapes now each designed to ensure maximum performance. It is the shape that decides how the ball rolls, hooks, and the level of control one has on the ball. Say, if the core is perfectly symmetrical, the ball is likely to roll straight, while if it is asymmetrical, it will wobble as it rolls down the lane. 


What’s more, the next step involves filling up the outside of the core with a combination of a micro-glass filler, which is usually not too dense, and one or denser fillers. As you can say, the combination of the two types of filler determines the weight. Now the thing is that all Bowling balls universally have to be of 27 inches, regardless of their weight. Bowling balls usually weigh between 6 to 16 pounds, and the weight variation is brought through the different combinations of fillers.


2. The Outermost layer or The Coverstock


Now comes the shell of the ball, known as the coverstock. While Polyester, Urethane, resin are among the preferred choice of material for the outermost shell, thanks to technology, the combination of different molecules have allowed forming an ideal ball surface with maximum pores that is essential for providing traction.

So safe to say, it is the coverstock that is responsible for ensuring performance on the lane by dealing with all the oil. And this justifies the importance of material used for the coverstock. 


Once the liquid form of the materials is filled into the mold, it covers the inner layers and slowly solidifies into a spherical structure. Once out of the molds, these structures are dried, sharpened, plus finally, the surface is either sanded to make it matte or polished to leave the ball with a shiny finish.  


But wait, there’s more. This is not the end just yet. One very important feature of the modern-day bowling balls is the bowling holes. These holes need to abide by some very rigid bowling ball specifications laid out by the United States Bowling Congress (USBC). 


But you know what else. There are professional shops that do the drilling, bearing in mind that they need to absolutely accurate in terms of measurements and customized to fit. 


Frequently Asked questions

1. Are Bowling balls weighted on the Side?

Yes, Bowling balls can be weighted on the side. This feature facilitates the game by allowing the ball to take turns as they roll. The difference in weight is brought in by the holes, and as per the directives of the United States Bowling Congress (USBC), the weight difference of the sides cannot exceed one ounce, provided that the balls weigh more than 10.01 pounds.

2. Why are Bowling Balls so Heavy?

Bowling ball weight matters immensely on its performance. The heavier ball will store and transfer more energy in the oily lane than the lightweight bowling ball. The heavier ball is extremely violent to knock down more pins. Also, heavier balls are likely to provide better “Hook” or turn, which is equally crucial for the game.

3. Are Rubber bowling Balls Legal?

The answer is Yes. As stated earlier, rubber balls were first introduced in the 1960s, replacing wood with bowling balls. However, with the advent of other materials, these rubber made balls slowly lost their popularity. In fact, on today’s date, they are not widely available either.
Needless to say, we understand that some people might take a dislike towards these balls. These could be tricky to use, hard to poke holes into, and might leave stains in the lanes, reason why all parties involved with bowling might avoid them, but don’t worry, Rubber bowls are legal.

4. Do Bowling Balls Float?

Depending on the density of the ball, some bowling balls can actually float! That might sound crazy, provided the heavyweight of the balls. Still, it has been proved from multiple experiments that balls weighing 12 pounds or less normally float since their density is equal to or lower than that of water, which is 1 gram per cubic centimeter.

5. Are Bowling Balls hollow?

Although many take bowling balls to be hollow on the inside, they actually are not. If you read up to here in the article without breaking a yawn (!), you would know that bowling balls have a core made of resins or plastic and then a layer of a combination of Low-density glass microbubbles and a denser material that gives these balls its weight. So, no, bowling balls are definitely not hollow. Yes, you heard that right.

6. What makes a bowling ball illegal?

Bowling balls need to stick to precise specifications provided by the United States Bowling Congress (USBC). Starting from the materials and technology used to manufacture ball to the layout of the holes, everything is very clearly specified by the USBC. So watch out, deviations from them could make your bowling ball illegal.

7. Are Bowling Balls made of wood?

In the early days of bowling, bowling balls were made of a particular type of very hard wood called lignum vitae. However, with time different materials began coming in proving to be better for the game of bowling. First replaced by hard rubber, manufacturers moved towards plastics. So, the answer to the question is, Bowling balls were made of wood. Hope, your confusion is clear now.

8. Are Bowling Balls Round?

The answer to this question is a little tricky. For pin bowling, the balls need to be perfectly round. However, they can weigh inconsistent on different sides in order to make a better hook, which is done by inserting different weighs inside. However, in the case of lawn bowling, the balls are usually a little asymmetric in terms of shape and weight, so they curve along the lane when thrown.

Wrapping Up

Did you know? When you play bowling, your body uses some muscles that it would not otherwise? Yes, that’s right; therefore, bowling is considered a healthy game, even for the elderly. 

Of course, you also need to make sure the weight of the ball suits your weight and height, or you could be left with strains and a sore back. Right ideas about Bowling ball will make you easy to choose the right bowling ball And the bottom line?. Now that you have known everything that you need to about bowling balls, maybe, it is time to conquer the game! Do you dare?


I’m an aspiring bowler with an immense love for bowling. I started playing the game at a very early age and it’s been an integral part of my life ever since.

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