Although many professional bowlers adore Murray’s extravagant success, they may have a few quibbles with the technical aspects of the scene. “For a ball like that to come into play, there will have to be severe conditions on the lane,” says professional bowler Kelly Kulick. Pro bowlers usually use this smooth-surfaced ball when they only need to pick off one or two pins at the lane’s end to score a “spare.” Smart bowlers usually use balls that have an asymmetric weight block in the middle and are covered with a porous polyurethane shell to knock down all 10 pins and secure a hit, as Murray did.
The ancient Egyptians, who invented a primitive version of the game, will be blown away by today’s bowling balls, which are a vast improvement over their stone forerunners. According to Danny Speranza, senior director of equipment requirements and certifications at the United States Bowling Congress, the sport’s national governing body, the sophisticated materials science slipped into modern balls has helped boost player results. Between 1910 and 1980, just one out of every 3,000 USBC-registered bowlers was able to bowl a perfect game—a strike 12 times in a row. By 2007, the number had risen to one out of every 30 people.
Modern day bowling ball
A modern bowling ball usually consists of three parts: an inner core, an outer “filler” core, and a shell, which is known in bowling lingo as the coverstock. A modern bowling ball will cost anywhere from $50 to $250 depending on its design. You can find best bowling ball for hook beginners at number of platforms.
According to Victor Marion, director of R&D for Utah-based manufacturer Storm Products, the exact materials that go into making each part of the ball are called “proprietary technologies that are closely guarded.” The inner core, on the other hand, is usually made of powdered metal oxides like calcium or iron oxide combined with a resin and a catalyst to harden the mixture. This is the ball’s heaviest element, and its shape—whether symmetric like a sphere or asymmetric like a lightbulb—affects how it rotates down the path.
The outer core is light but rigid, and it contains materials like polyester or glass beads, as well as a resin. This section of the bowling ball is used by manufacturers to fine-tune the final weight. Bowling balls weighing 7 kg or more have a high density, but balls weighing 4.5 kg or less have a low density and can float in water.
Don’t be fooled by the ball’s vivid, swirled colors—or its sometimes pleasant scent (Storm Products impregnates its coverstock with fragrances like “birthday cake”). The ball’s outer shell isn’t just for show; it has a significant impact on the ball’s motion as it hurtles down the lane.
A bowler’s ball skids down the lane through a thin layer of mineral oil as he releases it. The ball reaches a nonlubricated zone about two-thirds of the way down an 18-meter lane. It gains traction there, just like tyre treads on a lane. The ball will now begin to curve, or hook, around the lane, scattering the pins, depending on the type of spin the bowler applied to the ball during its release.
Lane conditions, or the amount and pattern of oil added to the lane, can differ dramatically from one bowling alley to the next. And when balls soak up or scatter around the oil on the lane during a game or tournament, the conditions may change. “Some days you’re driving in California and it’s a sunny day, and some days you’ve got six feet of snow and you need every bit of traction you can get,” Marion says, using the tyre tread analogy. Bowlers don’t need a ball with a lot of friction with the lane on so-called sunny days when lane conditions are good, but on snowy days, they would want something with a more brittle, and therefore rougher, outer shell—a ball with some studded snow tyres, so to speak. “Good bowlers understand the ball is better for a specific game,” Speranza says. “If they’re going to a tournament, professionals will bring six to eight different balls.”
According to Kulick, the number may also be higher for full-time bowlers. When she travels to tournaments, she has been known to ship ten balls and bring five more.
“Typically, bowlers will begin with the most aggressive ball in their bag”—the one with the highest friction, according to Kulick. Then, when the ball rolls down the lane, they’ll change which ball they use based on where it begins to hook.
Polyester is the most basic of a bowling ball’s outer shells. This rigid, low-friction plastic covering is used when you want to throw straight, such as when you just need to topple one or two pins to pick up a spare, according to Speranza. Polyurethane-shelled balls, on the other hand, have more friction with the lane. Manufacturers combine isocyanates and polyols to create these rough but pliant shells, which are useful for knocking down several pins at once. If they want to make a reactive resin shell ball with even more friction, they apply patented additives like plasticizers to a urethane base layer to create a multitude of cross-links in the polymer strands, increasing the porosity and roughness of the ball’s coating.
Pro bowlers used to prefer these high-friction reactive resin balls for nailing strikes—at least until recently. One of the most significant developments in the sport in the last ten years, according to Speranza, is that some professional bowlers now throw the ball with a two-handed release rather than a one-handed release. Jason (Belmo) Belmonte, a celebrity bowler, popularised the technique after having great success with it in tournaments.
“You can put more spin on a ball when you throw it with two hands,” Speranza says, and thus get more hook. Two-handed bowlers have discovered that super high-friction balls aren’t always necessary. They don’t want to over-hook the ball on the lane and send it into the gutter, so they’re gradually opting for balls with a simpler urethane shell.
If pro bowlers’ strategizing sounds confusing, it’s even more so for ball manufacturers. They are bound by USBC’s rules and regulations. The organisation sets limits on criteria like the coefficient of friction and surface roughness of a bowling ball’s outer layer to level the playing field and ensure that none of the approximately 46 million bowling participants in the United States has an unfair advantage due to excessively designed equipment.
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