When the Egyptians invented bowling, their balls were made from polished stones. Enter modern technology with its advanced materials science and contemporary bowling balls are a far cry from their crude counterparts.
Modern bowling balls are, of course, engineered to aid players in getting strikes although the players’ skills are just as important. According to the U.S. Bowling Congress, only 1 in 3,000 bowlers have scored perfect games – think 12 strikes in succession and you get the idea – during the 1910-1980 period when ball technology wasn’t as developed as it is now. By 2007, 1 in 30 bowlers have scored perfect games!
What then is in a bowling ball? There are three parts, namely, the inner core, the filler core, and the shell (coverstock). Every ball at the AMF Bowling locations consist of these parts although their weights, sizes and styles (i.e., color and print) are different.
The Inner Core
Emphasis must be made that manufacturers of bowling balls use closely-guarded proprietary technologies and materials. In most cases, however, the inner core is made of iron or calcium oxide among other types of powdered metal oxides, usually mixed with a catalyst and resin for hardening the mixture. This is the ball’s heaviest part so its composition will have a significant effect on the ball’s handling and performance.
While a bowling ball may look perfectly round, it isn’t. Instead, it can either be symmetrical (i.e., sphere) or asymmetrical (i.e., shaped like a light bulb). Again, the shape will influence the ball’s rotation down the lane.
The Filler Core
Known also as the outer core, the filler core is made of light but rigid substances like glass beads or polyester mixed with resin for hardening purposes. The manufacturers usually think of the filler core as the part where the bowling ball’s final weight can be fine-tuned so they add or subtract the materials as needed.
Balls 4.5 kilos or less have low density so these can float in water quite well. But heavier balls, such as those 7.5 kilos, have high density so these will sink.
Beginners think that the bright colors and attractive prints on the bowling balls’ shell are for decorative purposes only. But these aren’t! Their materials were chosen based on their effect on the balls’ motion down the lane in general and on the balls’ ability to generate friction in particular.
Polyester with its rigid and low friction properties is the commonly used material for the shell for this reason; the material is ideal for throwing straight. Polyurethane, in contrast, has higher friction so it’s used for balls ideals for hitting several pins at once.
The science behind the manufacture of bowling balls may be rocket science for most bowlers but when you have familiarized yourself with its materials and their property, you will have a better chance at choosing the right ball for your specific needs.