Best Beginner, Specialty, and Hybrid Bowling Ball Reviews
When I was a kid, I thought bowling was a pretty boring sport. In fact, I didn’t think of it as anything more than that thing my dad used to play a few nights a week. Years later, I found myself thinking more and more about it, until one day I decided that I was going to head to my local bowling alley and play a few frames.
After that, I was hooked.
I quickly learned that if I wanted to get better (and trust me, there was a lot of room for me to get better) I was going to need to get my own bowling ball. Sounds easy, right? Well, I quickly found out that choosing the right bowling ball is about way more than just the color and how heavy it is. There’s different core types, different materials, and so much more. So I set out to do some serious research.
There was so much I didn’t know, and not a lot of sites that put it all together in one place. So that’s why I set up this site – so that I could help anyone else looking to buy a bowling ball but lost in the sea of terms and confusing information. Below are my reviews for the best bowling balls I found during all of my research. There are also a few articles I put together that cover some of the trickier topics in more detail. Hopefully you can find all of this information helpful.
Best Beginner’s Ball
Columbia 300 Messenger
When you’re just starting out on the lanes, you need a ball that’s going to give you solid performance in a wide range of situations so that you don’t have to worry about switching balls or styles mid-game. The Freeze Hybrid from Columbia is built to be dependable and easy to use for players at any skill level, making it a great no-frills choice to help you work on the basics of the game.
Modified Messenger Core
Columbia made a name for itself with its Messenger core and this ball brings that famous core back, with a few new upgrades to give an even better weight distribution. The special design of this core is meant to help you focus on developing your basic skills by creating a smooth and steady roll down the lane.
Since you don’t have to compensate for balls with a more complicated radius of gyration (also known as RG), you get to put all of your attention on building up the proper form and learning about how your stance and other factors influence each throw. This core design is also meant to leave room for hook shots in the future, so you can practice with the same ball once you reach that point in your practice.
Hybrid Veneer Coverstock
One of the most significant factors influencing a ball’s performance is the coverstock, which is the material that makes up the outside layer. This ball features a hybrid veneer that combines two different types of reactive materials in order to create a unique balance of performance across the lane.
First is the reactive 500/2000 Abralon, which helps create more even rolling due to the higher level of friction from tiny pores in the surface, thereby decreasing the hooking in the front portion of the lane. The other material, the so-called Powerhouse Factory Finish, is smoother and does not react to the oil in lane.
When combined, the materials allow the ball an even performance in the front end while achieving a better distance. Also, it allows for some interesting and unique appearances.
Best Budget Bowling Ball
Ebonite Maxim Captain Midnight
Whether you’re just a casual bowler who wants to own a ball instead of using whatever’s lying around the alley, or you simply want to pick up a reliable ball that will clear out pins without clearing out your bank account, the Maxim Captain Midnight Bowling Ball from Ebonite is by far the best choice I’ve seen. It’s built to deliver performance while keeping your budget in mind.
Hard Polyester Coverstock
A polyester coverstock is going to be the least expensive coverstock material you can find, mostly because the material is simply cheaper to create compared to the reactive solid materials. Even though it’s less expensive, that doesn’t mean that it’s less dependable or has poor performance. The hard polyester material used in this ball is also meant to give it more durability, so you won’t have to worry about it cracking or chipping when you play, making it a ball you can keep using for a while without having to replace it.
Another great feature of polyester is that it creates less friction on the lanes, which is perfect for anyone still working on their game. This all combines to make it the best choice for anyone who wants to get their own ball to practice with, while not having to commit to a serious investment.
Dependable in Various Lane Conditions
If you bowl in a league or any other type of competitive setting, you’re probably going to have a few different type of balls for various situations. This can get pretty costly and isn’t really an option for anyone working within a budget. If this is you, you’re going to want one ball that works well in different lane conditions; that’s exactly why I think this ball is great for the budget-conscious bowler.
The low friction means you don’t need to think about the oil patterns in the lane, which can affect the hook of a ball pretty significantly. This kind of ball will also be reliable on dry lanes, so you don’t need to think about the grease at all and can just focus on your throws instead.
Best Reactive Coverstock
Brunswick Rhino Bowling Ball
Reactive coverstocks really changed the game (pun intended) for bowlers because they allowed the ball manufacturers to create more variations and options in terms of the hook potential, radius of gyration, and more. This ball includes a solid reactive resin that’s pretty much the ideal standard for this type, so you can get a higher level of control for straight and hook throws.
High Friction Resin
The Rhino bowling ball from Brunswick uses its own formula for a solid reactive resin, which is made to help the ball achieve a smooth roll all the way down the lane. When you combine this with the 500 finish and high gloss buff, the ball is built to give you a strong friction without falling into specialty territory.
If the ball creates too much friction, it’s going to be harder for you to use in typical situations; it also requires a lot more effort to set up the angle of the hook so you can hit the pocket in the right spot at the start of each frame. The friction level on this ball is intended to give you a solid angle of entry on lanes with more oil, but not so much friction that you have to completely readjust your play style every time.
Smooth Backend Style
The higher friction that this ball can achieve also means that you can expect a smooth roll once it makes its way further down the lane. By combining a high gloss buff with a rougher buff, it creates a less even surface area that is able to pick up more oil in the lane and roll more than glide. The power and force of the ball is supposed to decrease somewhat in the first half of the lane, so that by the time it reaches the pins the ball is rolling smoothly and right in line with your angle. Balls that create less friction are more likely to glide and break in the backend, which can make it harder to hit the pocket and clear the pins without taking a lot of extra care to line up each throw.
Best High Gloss Polish Ball
Brunswick Tzone Deep Space
Even though the coverstock and core have a major influence on the performance of a ball, the polish also plays a serious role and isn’t something you should ignore. A high-gloss polish is going to work with the other features of the ball to give you a more reliable straight throw and a lot more distance before the ball hooks. That’s why this TZone model from Brunswick is my pick for the best high-gloss polish bowling ball.
Low Friction for Straighter Throws
This ball starts out with a polyester coverstock, which is designed to give you less friction on the lane and help decrease the likelihood of the ball breaking to either side after you throw it. Even with that type of coverstock, it’s not guaranteed to avoid hooks, which is why you need to find a ball with a high-gloss polish to help keep the friction down in different oil patterns.
Since this ball combines two different methods for decreasing friction, you can expect it to make it pretty far down the lane before hooking, if it does at all. If you struggle a lot with ten pin breaks, where you’re running dangerously close to landing in the gutter or missing the pins completely, then this is a bowling ball that will help you clear those pins.
Wide Range of Weights
I really like that this ball is available in an impressive array of weights, which make it a great choice for bowlers looking to pick up a ball for specific pin configurations. Sometimes you might want to go a bit lower in the weight so you can keep the ball spinning faster and stop it from hooking, which you can definitely do with this model. Also, if you’re looking for a reliable bowling ball for anyone who isn’t comfortable with a 16-pound ball, then you can find a wide range of options here so you can pick up the perfect ball for your needs.
Best Pancake Core
White Dot Bowling Ball
The pancake core is the traditional core style that’s been used in bowling balls for years and years, but that doesn’t mean its old-fashioned or outdated. The pancake design is dependable and versatile, making it the perfect choice for anyone with a lot of experience looking for a timeless ball or for a new bowler who wants an uncomplicated ball to help them focus on the fundamentals.
Better Frontend Performance
Bowling balls with a pancake core usually have a higher RG, which means that they are going to spin more slowly and thus keep at a lower and more consistent rotation throughout the lane. This means that you are more likely to see the ball decrease in its action as it travels through the first portion of the lane. By the time it reaches the backend, the ball’s momentum and gyration will usually have leveled out; this leaves it in prime position to hook based on the way you set up your throw.
That’s not to say that every ball with a pancake core is going to have a high hook potential, but simply that you’re going to see more performance play out in the closer sections of the lane.
Lower Track Flare
Track flare has to do with the amount a ball is going to move while it makes its way down the lane. Many bowlers look at track flare to figure out how much oil is in a lane and to create more complex strategies for dealing with the conditions throughout each frame. Pancake core bowling balls typically achieve a lower track flare because of the way the single weight sits within the ball; most significantly in that it makes the ball less likely to spin at a faster rate.
All of this comes down to figuring out how much you want the ball to break or hook once it hits the middle of the lane, where it first comes into contact with higher amounts of grease. When you want a ball that is made to stick to its course and not migrate too much on its way to the pins, then this is definitely the ball I would recommend.
Best Symmetric Core
Pyramid Path Rising Bowling Ball
A bowling ball with a symmetric core is going to give you a more even spin and roll down the lane, as well as give you more options when it comes to drilling your finger holes. This ball is designed to give you performance that you can count on, particularly when dealing with lanes that have a medium amount of dryness.
The core type plays a major role is how a bowling ball rolls (this time no pun intended), since the shape and geometry have a direct relationship to its movements. Unlike other types of core designs, which feature shapes and sizes that can skew towards one point or area inside the ball, this model from Pyramid has a completely symmetrical design that is meant to keep a strong balance in the weight and RG.
You can also find a Pearl coverstock on this ball along with a 1500-grit finish, both of which help to reduce the friction and keep the ball from soaking up too much of the oil as it travels down the lane. All of this means that since the ball is going to make it into the backend before it starts to break to either side, you can use more intricate trajectories in your throws.
More Drilling Options
Believe it or not, the way you drill the finger holes can have a noticeable impact on the ball’s performance. Depending on how you have the holes set up, you can tailor this ball to give you more hook potential or a stronger backend. This ball is designed to give you options so you can create the perfect ball for your style and needs, which in turn gives you more options and more ways to improve your overall game. Since this model has a symmetrical core that doesn’t take up an uneven amount of space, you don’t have to worry about how you will affect it’s spin and power with any type of drilling configuration.
Best High Hook Potential
Hammer Black Widow Legend
Once you get a few games under your belt, you’ll start to get a feel for your play style and how tricky it can be to deal with different oil patterns or to compensate for tricky splits. This is where the hooking technique really comes into play, which means you’re going to need a ball that works with you to hit the perfect arch. This ball is made to be used for throwing hooks, and is a great choice for anyone already familiar with the technique.
Built for Reliable Hooks
There’s actually a lot that goes into throwing a hook, but a lot of it has to do with the exterior. This ball has a hybrid coverstock to allow for more control in medium and heavy oil lanes. I was surprised to learn that it’s the first ball in the line to use a hybrid coverstock, since Hammer has typically shied away from this option. The Black Widow Legend is clearly made to be a step up from its classic model, since the ball also includes a factory polish specially crafted to increase friction on the oiled portion of the lane to allow the ball to break more consistently and predictably. It’s important to note that this type of ball can be a bit much for beginners, since the high hook potential can lead to inadvertent hooking on shots where a straight throw would be better.
Powerful Backend Movement
Another factor that contributes to the hook potential of this ball is its unique Gas Mask core design, which literally resembles the shape of a gas mask. While a gas mask core on a ball called the Black Widow might seem like a gimmick meant to do little more than intimidate opponents (which can definitely happen, since the ball has a very striking look), it’s actually made with some serious math behind it. This core combines elements of symmetrical and asymmetrical core designs to give it a radius of gyration of 2.50 and a differential of 0.058 RG, both of which allow it to build up speed quickly and efficiently, so you can see some serious backend movement when the ball breaks. This type of power is what makes people call this an “aggressive” ball, as it’s made to deliver major power with more complex shots.
Best Low Hook Potential
Brunswick T-Zone Pink Bliss
While a high hook potential can help more skilled players, beginners and those with a more straightforward playing style may want a ball with a low hook potential. This means that the ball is more likely to stick with a straight throw rather than break to the side once it hits the backend of the lane. Balls with low hook potential are also great for use in specific situations when you need to rely on the exact path of your throw.
Straight Shooting Design
This ball has a lot of features that help decrease its hook potential without getting in the way of its overall performance. One major feature is its polyester (also called plastic in some situations, though it means the same thing) coverstock, which is much less porous than reactive and urethane materials.
Since the coverstock has a more uniform cover, it doesn’t absorb the oils in the lane and thus also achieves less friction when it spins. The ball is less likely to break at the backend, so you can trust that it’s going to stick with the trajectory of your throw all the way down.
Perfect for Spares or Children
A lot of bowlers like to choose this type of ball for picking up spares, which is when you have a few stray pins left after your first throw. Since you don’t need to worry about hitting the pocket in the right way on spares, you can rely on the low hook potential to send the ball straight for the stragglers and snag those extra points with less effort. Picking up spares with a ball that has a high hook potential is actually much harder, because you need to compensate for the curve and make sure you don’t end up missing the pins altogether due to the break.
Low hook potential bowling balls are also great for children, since they won’t break unexpectedly and cause them to miss pins or land in the gutter. For that reason, this ball is available in lower weights, which are easier for children to handle.
Best Rubberized Bowling Ball
Champion Sports 3-Pounds Plastic Rubberized
In case you’re thinking that this bowling ball would make an odd choice down on the lanes, don’t worry, because it’s not meant for your local alley. This type of bowling ball is for use at home in your backyard, so you can get in some extra practice on your form without worrying about how a heavy ball could cause any damage. It’s also the perfect ball to help teach children before they step up to the lanes.
Great for At-Home Practicing
Bowling at home with kids using a traditional bowling ball, even one of the six-pound options, can quickly become dangerous, since they could hurt themselves or someone else. That’s why this lightweight ball is perfect for use at home. It’s not hard like a regular bowling ball, so you don’t have to worry about it breaking a fence or anything like that.
This model isn’t going to completely represent what you would experience at the lanes, but it will help you show your kids how to hold the ball and use the proper follow-through from the comfort of your own home.
Predrilled for Immediate Use
Unlike a traditional bowling ball that needs to have custom finger holes drilled for whoever is using it, this ball comes with a standard configuration of finger holes already set up. This allows you to start teaching your kids, or anyone else, right away. The holes are designed to work with all ages, so younger children and adults should be able to grip it and throw it comfortably.
This ball still weighs about three pounds, so it’s heavy enough to give whoever uses it a rough idea of what bowling is like, but still light enough to make it easy to use without a lot of extra practice and struggle.
There you have it. My picks for the best bowling balls for anyone from a beginner to a league legend. I hope that you were able to learn more about all the differences and little nuances that come with choosing a bowling ball, and hopefully you already know exactly what type you want. If not, please make sure to check out the other pages I put together, which offer more tips and advice on how to choose the best bowling ball for your situation. Best of luck and happy bowling!