Understanding Hook Potential in a Bowling Ball


Hook potential is one of the most interesting and challenging aspects of bowling, and it all comes down to the type of ball you use. It’s definitely a more advanced technique, but certainly one that every bowler should be aware of when shopping for a new ball. Read on to learn more about what hook potential actually means, what factors influence it, and how to tell how much potential you want in a ball.

High Hook Potential Explained

High hook potential means that the bowling ball is more likely to change direction and enter into an arching motion as it moves closer to the pins. A ball with a high hook potential is typically going to break sooner – often once it reaches the middle of the lane – and can have a broad or narrow angle depending on a variety of factors. Playing with a ball that has a high hook potential allows you to hit the pocket (which is a specific area on the right or left of the pins) in different ways, which gives you more control over how to knock the pins down and increases your chances of getting a strike.

Low Hook Potential Explained

As you might expect, low hook potential means the opposite of high hook potential, in that the ball is less likely to break as it travels down the lane. Bowling balls with a low hook potential are going to travel in more of a straight line, which can have some distinct advantages in several situations. Many novice bowlers tend to use balls with a low hook potential because they are easier to handle and don’t require the additional work to control the angles right away. Also, balls with a low hook potential are a common choice when a bowler wants to pick up a spare. Since the ball travels in a straight line, the bowler can target the spare pins more accurately and thus complete each frame with a higher score.

The Impact of Friction

Whether a ball has a high or low hook potential depends primarily on how much friction it has when rolling down the lane. The more friction a ball has, the more it is going to break on the backend when it comes into contact with the parts of the lane that have a higher concentration of grease. Without getting into too much of the science behind it, the friction controls whether or not the ball rolls or glides on different parts of the lane. Rolling once it hits the middle means it’s more likely to break off into an arc, while gliding means it’s going to keep its momentum and keep going in a straight line.

The type of coverstock on the ball plays the biggest role in determining how much friction it will have on the lane. Polyester exteriors are hard and much less porous than other materials, so the oil on the lane doesn’t penetrate it to influence its motion. Instead, the ball is more likely to glide on the slippery parts of the lane and keep its initial trajectory.

Reactive resin coverstocks, such as solid or Pearl resin, are going to have more friction because of the surface area that is created. The balls pick up the oil on the lane and are able to roll through it, breaking off into the hooking motion that gives the phenomenon its name. Pearl resin creates less friction than solid resin, though both create much more than polyester.

Influence of Grit and Polish

Once you move beyond the coverstock material, you also need to think about the grit rating and polish type on the ball. Most balls come with a factory polish that is meant to stay pretty general so that it can appeal to players with a wide range of styles and skill levels. High gloss polishes are going to give you much less friction, since they keep the ball smooth and able to glide. Low grit ratings mean the ball is rougher and will build up more traction to grip the lane more than a ball with a high grit rating.

You can use special pads to increase or decrease the grit and polish, to create more or less friction so that you can control when and how the ball breaks in the backend. Still, it’s best to choose a ball that already has a grit rating that’s closer to what you want so that you don’t have to modify the exterior too much to get the right friction level.

Radius of Gyration

The final, and more subtle, factor that influences the hook potential of a bowling ball is the radius of gyration. This can definitely be confusing for new bowlers, not to mention experienced ones who never bothered to learn about it, but it basically comes down to how quickly the ball starts spinning as it rolls. A ball with a high radius of gyration is going to start spinning at a slower pace, meaning that it’s going to break into an arc further down the lane. A low radius of gyration is going to spin more quickly as it rolls, so that it breaks sooner and essentially has a wider hook.

Making the Final Choice

When it comes down to it, a bowling ball with a low hook potential is the best choice for anyone who is still learning the game, wants a basic ball to use for casual games, or needs an option specifically for picking up spares. If you’re working on more advanced techniques and want to take your game to the next level, then you’re going to want to explore the higher hook potential balls. Just remember, don’t go too high at first. Give yourself some time to get to know the differences and build up to more challenging balls.