Do you have a Urethane ball in your bag?

Posted by Ronald Hickland on

Urethane was the popular coverstock choice in the 80’s.  It hooked earlier than polyester coverstocks and was more durable.

That technology began to fade once Reactive Resin bowling balls became popular in the 90’s.  Reactive Resin was longer and more angular, it wasn’t as durable, but that was the price you paid for the added performance.  The truth is, reactive resin balls are actually urethane based with a liquid additive called plasticizer.  This additive gives the ball the ability to absorb and it changes the texture of the coverstock.  Reactive Resin technology hasn’t changed much in the last 20 years and neither has the lane surface. However, there have been changes in lane machines and oil types.  Even so, the bowling balls of past still have their place in today's game.

Last year, I was at the USBC National Tournament in El Paso. Here is a picture of the lane pattern that was used in the Singles and Doubles Event.  This pattern is very flat as noted by the Track Zone Ratio of 1.86. That means the oil was evenly distributed across the lane.  The higher the ratio the easier the lane pattern is.  A typical house shot Track Zone Ration is 6.

We discovered during competition that his best reaction in that environment came from a Urethane ball.  Why, you ask?   Because on this type of lane condition, the more angular your ball is, the more you have to throw it perfect to strike.  Any miss in ball speed, rev rate, or launch angle means a hard spare combination or worse, A SPLIT to shoot at.

When drilled properly, urethane balls hook early in the midlane and are smooth down lane. This ball motion is called  Traction.  This motion helps to keep you out of trouble when accuracy is priority.

It’s always a game of give and take.  This strategy is no different. When you have this ball motion, you lose the ability to create angle and as a result you will leave more flat corner pins. Even with that being said, there can be a place for urethane balls in the tournament bowler’s arsenal. When you are on a flat pattern, having a urethane can be the difference between having a chance or flat out bowling terribly.


One of the biggest challenges of throwing urethane is how you move on the lanes when the lanes transition.  I explained to him that he needed to make parallel moves like a 1 and 1 or 2 and 2.  With reactive resin balls, you typically make bigger moves like a 5 and 3.  The reason you have to make parallel moves is that the urethane ball has to hook early or it’s not hooking at all.  If you move right and try to open your angle with a urethane ball, all of the hook is used up trying to get the ball to recover from being pitched out.  A parallel move in allows the ball to see more oil because with Urethane oil isn’t absorbed into the ball so it stays on the lane longer. This pushes your ball down the lane further before it hooks and thus keeps you in the pocket.  You also need to wipe your ball off with an oil free microfiber towel every shot.  Without doing this, your ball reaction will lessen and get weaker. If you don’t use a towel you are giving up reaction.

In the end we both were able to see the benefit of having a Urethane ball in today’s game if you are a competitive bowler.  Performance Layouts for urethane balls are different than that of reactive resin balls.  If you would like more information, we can set up an arsenal review. #Education is #CreatingTheDifference


  • I’m having trouble getting to the pocket with my reactive resin ball, years ago I had consistently higher scores with the urethane ball. I’m considering buying a urethane ball to try, but not sure if I should. Any advice you can give and knowing there are many variables will be greatly appreciated ! Thanks

    James Pollard on

  • Urethane does seem to hook immediately if I roll it with my normal, 3/4 release with. 45 degree axis tilt. I’ve seen videos recently online showing a fellow using a full roller release with excellent effect, when rolling urethane.

    Does old school urethane, even he modern re-made versions, also require an old-school release in order to maximize its effectiveness, or can urethane be effectively used with a modern release?

    And please keep in mind, I’m a one-handed, I don’t have the revs or axis tilt of a PBA or PWBA professional, I use an adjustable wrist support and am slightly speed dominant.



    Joe Hoenig on

  • Good advice. Gonna try it tonight on my challenge shot (Mark Roth short)

    Jonnie Hollywood on

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