You are currently viewing When to Use Urethane Bowling Balls: The Ultimate Guide for Pro Performance

When to Use Urethane Bowling Balls: The Ultimate Guide for Pro Performance

  • Reading time:12 mins read

For any serious bowler, having the right equipment is crucial for success on the lanes. One type of bowling ball that often gets overlooked is the urethane ball.

While reactive resin and particle balls have gained immense popularity over the years, urethane balls still hold a special place in the arsenal of many skilled bowlers.

Understanding when to use urethane bowling balls can give you a significant advantage, allowing you to adapt to various lane conditions and unlock your full potential.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the unique properties of urethane balls and dive deep into the scenarios where they shine, helping you make informed decisions about when to reach for your trusty urethane arsenal.

What are Urethane Bowling Balls?

Urethane bowling balls are characterized by their unique coverstock material, which is a type of reactive plastic. Unlike the more modern reactive resin and particle balls, urethane balls have a different chemical composition that gives them distinct characteristics on the lanes.

History of Urethane Coverstock:

The urethane coverstock was first introduced in the late 1970s and quickly gained popularity among professional bowlers and serious amateurs.

Before the advent of reactive resin coverstocks, urethane balls were considered the pinnacle of performance, offering a level of traction and control that was unmatched by traditional plastic balls.

Characteristics of Urethane Balls:

  • Traction: Urethane balls are known for their exceptional traction on the lanes, especially on drier and more demanding conditions. This traction allows for increased control and predictability during the shot.
  • Longevity: One of the standout features of urethane balls is their longevity. Unlike reactive resin balls, which can lose their surface roughness and hooking potential over time, urethane balls maintain their performance characteristics for a longer period.
  • Reaction on Different Lane Conditions: Urethane balls tend to react differently on various lane conditions compared to other coverstocks. They excel on drier lanes and can be a valuable asset when faced with challenging or burnt/broken-down lane patterns.

Differences between Urethane and Other Coverstocks:

  • Reactive Resin: Reactive resin balls are designed for maximum hooking potential and are the go-to choice for many bowlers on fresh or medium oil patterns.
  • Particle/Pearl: These balls feature a pearlized or particle coverstock that blends the characteristics of reactive resin and urethane, offering a balance between hooking potential and control.
  • Plastic: Plastic balls are the most basic and oldest type of bowling ball. They offer a straight trajectory and are often used for spares or as a benchmark for understanding lane conditions.

Lane Conditions Suitable for Urethane Balls

One of the primary reasons to choose a urethane bowling ball is the lane condition you’re facing. Urethane balls excel in specific situations, and understanding these conditions can help you make the right choice.

Dry Lanes: Urethane balls are often the go-to choice for dry lane conditions. When the lanes are depleted of oil and become increasingly dry, reactive resin and particle balls may struggle to maintain their hooking potential. This is where urethane balls shine.

Benefits of Using Urethane on Dry Lanes:

  • Control: Urethane balls offer exceptional control on dry lanes, allowing you to make precise adjustments and hit your targets consistently.
  • Predictability: The consistent reaction of urethane balls on dry lanes makes them highly predictable, enabling you to develop a reliable and repeatable shot.

Burnt/Broken-Down Lanes: Another scenario where urethane balls excel is on burnt or broken-down lane conditions. As the oil pattern deteriorates and the lanes become increasingly challenging, urethane balls can provide the traction and control needed to navigate these demanding conditions.

How Urethane Reacts on Burnt/Broken-Down Lanes:

  • Traction: The high traction of urethane balls allows them to maintain their hooking potential even on heavily burnt or broken-down lanes.
  • Control: When the lanes become unpredictable, the controlled motion of urethane balls can help you stay consistent and avoid excessive over/under reactions.

Playing Style and Skill Level

Your playing style and skill level can also influence when to use urethane bowling balls. Different types of bowlers may benefit from urethane in various situations.

Straight Shooters and Strokers:

For bowlers who prefer a straighter line and have lower rev rates, urethane balls can be an excellent choice. These balls are known for their predictable and controllable motion, making them ideal for players who rely on accuracy and repeatability.

Why Urethane is a Good Choice for Straight Shooters:

  • Controlled Motion: Urethane balls tend to have a more controlled and predictable motion compared to high-revving reactive resin balls, suiting the straight shooters’ style.
  • Consistency: The consistent reaction of urethane balls on various lane conditions allows straight shooters to maintain their line and execute their shots with precision.

Higher Rev Rate and Crankers:

While urethane balls are often associated with straight shooters, they can also benefit bowlers with higher rev rates in certain situations. For crankers (bowlers with high rev rates and aggressive release styles), urethane balls can provide a valuable alternative when reactive resin balls become too aggressive or unpredictable.

When Urethane Can Benefit Higher Rev Rate Players:

  • Demanding Conditions: On challenging or burnt/broken-down lane patterns, urethane balls can offer the control and predictability needed for crankers to maintain their line and avoid excessive over/under reactions.
  • Complementing Arsenal: Adding a urethane ball to their arsenal can give crankers another option to complement their reactive resin balls, allowing them to adapt to different lane conditions more effectively.

Tournament and Sport Patterns

Urethane bowling balls are often a popular choice among competitive bowlers when facing challenging tournament or Sport patterns. These patterns are designed to test a bowler’s versatility and skill, making urethane a valuable asset in these situations.

Urethane’s Performance on Sport/Challenge Patterns:

Sport or Challenge patterns are known for their demanding oil patterns, which can include flat areas, heavy volumes, or challenging transitions. These patterns are commonly used in professional tournaments and elite amateur events.

Why Urethane is a Popular Choice for Sport Patterns:

  • Control and Predictability: The controlled motion and predictable reaction of urethane balls make them ideal for navigating the demanding transitions and intricate oil patterns found in Sport conditions.
  • Longevity: As Sport patterns break down and become more challenging throughout a tournament, urethane balls maintain their performance characteristics, giving bowlers a consistent and reliable option.

Flat and Low-Volume Patterns:

In addition to Sport patterns, urethane balls can also excel on flatter and lower-volume oil patterns. These conditions can be challenging for reactive resin and particle balls, as they may struggle to create the desired hook or shape.

How Urethane Reacts on Flat and Low-Volume Patterns:

  • Traction: The exceptional traction of urethane balls allows them to maintain their hooking potential even on flatter and lower-volume patterns.
  • Control: On these types of patterns, where precision is key, urethane balls offer the control needed to hit targets consistently and avoid over/under reactions.

Complementing Your Arsenal

While urethane bowling balls have their strengths, they should not be viewed as a one-size-fits-all solution. Building a balanced arsenal that includes urethane balls alongside reactive resin and particle balls can give you a significant advantage by allowing you to adapt to various lane conditions more effectively.

Building a Balanced Arsenal with Urethane:

  • Choosing the Right Urethane Ball: When selecting a urethane ball to complement your arsenal, consider factors such as your playing style, rev rate, and the types of lane conditions you typically face.
  • Determining When to Switch: Throughout a bowling session, pay close attention to how your current ball is reacting on the lanes. If you notice excessive over/under reactions or a loss of control, it may be time to switch to your urethane ball for a more predictable and controlled motion.

Maintaining and Caring for Urethane Balls

To ensure your urethane bowling balls perform at their best and maintain their longevity, proper care and maintenance are essential. Here are some tips for maintaining and caring for your urethane balls:

Cleaning and Resurfacing Urethane Balls:

  • Regular Cleaning: After each use, clean your urethane ball with a ball cleaner designed specifically for urethane coverstocks. This will remove any dirt, oil, or debris that can affect the ball’s performance.
  • Resurfacing: Over time, the surface of your urethane ball may become dull or develop scratches. Consider having it resurfaced by a professional to restore its original texture and improve its traction on the lanes.

Applying Polish or Compound:

  • Polish or Compound: Some bowlers prefer to use a polish or compound on their urethane balls to enhance their performance. However, it’s important to use products specifically designed for urethane coverstocks, as using the wrong products can damage the ball.
  • Instructions: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully when applying polish or compound to your urethane ball. Improper application can lead to inconsistent or unexpected reactions on the lanes.

Storing and Transporting Urethane Balls:

  • Storage: When not in use, store your urethane balls in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight or extreme temperatures. This will help prevent the coverstock from drying out or cracking.
  • Transportation: When transporting your urethane balls, use a dedicated ball bag or case to protect them from scratches, dents, or other damage.


Urethane bowling balls are a unique and valuable addition to any serious bowler’s arsenal. While they may not be the flashiest or most aggressive balls on the market, their controlled motion, predictable reaction, and longevity make them indispensable in certain situations.

Understanding when to use urethane bowling balls can give you a significant advantage on the lanes. Whether you’re facing dry or burnt/broken-down conditions, navigating challenging Sport patterns, or simply seeking more control and consistency in your game, urethane balls can be the perfect solution.

Remember, building a balanced arsenal that includes urethane, reactive resin, and particle balls is key to ensuring you have the right tool for every lane condition. Don’t be afraid to experiment and find the urethane ball that complements your playing style and skill level.

Proper care and maintenance are also crucial for ensuring your urethane balls perform at their best for years to come. By following the guidelines for cleaning, resurfacing, and storing your urethane balls, you can maximize their longevity and ensure consistent performance shot after shot.

Ultimately, the decision of when to use urethane bowling balls lies in your hands. Embrace the unique characteristics of these balls, and don’t be afraid to reach for them when the situation calls for control, predictability, and a reliable reaction on the lanes. With practice and experience, you’ll develop a keen understanding of when urethane balls can give you the edge you need to take your game to new heights.