Bowling balls come in three main types of surfaces: polyester, urethane and reactive resin. Polyester, also referred to as plastic, is a very hard non-porous material. Polyester bowling balls go very straight and typically are used for house balls, small kids, recreational bowlers and as a spare ball (for rolling straight at spares). Urethane creates more friction than polyester and is a good entry level ball to develop a hook. It is also popular for higher rev players and lane conditions that favor the extreme outside part of the lane. Reactive resin is available in many different levels from entry level to the highest performance bowling balls. There are three classifications of reactive resin bowling balls: Solid, Pearl and Hybrid. Solid creates the most friction, pearl the least and hybrids are in the middle. More friction equates to more hooking potential.
Bowlers can alter the surface of a bowling ball using sanding pads and polish. This means that two bowling balls that are made the same can have very different reactions as they go down the lane. A ball that is altered with a sanding pad will grab the lane and hook sooner than a ball that is polished.
Sanding pads, called Abralon pads, are used to alter the surface of a bowling ball. The more course the sanding pad, the rougher the surface and the sooner the ball will start to hook. The less course the sanding pad, the smoother the surface and the later the ball will start to hook.
Sanding pads define their abrasiveness by “grit”. The higher the grit, the less abrasive the pad is (not as course), the lower the grit the more abrasive the pad is (more course). When a bowling ball approved polish is applied to a bowling ball, the surface will be much smoother causing the ball to hook farther down lane.
Without question, the surface of the bowling is the most important component of the ball.