Urethane: Evolution, Revolution, or Devolution?

There’s been a big move to bring back Urethane recently. So what’s the hype about?
For those of us who did not grow up in the Urethane era, it represents a completely different reaction than you see today. The reality is urethane was a revolution from plastic/rubber and reactive resin was a revolution from urethane. Each new technology attacked the lane condition more aggressively than before. Watch some old PBA shows from the mid to late 80s and you’ll see Urethane in action. Plug for ESPN Classic 🙂 For the first time, bowlers where ‘swinging’ the ball out to the channel and back to the pocket. Over time, the volume of oil was increased to combat this affect. Of course, manufacturers came up with a new way to attack the condition, hence the reactive equipment.
More and more aggressive reactive balls:
Oil viscosity and volume continued to change but bowling balls kept getting more aggressive to ‘bite’. The reactive balls were gliding in oil and gripping harder in dry.
What does that mean?
We measure this as reaction time. In other words, how does the ball react when it encounters oil and when it encounters dry. Generally speaking, reactive balls hardly react to oil but react very quickly to dry. That’s when you see big hook on the backend. The ball is storing it’s energy for the pins by not gripping in the oil. Look out for balls being so continuous off the deck that we start to have new leaves. 9 pins for righties were not as big an issue in the earlier days. Now, these reactive balls just drive right past the 9 pin.
What does Urethane do?
As a predecessor to reactive balls, urethane reacted earlier in oil and moderately when it encountered oil. The backend reaction is much smoother than we are used to seeing in the modern game.
Why bring it back?
Well, that’s a good question. Depending on what part of the country you are in, you will experience different volumes of oil. Here on the east coast, THS is generally medium to light. The current crop of reactive balls are so aggressive that some bowlers struggle with carry and holding a line to the pocket. That’s either because the oil volume is so low and short that the ball reads early and rolls out or the ball simply bites too hard and goes through the nose. Because the bowling balls have become so aggressive, almost too aggressive, I think it’s a great idea to bring Urethane back. Urethane will simply put, not jump off the dry.
I was. I thought there are so many bowling balls out there from strong to mild, why go to urethane. And why spend modern day money on old school technology? I will tell you why…Control! There is no reactive ball on the market that offers the same control as a Urethane ball. Since it reacts slowly to the dry, you get a nice controllable arc. If you are good at reading the lane condition, you will see how much easier it is to do with a urethane ball.
Can you strike with it?
Absolutely! I am not suggesting to take it out on a high or medium volume shot. However, on a broken down house shot, 3rd game of 1st shift or 2nd shift, these balls are money. You do have to learn how to bowl with them. It doesn’t mean a complete revamp of your game. You just need to see and understand what the ball does and the adjustments you can make with it. I jumped in and it took all but one game to figure out how to use it. These newer urethane balls have performance cores and are able to transfer energy to the pins fairly well.
Staying out of trouble
Another reason to have it in the bag is to help you stay out of trouble. You know when every piece of equipment in your bag is either too much or too little. You go from splits to washouts. Take a urethane ball out and ‘go for 9’. You will be amazed how much safer you will be. Instead of ruining a set with a 150 game, you will save it with a deuce. You may even surprise yourself and throw more strikes than you expected. I know I did. I’m averaging well into the 220s when I take my Urethane ball out of the bag.
Who’s throwing it?
Well, look no further than the PBA tour. Urethane has been used several times on a couple of telecasts this year. And these guys had no trouble carrying. Go back and watch Ryan Ciminelli and Rhino Page earlier this year. For those of you have seen the telecasts, yes, Ryan left several 7 pins, but they were almost all ringers. The fact of the matter is the urethane ball kept them both in the pocket all game long, whenever they used it. Look at the scores to see how well they did.

Bringing urethane back now is a good evolution of the game, no question. Look for more articles about urethane in the near future.

2 thoughts on “Urethane: Evolution, Revolution, or Devolution?”

  1. I have 4 urethane balls that I use frequently. In order of oil handling capability they are #1 AMF Hype #2 Seismic Desperado #3 Storm Natural #4 Visionary Amulet Glow. I am highly rev dominant, and urethane has become my best friend! The Desperado and the Natural are usually the first two out of the bag. I would say the Desperado is my benchmark ball. The other two handle opposite extremes. In general, urethane works well on dry backends or a hard wall. When the reactives jump too hard if I miss slightly right to the dry, the urethane smoothly arcs to the pocket. As far as transitions go, there are many nights I only have to move 2-3 boards at the dots to stay in the pocket. What urethane does NOT like is carry down. When I can’t get through it or around it with one of my 4 urethanes, I switch to reactives. The Hype was/is the strongest of the 4 by far. I could not use it in box finish. I fixed that with 1/2 hour on a spinner with Powerhouse Extender Polish, then Brunswick High Gloss Factory Finish, then when that wasn’t enough, a coat of Powerhouse Delayed Reaction. It is STILL the strongest, but fits nicely in the progression now. I have not been able to duplicate the reaction the urethanes give me with any layout or surface prep on a reactive!

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