THE STRIKE ZONE / Scott Bailey

April/May 1998

Recently-released bowling ballsó
a mini-review

The bowling ball manufacturers have been in full gear during the first quarter, so I thought it appropriate to review a few of the balls released in the last few months. After testing many of the new products available, I have only one word: Wow! Is it just me, or do some of these new balls have tiny explosive devices in their shells? The power of todayís bowling equipment simply boggles the mind.

I donít necessarily mean that these new balls hook more than their predecessors, but their hitting power is unbelievable. Bowlers who used to have trouble carrying the 5-pin now throw double messengers across the lane. It really is quite amazing.

The reason for this is twofold. First, the reactive coverstocks today are considerably more aggressive than those of 1995. This increase in friction allows the ball surface to adhere much better to the lane surface, producing a stronger roll. Secondly, core technology has improved significantly with the advent of super-dense inner cores. High-density compounds such as tungsten, titanium, bismuth graphite, and ferrous oxide are being used by the manufacturers to create very low Rg, high-revving core designs that also are fairly stable and easy to control. Hats off to these chemists and engineers for creating such powerful and versatile equipment.

Below is a mini-review of a few of these new behemoths. While reading this review, it is important to remember that if you canít "read" your ball reaction or hit the pocket consistently, it doesnít matter how powerful your new ball is. These products are designed to accentuate a given bowlerís talentónot increase it. To take full advantage of this equipment, the bowler must be able to repeat shots. By this, I mean that the bowler must maintain consistent trajectory, ball speed, rotation, and leverage. Without these, all a new ball will do is make you $200 poorer.

These products are designed to accentuate
a given bowlerís talentónot
increase it.
To take full advantage of this equipment,
the bowler must be able to repeat shots.

Also, the reaction characteristics discussed below are based on a talented 210-average bowler throwing the ball. Individual results may vary according to the physical skills of each particular person. Just because Pete Weber makes his new Storm Bolt hook 20 boards, it does not necessarily mean the ball will do the same for you.

With that said, off we go!


Storm Bolt Series

This highly anticipated line of balls from Storm has made quite an impact in the bowling scene this year. Pete Weber has won a PBA title with this line, and several local bowlers, including Eric Holten and Charlie Jenkins, have been shooting big numbers with their's.

In the metro area, Storm bowling balls seem to have a cult following. By this, I mean that most people who own a Storm ball ultimately will buy nothing but Storm. Although Storm Products is much smaller than the "Big Three" manufacturers, its customer base is very loyal. This is due, Iím sure, to the many quality bowling balls it has produced in the last several years, and the Bolt series is no exception.

The Green Pearl Bolt has a low Rg, high differential two-piece core design. Combined with its highly aggressive coverstock, this ball is the biggest hooking pearlized ball that I have ever seen, the Triton Heat notwithstanding. For those of you who have thrown the original Firestorm and wished that it had a stronger back-end reaction, the Bolt Pearl is for you. On local lane conditions, this ball has medium length, a violent transition, and strong arcing characteristics. This is due to its medium torque, high flare core design.

This ball seems to work best in the transitional period of lane breakdown. On fresh lane conditions, it will probably skid too far and be too jumpy on the back-end. Once head oil breakdown forces you to move inside, the Bolt Pearl combines above-average length with one of the strongest back-end moves around.


Storm Bolt Pro

I guess the people at Storm recognized that the Bolt had its limitations, so they released a complement to this series, the Bolt Pro. This ball takes off where the original Bolt suffers: fresh lane conditions. By fresh, I mean heavy oil in the heads with very dry back-ends, similar to a first shift league lane condition. On these types of conditions, the original Bolt tended to overreact. The Bolt Pro is more stable and controllable, significantly reducing the over/under effect on these types of conditions.

This is not to say that this ball is weak by any standard. The core design is also low Rg, and still retains fairly large track flare. In short, this ball can and will hookóa lot. What makes it so good is that it tends to hook in a controllable arcing fashion, making it less sensitive to the sharp oil lines on the lane.

If you are a Storm person, I recommend getting the Bolt Pro for early-shift conditions. When the head oil breaks down, change to the Bolt Pearl and move inside to take advantage of its powerful back-end hooking action.


Ebonite Timberwolf

The biggest knock on Eboniteís high-performance Wolf line of balls over the past two years was that it was inconsistent. It seemed that these balls would slide too far when polished and hook too early when sanded. With the introduction of the Sea Wolf, Ebonite made a significant move in the right direction. This ball had very few equals when it came to bowling on "burnt" head lane conditions. The Sea Wolf has excellent length, a controlled strong arc, and good hitting power. Since the introduction of the Sea Wolf though, Ebonite has been searching for a coverstock and core design package that would take off when the lanes were heavily oiled. They have succeeded with the new Timberwolf.

The Timberwolf, the latest and greatest in the Wolf line, is a Wolf by name only. This ball features a new coverstock formulation called SuperTack© and a new core design featuring a super-dense tungsten nugget that is offset from the large outer core. This ball also features a B.O.M.B, the Balls Offset Mass Bias locator pin. Positioning this locator pin in different locations relative to a bowlerís track and axis point will greatly enhance the reaction characteristics of the ball. A knowledgeable pro shop technician, armed with this new technology, can give the bowler reaction characteristics not available in previous models.

Overall, the core is a very low Rg, very high differential design providing and early aggressive roll with the largest hooking action available today (tested on local lane conditions only). This ball works best on fresh, heavily-oiled lane surfaces with moderate to heavy carrydown. Although when polished and using a low flare layout this ball can work on drier lanes, it is designed to be used when other balls simply slide past the break point.

All in all, the ball is an oil monster, a must for tournament players who donít generate strong leverage and rotation. This is best oil ball that Ebonite has ever produced.


Tour Boss

Columbia, along with other things, has the best marketing division in bowling. The person who conceived the idea of the TiCor™, or titanium core, should be given a medal. Given the popularity of titanium golf clubs, it was only natural that a bowling company would jump on and ride the wave of titanium mystique.

In fact, Columbiaís Boss line, known for its titanium inner core, really isnít pure titanium. The core is actually made of a titanium ceramic alloy. This is because the American Bowling Congress strictly prohibits the use of metal in a bowling ball. "Whatís the big deal then?" you ask. It is that the titanium alloy allows Columbiaís engineers to make their patented Ceramicore™ significantly more dense than ever before. This lowers the Rg of the entire core and allows the ball to rev up faster and more predictably.

The original Boss is a fantastic condition ball, well suited to players with strong axis rotation on wet/dry or fresh lane conditions. Due to the very low Rg core and the mild reactive coverstock, the original Boss is one of the best control balls on the market. However, Columbia saw the limitations of this ball and decided to release a complement. Enter the Tour Boss.

The Tour Boss features a redesigned outer core, which slightly increases both the Rg and differential Rg of the ball as compared to the original Boss. They also added a slightly more aggressive shell. These two factors create a ball reaction similar to the original Boss but with an increase in length and back-end hook. This makes the Tour Boss perfect when the heads begin to break down and the original Boss begins to hook too early.

As a side note, Strike Zone Staff member Jim Colley averaged almost 260 for the first six games he used the Tour Boss. It would seem this ball already has performed a miracle.


Speed Demon Zone

I assume the people at Brunswick know what theyíre doing, but isnít this like the 50th Zone ball to reach the market? The name must still be fairly popular. In any case, this new Zone features the same reaction characteristics that have made the Zone line one of the most popular in history.

Zones, with a few exceptions, always have been known for their fairly early roll and strong hook/set ball reaction. In fact, the original Danger Zone revolutionized the reactive ball industry for that very reason. This new Zone is no exception.

Arriving on the heels of the Speed Zone series, the Speed Demon features a slightly earlier roll and more even arcing back-end reaction than the Blue Speed Zone. This ball most closely resembles the reaction of the earlier Defense Zone in that it tends to be fairly controllable while also being aggressive in nature.

If you have liked your other Zones, than this ball should work for you. However, donít expect it to be radically different from any of the other Zones to hit the market recently.


Iím sure that by the time you read this review, there probably will be 10 new balls on the market.

The balls listed above, however, represent the best of the new technology available today. It is important to remember that the best ball is the one you throw the most strikes with and that newer does not always mean better. No ball on the market will work if it is used on lane conditions that are incorrect for its design parameters.

See you next time.

Scott Bailey operates The Strike Zone Professional Bowling Store in Vienna.