The United States Bowling Congress announced today that it is excluding six balls made by Storm from use in national tournaments because of their hardness levels.
Storm and the USBC entered into an agreement on the exclusions after a USBC investigation showed a percentage of the balls measuring below the required USBC minimum 73D hardness specification, the organization said.
The six balls excluded include Storm’s Phaze 4, Electrify Solid, and Trend 2, 900 Globals’s Altered Reality, and Wolverine, and the Roto Grip UFO Alert.
The balls listed will no longer be allowed in national USBC tournaments such as the USBC Masters, U.S. Open Championships, USBC Women’s Championships, all PWBA Tour events, USBC Junior Gold and Youth Open Championships, USBC Intercollegiate Championships, USBC Team USA Trials, USBC Senior Masters and USBC Senior Queens events after March 30, the organization said.
While the balls remain “approved” by the USBC, it will be up to the regional and local USBC leagues and tournaments to decide if they are allowed in those events, the organization said.
“USBC thanks Storm for the collaboration and for working together on a solution for our members,” USBC Executive Director Chad Murphy said. “There is no perfect solution to this type of problem, but this agreement strikes a balance in protecting the integrity of USBC national tournaments, while giving members a choice to do what is best for them locally.”
Storm said it will stop production and sales of the balls and will offer a ball exchange option program later this week on stormbowling.com.
“Storm appreciates USBC working with us on this agreement, so we can put the issue behind us and focus on our customers,” Storm Products President Dave Symes said. “Customer satisfaction has always been our top priority, and we will take care of our customers.”
The six balls will also remain in the Professional Bowlers Association tournaments, that organization said Wednesday.
“All six of those bowling balls remain allowed in all PBA competition,” the organization said. “The PBA has no data or indication that those USBC certified bowling balls would fail field tests. Again, the six aforementioned bowling balls are allowed in all PBA-conducted competition, including the upcoming PBA Playoffs, PBA Tour Finals, PBA50 National Tour and PBA Regional Tour events.”
In the last month, the organization banned the Storm Spectre as a “non-conforming” ball with similar hardness issues, prohibiting its use in any USBC event, or league.
“We are disappointed in USBC’s decision on Monday revoking its prior approval of the Storm Spectre bowling ball. Our tests show and confirm that the Spectre ball meets all USBC requirements. Therefore, we disagree with this recent ruling,” the company said in a statement March 16. “We pride ourselves in manufacturing the finest high-end balls which are shipped worldwide. When we create a new product, we do extensive testing prior to sending it to the USBC for approval. The USBC then conducts their own studies to determine if the ball is certified for USBC competition. We then get an approval notification and proceed with the manufacturing process. All that occurred with the Spectre.”
“Our customers are our priority and deserve the utmost service and respect. While we continue to work through this ongoing situation with USBC, we want to do all we can to take care of our customers,” the statement continued. “We are currently working on a resolution and process to ensure that if you purchased a Spectre, you will have a product that you can use in a USBC Certified competition.”
The company announced March 21 that it has an exchange program for U.S. bowlers with that ball, that will exchange it for one that can be used in USBC competitions.
“With the USBC’s decision to revoke the prior approval of the Spectre bowling ball we are continuing to explore our options with their findings but understand that taking care of our customers is of the upmost importance.” The company said in a March 18 press release. “We will be opening an exchange portal on Monday, March 21, 2022. This portal will allow you to exchange the Spectre bowling ball for another bowling ball from a drop-down list of seven different balls. You will be able to upload a picture of the serial number of your ball and a picture of the drilled holes in the ball.”
“We will ship the exchange ball directly from Storm HQ to the address of your choice within the US. This process will take 3-5 weeks. Along with the exchange ball, you will receive a drilling certificate in the box.” The announcement said. “More information will be available to all of our customers on Monday. Thank you for your patience throughout this unprecedented situation.”
What’s The Big Deal?
So, why does this matter?
Lightening Strikes Pro Shop Owner David Remp, a 30-year veteran of the business who operates his shop out of AMF Kissimmee Lanes in Florida, said that the “softer” cover stocks on the balls could increase the traction and “footprint” of the ball on the lane and could make it hook more than harder cover stocks.
“It’s like having softer tires on a high-performance car,” he said. “You get better traction.”
Although it seems counterintuitive that a softer ball would give one bowler an advantage over another with a harder cover stock, greater hook potential could conceivably open the lane up more for the softer ball bowler, giving them a distinct advantage in competitions.
Remp said that during his time in the industry he has not seen such an aggressive action by the USBC to eliminate this many balls at one time after initially approving them.
He said that probably four of the six are “very popular” or popular among his clientele, and that he hopes an agreement will be reached to remedy the situation in a way that doesn’t negatively impact growing the sport.
“My concern is for the bowler who only bowls once a week in league and has just spent $250 on this ball, just to be told he cannot use it (like the Spectre),” he said. “Many of us are blessed and have multiple balls, so it’s not as big an impact.”
Currently, the balls listed Wednesday can be used in local league or USBC events if those leagues and regional organizations decide to allow them, but they could also decide to follow the national organization in not allowing them, the USBC said in its announcement.
The organization not only removed these six balls and the Spectre, which are made from reactive resin, but also banned urethane Purple Hammers made prior top 2019 from competition for similar softness concerns.
According to an investigation report from the organization in 2019, urethane balls made before that time were tested and found to get softer when exposed to heat, and over time with use.
While reactive balls’ performance would not be “significantly” impacted after sitting out of the heat for a couple of hours, urethane balls showed a softening over time and use, testing under the required hardness metric.
We will update this story as more information becomes available.