Bowling! Anybody Throw The Rock?

Part of the COVID-19 fallout has been the loss of my two weekly bowling leagues. They were aborted in March about three quarters of the way through the season. This week, a group of ten of us were planning on bowling in the Florida State Bowling Tournament in the Tampa area. But we canceled due to COVID. This comes after cancelling our trip to Reno for the Nationals in May for the same reason.

I think bowling gets a bad rap. It’s basically thought of as a bunch of toothless morons slamming beers and chucking balls down the lane. And admittedly some of that is true. But there are also higher level leagues with better players that are a lot of fun.

I’m averaging about 205 these days which puts me on the lower edge of the upper level for amateurs. I’m going to get a cotton mask and may sub for a friend in July, and then get back after it with one or two leagues in September COVID willing

And just so you know, bowling at a high amateur level is largely about money. The leagues are pretty expensive and there are a lot of side bets. Its a lot like poker. Poker is fun because of the money. If you were just playing for fun, it wouldn’t be fun. Its the same with bowling, although the amount of money is lower than poker, its a major incentive on the lanes. Plus its a great sport to compete at when you’re too old to compete at much else. Any questions?


My athletic claim to fame is a 300 on Dec 2, 1995, when I was 15. It was during a Saturday morning league so it’s officially documented.

That said I fully admit it was a total fluke. At my best I averaged a 185. Now I bowl once or twice a year, but I definitely wish I was able to with more frequency.


Nice. I have one 300 also. Two 299’s and a 298. Best series 806. I was so in the zone that night. Its always there, to get back into. Of course, I do wish this covid thing would disappear. Not looking forward to bowling with a mask.


That’s a huge series. My best is 702 (and that was with the 300). I’d love to join a league again. Really great way to meet people, too. Maybe the wife and I will look into it once covid is a thing of the past.

I grew up in Wisconsin so was exposed to bowling from an early age. Youth leagues, coaching, etc. I bowled on my college team which was a lot of fun. The best college bowler I ever bowled against was Ricky Corona (I don’t know if anyone has heard of him).

For many years I bowled in the best scratch league in the area. The timing was such that I bowled near the beginning of the bowling ball technology revolution and I jumped on that bandwagon with both feet. So scores were very high. I have rolled eight 300 games and four 800 series (847 was my max) which is pretty good given that I never bowled in more than one weekly league. The highest seasonal average I ever achieved was 229 (only good for third in the league!). The somewhat sad ending to the tale is that the bowling alley was torn down in the late 1990’s and I haven’t touched a bowling ball in over 20 years.


Wow. That’s awesome. I grew up in Detroit and started bowling when I was like 5. I wish you could get back into it. I don’t live that far from Nelson Burton Jr. He’s a legendary pro. I’ve gotten to bowl against him in league once or twice. He’s like 78 years old now and still crushes it. Its amazing. That’s one of the cool things about bowling. Occasionally you run into touring pros. A few years ago in the state tourney, I went to the bracket board to see I made the finals only to get beat by three pins by Jason Couch.

I bowled in a junior pro-am once. This was when Earl Anthony was the big name on tour. Somehow he was talked into bowling in the tourney (typically only “second tier” pros bowl in pro-ams for the little money that they pay).

I was very excited about the chances of bowling with him (on the same pair) so I ran to the starting lane assignments. I was on the pair to the right of Earl and the pros would be moving right after each game so I was going to bowl with him in the second game! Turns out that the pros skipped a pair when they moved, so Earl leap-frogged me. I can still remember the disappointment (lol). I bowled with Barry Asher, Sam Flanagan, and Jay Robinson who were all very nice and, obviously, great bowlers. But they weren’t Earl Anthony!

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I think roll is the preferred nomenclature.

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UP with some real keglers.

JFC I was going to come flex over my career-high 252.

Haven’t bowled in 30 years and the race would be on to break 100 before my back gave out.

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I’m above average for a guy who uses house balls (i have multiple over 200 scores, but nothing super special). I always wanted to try and improve my game and get a customized ball, but never really got to actually doing it.

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My question is regarding the types of lanes- I’m a golfer so I know some courses are in better/worse shape than others and some are more difficult than others for other reasons. I’ve heard that some bowling alleys are more difficult than others, similar to how different golf courses are. Golf courses have a rating/slope that indicate their difficulty. Is there something like that for bowling alleys? I understand when the pros play there are different oil patterns that make the ball slide differently. Any kind of explanation about that would be cool as I still play 10 times a year or so in the winter up here.

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Bowling, like golf, can be enjoyed by anyone at any age or skill level. (And congrats on your 252, definitely a great score.)

Yes. Bowling is all about oil patterns these days. Each bowling center will put out what they call their “house shot”. Usually its the oil pattern which allows for the best scoring. In other words, the oil pattern gives bowlers a bigger margin of error on their strike shots. The “house shot” may vary from one bowling center to the next.

They can also put out trickier oil patterns using their lane oiling machines. The really tricky ones are called “sport shots” and those are shots the pros usually shoot on. Even though I averaged 205 last year on a house shot, my average was converted to 176 for a sport shot. So I was thrilled to average 181 last year on the sport shot in the national tournament in Vegas.

There’s really nothing that designates one bowling center as harder than another. You find out which ones score better than others by word of mouth. By the way, due to the variety of oil patterns, and the fact that the pattern changes over the evening because people bowl over it, most bowlers carry at least three balls. Its becoming a little like golf in that you need different balls for different patterns, like you need different clubs for different golf shots. They limit you to eight balls for the national tournament and that’s just nine games!!

I advise everyone who wants to take It seriously to get your own ball. It’s hugely important. I probably couldn’t average more than 120 or so with a bowling center ball.


So i’ll rephrase in the form of a question -

What are the first steps I should take to improve my game? I assume that getting customized balls with is fairly significant, but I have no idea how to approach it.

And I average over 150 with a bowling center ball, so I’m clearly a wasted talent who would steamroll the PBA given the chance.

I also had a question about ball weight. I think I’ve heard someone mention before that ‘serious’ bowlers use 15 lbs balls (and some 16 lbs). I use the 12 lbs when I play and I doubt i could even throw a 15 lbs with any strength at the moment. If I’m getting my own ball, should i make it heavier and just struggle till i get more comfortable?

Although its a little intimidating perhaps to start, its not hard. Buy a new ball from the pro shop at your local bowling center. The pro will measure your hand and drill the ball. And if you want to get really serious, get shoes too, with replaceable soles. Some lanes are stickier than others. But that can come later. But definitely get a ball. You don’t need a real expensive one. Tell him you want to keep it to $100 or less including drilling.

As for the weight, ask the pro. I’d go at least 13 or 14. It may not feel as heavy when it is drilled for your hand. Also the better bowlers use a “fingertip grip”. It will be drilled so you only insert your middle and ring fingers up to the first knuckle rather than the second. This will help you to curve the ball. Also, the way the ball is drilled and the surface of the ball contribute greatly to how the ball hooks on the lane. If you have a hard time getting a house ball to curve, its because of the way it is drilled.

As for the bowling itself, the pro can give you personalized lessons for a price. Or you can get great tips on youtube. I recommend “Brad and Kyle”. They’re young touring pros who supplement their incomes with a you tube channel. They do instructional videos and also give us behind the scenes looks at the pro tour. I’m dropping in a video about whether you are a four step or five step player. You can figure out if your a four-step guy or a five-step guy by practicing your approach in your living room. Bowling is a great way to compete while networking and making friends in leagues. Good luck.


I always thought bowling was dumb until I learned how to spin it. I have darts and billiards available here during quarantine so been trying to get back into those.

thanks. silly question, but being left-handed affects the type of ball I should get? I imagine the left side of the lane is usually different due to less people using it.

I know there are a lot of different type of balls (Urethane etc). I don’t trust random people who try to sell me stuff. I trust random people on the internets! How do I know which one will be a better fit for me?

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It won’t matter. But don’t get urethane. It doesn’t hook as much and is less popular. Its more for advanced guys on trickier patterns. But you can trust your pro I think. If you want to shop for balls, storm is a good company, and Brunswick and ebonite. You can look up reviews for new balls on youtube, though frankly, I don’t find them helpful. Tell him you want to throw it down the 10 board (second arrow) and have it hook gently to the pocket. He’ll come up with something.

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Had a bowling buddy diagnosed with cancer a couple weeks ago, so he asked for me to sub for him last night. I agreed albeit reluctantly due to COVID concerns. Another friend is going to alternate with me, so I’ll just have to fill in three more times over the next six weeks.

It’s a scratch doubles league with PBA sport shots. In other words, difficult oil patterns and tough to score. I bowled like crap, but that’s okay considering I basically hadn’t thrown a ball in three months and I was super paranoid about COVID. I was pleasantly surprised that social distancing wasn’t that hard. even though we had eight on our pair, we were on lanes 1 and 2, so nobody on our left, and we had an empty pair to our right. Made it quite easy to camp out in a spot away from everyone else. The truth is though that only 30% or so wore masks, and we’re in Florida. I was one of them.

Since I was subbing, I was able to bowl four games for free. But I lost $5 on blind doubles and $10 on brackets. Remember in the OP I talked about how league bowling, especially in serious leagues, was largely about side bets and such. Here’s another Brad and Kyle video where they talk about the money part of the game. These are touring pros, so everything is more $$$ than at the amateur level. Skip ahead to the 9:30 mark and tell me these guys don’t sound like a couple tournament poker players. Enjoy.

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