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High Bowling Scores Vs. Low Scores

bowlingball.com continues our series of Editorial articles to express opinions about the general state of the industry or about industry people who have distinguished themselves through years of admirable service.

This article addresses the notion of high bowling scores vs. low scores. This topic of discussion is the theme of this article.

There have been many discussions and blog comments on the internet where bowlers express their opinions about the general high scoring we see across the country today. People argue the emergence of high scores as hurting the game.

There are also people expressing views that high scores are simply an evolution of the sport and that high scores compared to low scores decades ago have no bearing on the state of the industry today.

Although other sports have tended to stick with traditional methods of preserving the given sport (baseball as one coming to mind) and made only minor changes to the fields used for play or to the equipment used to play, bowling is one sport where very significant changes in maintenance products, lane surfaces, and equipment used to play the game has emerged (golf is another).

There can be interesting discussions or debates made comparing high and low bowling scores and which are more apt to help the sport of bowling grow back to what it once was years ago.

Many people argue that a return of aggressive promotions must be made by proprietors to bring hundreds of new customers into leagues at each center in the country. The return of aggressive league promoters, league officers, and center management is something which is desperately needed to help grow the bowler base across the country, as most would agree.

In fact, a marketing plan should likely include phases to support the growth and creation of new bowlers, junior to senior level bowlers alike, with the purpose of bring bowling back to some reasonable level of prominence.

Regarding the scoring in today’s game, we all know increases in average scoring for the experienced players has grown enormously. This growth trend in high scoring stems from improved lane machines, lane surfaces, lane oils and with the bowling ball equipment manufactured to day.

It seems, however, that the debates over the pace of scoring center around bowling balls more so than any other measures. There are young age advocates of high scores who believe that in their life times, scores have always been high and that should continue being the norm.

There are those older players who have witnessed low scores before the advent of modern day maintenance equipment and bowling ball equipment who advocate a return to the challenging scoring conditions and to do away with “easy Lane conditions” and modern bowling balls altogether.

Truth be told, there are challenges to both high and low scoring conditions.

Using the PBA National Tour as an example, tournament results demonstrate there is a long history of high and low scores the professionals post over the years largely due to the lane oiling patterns are used to create challenges for the players at given events.

The interesting point to note is that when scores in these professional tournaments are very high due to lane conditions making it virtually impossible for the players to miss the pocket, the scoring is bunched tightly and the players are all competing ferociously to keep pace with one another.

When these same players compete on low scoring lane patterns, scores are also bunched or grouped tightly and the same pressures facing the players to win are prevalent regardless of a much lower scoring pace than the easy lane conditions provide.

Both high and low scoring conditions create tight competition with many players being in contention to win the given events.

Only when scores are in medium scoring pace ranges, as most PBA conditions are, do the spreads in scoring occur during tournament play. We see some players scoring extremely high and running away from the pack of players scoring at mid-level ranges or at lower level scoring ranges in the same event.

High scores vs. low scores in special events where special lane patterns are used can demonstrate that it is possible to make any scoring condition a competitive and fair test for the players involved.

It is when we address the house conditions in daily league and tournament play, conditions which are generally easy scoring conditions, do we witness the debates increase over the number of honor scores, extremely high scores, recorded each day of each year.

If you are an advocate of lower scores as being fair and equitable and reducing the number of extremely high averages, one solution having been considered by industry people is to limit the amount of lane oil dressing to a half of an ounce of oil per lane per day.

With this small volume of oil, the high friction bowling balls would become far less effective than ones used now and the manufacturers would have to adjust to the changing scoring environment.

For those who believe the industry should leave well enough alone and allow high scoring conditions to remain as a staple of the sport, then it must be pointed out that only a select percentage of bowlers would continue to benefit from the high tech equipment.

It is a known fact that 170 average bowlers and below benefit far less from the wonderful bowling ball options on the market today than do higher average and higher skill level bowlers benefit.

Bowlers who average 140 will average 140 with any equipment and on any lane conditions and that trend has been witnessed over fifty years in the game.

Bowlers who averaged 180 in years past but never 200 or above now are frequently seen to have averages well over 200 while competing now as senior bowlers.

The fact is the spread in average ranges is far higher today than decades ago.

Are high average players, 225 and above average players, today as good or better shotmakers than 190 - 200 average players were years ago on low scoring conditions with far less high-tech bowling balls?

This question is the nucleus of many debates about the scoring conditions of the game today.

Where does all this lead? It is the view of this author that the debates will continue, that cooperative marketing measures of the USBC and BPAA could influence the sport but is unlikely to sustain given the past thirty years of marketing history and corresponding successes by these same entities.

No one can dispute the fact that there were once ten million plus sanctioned bowlers in this country and now there are less than two million combined men and women sanctioned bowlers.

There are many, many reasons why the industry has lost this significant bowler count, customer base, but the debates continue as to what can be done about it.


For my money, stop squawking and start doing something about our loss of bowlers and place the focus on industry level marketing planning and less on how high of a bowling average any of us boast today.

Lowering scoring alone in and of itself will not create more bowlers, less expensive pricing for linage, or cleaner and more modern bowling centers.

Ultimately, it will take the USBC and the BPAA to harness joint resources and work to promote the game as though it were a new commodity and in desperate need of identifying and targeting new customers to grow the game.

Enjoy the high scoring, folks. Enjoy the modern bowling equipment. Place yourself into the existing competitions which best serve your appetites.

Have fun, enjoy our great pastime, and continue to speak your mind and debate the issues surrounding our game openly and freely. This author surely will!

Thank You!

Rich Carrubba
bowlingball.com contributing writer