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Why Does It Take 16 Seconds Longer to Make a Shot Today Compared to Bowlers of Yore? – January 2010 – Par Bowling by Tom Kouros

RECENTLY, TIGER WOODS WON another golf tournament. What was unusual about this one was that his conduct on the links may have been as big a story as the victory. “Tiger in time warp,” blared one headline. “For a man who supposedly has everything,” wrote a cynical reporter, “Woods evidently needs a stop watch.”

Yes, despite his popularity, the game’s ruling monarch was admonished for slow play. On the 16th hole of the final round of the event, Woods and his opponent were “put on the clock” for falling a full hole behind the group in front of them. That shows you how concerned golf’s leaders are about the ever-slowing play of the average golfer.

This is a wide-spread problem, and also pertains to bowling. In fact, “slow bowling” has contributed to the dramatic decline of team bowling. Today, the average male rolls 16 shots a game, 4.5 of them strikes. This adds up to about 48 shots in a three game series, totaling 240 shots for a five-man team series.

Now, consider that it takes the average five-man team three hours to bowl a three-game series, or 10,800 seconds. Using the same 240- shot denominator works out to an average interval of 45 seconds between shots today.

Back in the 1940s and early ’50s, the average male rolled 19 shots per game, which added up to 57 shots in a three game series and 285 shots for a team series. This was an era when the pace of bowling was primarly governed not by rule or proprietorship, but mostly by the pin boys, who would pound the kickbacks with a bowling pin while uttering caustic remarks if you did not arrive on the approach when your turn came. Consequently, five men would normally finish bowling a three-game team series in two hours, 20 minutes, or 8,400 seconds. That broke down to 29 seconds as the average interval between shots (8,400 seconds divided by 285 shots).

So, although today’s bowler utilizes fewer shots in a three-game series compared to the bowler of yesteryear, he squanders 16 seconds more between shots. This results in a five-man team taking 40 minutes longer to bowl a three-game league series. So, how did this insidious slow pace evolve?

We go back to the early 1950s to address that question. The introduction of a “miracle machine” went hand in hand with center modernization and bestowed innumerable benefits to proprietor and participant alike.

However, along with this cornucopia of beneficence came slow ball returns and a substantial number of minor malfunctions, such as a pin stuck in the ball door and/or the machine’s distributor “double feeding” the table, or a re-spot cell failing to pick up a given pin in a spare leave. These seemed to be minor prices to be paid for such revolutionary advances (obviating the need for pinboys as well). On the other hand, it wasn’t unusual to see the pinsetter clear away the dead wood, and set your spare leave, only to have your ball arrive on the ball rack some three to five seconds later.

In addition, it wasn’t unusual for a 12-team league with five men to a team to have 25 to 30 nuisance calls (minor machine malfunctions) during the league session.

In consequence, these two factors took us from a normal two hour and 20 minute league session to one of two hours and 40 minutes. The 7 p.m. league now finished at 9:40 instead of 9:20, and the 9:20 league — now starting at 9:40 — didn’t finish until 12:20 instead of 11:40. That additional 40 minutes meant a lot to the bowlers, especially to those who had to be up at 6 a.m., or earlier. But they stayed with it.

Then came the early 1960s when PBA-style bowling found competitors waiting two lanes to either side before bowling. If the PGA isn’t using its stop watch for Tiger Woods, maybe they could loan it to today’s league bowler.

Tom Kouros

*Posted with permission from Luby Publishing Inc.