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The Modernization Of Bowling

By Andrea Gage-Werren, La Habra 300 Bowl

Bowling in 2014 is a very different game than it was thirty years ago. Reminiscing back to the early 1980’s when I was a bowler in the junior program here at La Habra 300 Bowl, the building always had a heavy cloud of cigarette smoke lingering about. The adult and senior leagues thrived with fierce competition and several glasses of scotch.  Nowadays, the cigarette smoke has disappeared along with many of the bowlers.


So what has changed? The opinion is vastly different depending on who you ask. Scott Kraye, former PBA bowler and current pro-shop owner, feels that the equipment is what has changed the game so drastically. He quotes Steve Cooper, inventor of the reactive resin ball. “I believed that I helped the bowler, but hurt the game.” Steve’s invention has definitely transformed the sport with his invention of the X-Calibur bowling ball in 1990. He believed that his creation made the sport so easy that it eliminated the competition.


This prompted me to interview one of the most legendary competitors in the sport of bowling, Glenn Allison.   You know him as the man who first bowled a perfect 900 series back in 1982, while using a rubber ball and on wood lanes.  While he agrees with Scott and Steve’s opinions, he has a different philosophy on what has changed bowling. “It’s the lack of the commitment by the bowlers. Years ago, many bowlers would bowl three, four, even five leagues a week. Now you only find a few that might bowl two. That leaves the bowling centers with many open lanes at prime time. These lanes are now being filled by parties, fundraisers and advertised specials, as opposed to leagues.”


With league registrations dropping nationwide, I decided to speak with Jerry Rudd. Jerry has been bowling in leagues for nearly 45 years, and presently bowls in four leagues a week. He’s also the first legally blind person to bowl a 300 game. Jerry’s opinion is that the leagues have changed from being competition based, and are now geared more toward fun leagues. “There are more fun leagues now than competitive ones. This attracts the beginner bowlers that don’t have the proper bowling education and knowledge of lane conditions, and what not. This sometimes can lead to upset beginner bowlers who do not know how to adjust to changing lane conditions, which can detract from the overall enjoyment of the league experience.”


Lastly, my opinion on the matter. From the viewpoint of a relatively young General Manager, I believe that bowling is on the upswing in terms of popularity. Our open play is booming and is sold out many nights a week. Our leagues fill the schedule every day, and are growing every season.  However, I understand this is not the trend nationwide. My belief from the business standpoint is that the marketing has changed. The way we promote and advertise our business needs to appeal to both the open play bowlers and the league bowlers. Family budgets need to be respected and league bowlers need to feel welcomed and comfortable in their surroundings. Social media has made a huge fiscal impact on our business, as well as advertising to league bowlers through respected bowling newspapers and magazines. Without proper marketing, nobody knows that you even exist.


I’d love to hear your opinion on how bowling has changed. Email me at 

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Comment by Rob McNaughton on July 19, 2014 at 9:57am

Very astute comments Andrea,

Comment by Peter Brierley on July 17, 2014 at 6:16pm

Human desire for competition and to be accepted within a more exclusive group (next grade above) plus the finite dead end scoring system where mediocre competitors are able to achieve near "perfect" results, have had combined effect on the sport of bowling, exacerbated by introduction of ball technology   

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