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There are different types of bowling that go on at the center. There may be different names for the following but the types will be broken down the same. The first is Casual Open Play. This is just someone who walks into the bowl to go bowling. They may be there to practice. They may be with a group of friends who decided to have fun bowling. A family may have decided to have some fun. Someone may have heard about a special that the center is running and decided to save some money. These are all examples of the Casual Open Play. Notice that the scores bowled in these do not count for anything.
The Casual Open Play person may come in every day, once a week, once a year. It does not matter for the category. Don’t be fooled by someone who is a league bowler (discussed later) who practices. It is still Casual.
The next group is the Organized Open Play. These are people who come in for an organized event such as a tournament, a bowl-a-thon, a school group or a party. Many bowling centers separate birthday parties and or company parties into a subgroup for tracking purposes but they are still Organized Open Play. Basically, if the function is organized outside of the bowl for a larger group, it is Organized Open Play. A house tournament (this will be discussed later) is also Organized Open Play. These Organized Open Play groups may or may not have their scores count for something.
Now we get to the League Bowling. A league is simply a group of people who bowl in an organized competition for several weeks. The league is made up of teams, anywhere from one person on a team (singles) to many bowlers on a team (usually the maximum is five on a team) and they bowl according to rules (league rules). Each team bowls against another team as designated on a predetermined schedule. The schedule is usually determined by the number of teams and how many weeks the league bowls. Each team usually bowls against each other team (when they complete one cycle it is called a “round”) before they bowl against a team a second time. There are weeks called position weeks but don’t be confused by the term. This just means that the first place team bowls against the second place team, the third place team bowls against the fourth place team, etc. These are usually at the end of a “round” but can be more frequent, less frequent or even not happen in a league. Every bowler bowls their own game and the total score of the team is compared to the other team’s score for that game to see who wins (highest wins). Most teams will bowl three games per session but sometimes there will be fewer or more games bowled in a session. The total number of wins determines the standings, the team with the most wins at the end of the season is the champion. These are the basics of a league.
There are leagues that are in slightly different formats but not to worry, these will be explained as appropriate to you. Just know that the format laid out above will happen 90% or more of the time.
There is an organization that lays out the rules of the game and the standards and specifications of the equipment. This organization is called the United States Bowling Congress (USBC) (Bowl.com). Leagues may be “certified” by this organization or not. (An older term is “sanctioned.”) If certified, the league bowlers have a chance to win awards, bowl in official USBC-certified tournaments, and have other benefits that non-certified league bowlers do not receive. There is a cost to belong to the USBC so many leagues and bowlers do not think that they receive enough benefit to belong but that is up to the league and the bowlers.
A tournament (part of Organized Open Play) is really just a very short league, usually held on one day. A major difference is that usually a bowler is not competing against only one person or one team at a time. They are competing against everyone else in the tournament at once.