As an avid bowler and operator of NDBowling.com, I have been on the receiving end of rumors, excuses, complaints and sheer hate for the game of bowling over the years. Whether it be scoring pace, bowling ball technology, lane issues, or handicap, bowlers find a way to complain about everything. We can’t argue the fact that bowling is on the decline, but we can offer up possible solutions to the madness. Here is mine.
Bowling is a game of several variables. Lane surface, oil volume, humidity, and type of oil are just a few among many. Despite many variables, bowlers feel as though the game is losing its integrity. Honor scores are easier to come by, average manipulation is at an all time high, and bowling ball technology has reduced the need for skill. So what changes could be made in order for the game of bowling to re-establish the challenge of the game and reduce the ability for people to misrepresent skill level through averages?
My solution is to first establish a system of oil patterns based on oil ratios. Oil ratios generally dictate the level of difficulty in a given lane condition. Now I understand that there are several variables that go into it which will make pattern play different from house to house, but oil ratios are a standard across the board regardless of volume or length of the pattern. I would create 5 tiers of oil patterns based on oil ratio. Tier 1 being your typical house shot, and tier 5 patterns closer to what would be seen at the US Open.
Once the 5 tier system is established, I would create an average database much like that of golf. A database that tracks all sanctioned games (tournaments & leagues) for bowlers based on the 5 tier system. A bowler would then obtain an average for all 5 tiers that would include league games and tournament games. This would eliminate bowlers going to handicap tournaments on a house shot using a challenge league pattern (not sport certified) average. This would also allow tournament directors to see how bowlers fare on more difficult patterns when making the decision to re-rate them. This would also eliminate highly skilled scratch bowlers from claiming handicap at tournaments. Tournament directors could see that if a given bowler averages 200 in tier 1 competition (house shot), but averages close to 225 in tier 2 and 3 competition, then they should be re-rated. A conversion chart would be made to convert averages between tiers.
So how could this re-establish the challenge of the game?
By using the 5 tier system, the need to name and distinguish lane patterns could be eliminated. Specific patterns could be created with only the oil ratio being revealed. Companies could create several different patterns and simply call them a tier 1 or tier 3 patterns ect. This would not reveal the length of the pattern nor would it reveal the volume of the pattern. Bowlers would enter competitions knowing how they fair on a pattern in that particular tier level, but wouldn’t know much more than that. Imagine entering an event only knowing what the oil ratio of the pattern is? Changes the way you think about what equipment to bring, how you want attack the lanes in warm-ups, how the pattern will break down ect. This would give skill, experience, and knowledge an advantage.
I feel as though this system would also help the typical league bowler looking to start bowling tournaments. Many times a league bowler averages 210-220 and believes they can compete in tournaments. They enter a tournament, encounter a difficult lane condition, and never return to the tournament scene again. By having a system to determine lane pattern difficulty, beginners would better understand when difficulty lies ahead.
Finally, I feel like this system would revolutionize league bowling. Bowlers who would like to improve their games could join a league in a higher tier level. Those who just want to put up big scores, drink, and have a good time with friends can do just that. Bowlers would then appreciate the highly skilled bowlers as opposed to giving reasons why they are scoring so well. Bowlers would also be able to judge their own accomplishments based on the tier in which they were achieved. Want to try a tournament but don’t want to travel or put up the money to do so? Enter a league with a higher tier lane condition and see how your game matches up.
Bowling is such a great sport because no matter how much someone practices, you can not perfect it. By creating a system for bowlers to gauge how they stack up against the best in the world, region, state, or even city, more bowlers would appreciate the game and become motivated to improve their own skills.