Bowling Ball Cleaner Experiments 101 by James Goulding III

Bowling Ball Cleaner Experiments 101

By James Goulding III

Hello again bowlers, and it feels good to be back blogging after a nice summer break.  I hope everyone is ready for fall leagues as most have either started up already, or will be shortly.  There is always a lot of talk surrounding which type of bowling ball cleaner and/or polish to use to keep your bowling equipment looking good.   While I have blogged about this in the past, and gone through different types of cleaners, which ones are good to use during USBC certified
competition, and which ones are banned, I would like to take this opportunity
to share a real world experiment I performed using a cleaner available at any
local drug store or supermarket, and I think you will find the results quite
interesting.  Just an FYI, here is the USBC list of allowable cleaners and polishes as of the start of the 2011 – 2012 bowling season:

Here are the notes from my personal experiment last season into this season….

I bought a Hammer Swagga and put 90 -100 games on it the last two months of the season between leagues and tournament play. I have used most of the commercial cleaners and even household cleaners on the market, trying to find the simplest, easy to use, and most effective cleaner between sets. I decided to go with 91% isopropyl alcohol, as it is a strong cleaner (in my opinion) and many have debated it’s ability to deep clean a ball and keep oil from seeping deep into the cover of the ball, and it is relatively cheap to purchase (I used the
CVS brand for the experiment) compared to other cleaning products.

Now, anyone who uses high end Hammer equipment knows that these balls soak in oil with the best of them, which is why I wanted to experiment using the Swagga (2000 Abralon factory surface). I religiously cleaned the Swagga immediately at the completion of each set, using only a microfiber towel and the 91% isopropyl alcohol. I also took the ball into the Revivor oven in my pro shop every 35 games to check and see how much oil was coming out of the ball. Also, I kept track of my scores with the ball, and noted ball reaction over the course of the life span in the experiment. Lastly, the ball got one surface freshener at 50 games, back to the original box finish of 2000 Abralon.

Results were very promising for the use of ONLY 91% isopropyl alcohol on your bowling ball as a cleaner. I noted almost ZERO reduction in ball reaction over the course of the experiment, averaging 236.5 in tournament play with the ball, 242.33 in one house on league, and 244.0 in the other house in league play over that span of time. I saw no dip in scoring with the ball from game 1 to 35 before each Revivor session, as the sets were very consistent from beginning to end. As far as oil extraction went, the ball went into the oven for the period
of 30 minutes with just a few drops of oil wiped off, and then an hour, with
only a few more small spots of oil wiped off, and finally at the hour and a half mark I pulled it for the final time noting no more oil coming out of the cover of the ball. This was true with each Revivor session, which honestly blew me away using only the 91% isopropyl alcohol as a cleaning agent on the ball. I thought there would be much more oil seeping from the cover each time, but apparently the isopropyl alcohol did the trick as the only cleaning agent being
used on the ball.

So, based on my personal experience with this experiment, I feel very
comfortable using just 91% isopropyl alcohol to clean my bowling equipment,
which IS approved for use by the USBC during, before, or after competition of
your bowling session. It does a very good job of removing lane oil, dirt, belt marks, and grime from the ball AS LONG AS YOU USE IT IMMEDIATELY AFTER YOUR SET BEFORE YOU PUT THE BALL AWAY EVERY TIME. If you don’t, I can’t say how well this product will work to keep oil out of the cover, but my guess is significantly worse than if you use it immediately after you are done bowling.  I am not saying that the cleaners made specifically for bowling balls work any less, rather I wanted to see if I could find a cheaper alternative that worked just as well, and I think I have found that in the 91% isopropyl alcohol.  I will try this on balls of different surfaces and textures just to make sure that this works well across multiple types of equipment.  I will say that I have used it on a Roto Grip Nomad Dagger and a Brunswick C-System 4.5 with good results, but I will continue my quest for knowledge, and try and post those results up as they come in.  I just wanted to share my recent experience in this area, and hope that someone else can find this trick works well for them, too.  If you have tried similar experiments as mine, please feel free to post those results up on the comment section of this blog for everyone to learn from and read, thank you.  As always, the opinions expressed in this blog are mine, and in no way represent those of the Maine State USBC or any of its members.  Take care everyone, and good luck on the start of your bowling seasons!

James Goulding III

(M.I.S.T. Tournament Director)


2011 USBC Masters – Amatuer’s View – Final Thoughts

The past few days have given me an opportunity that I have only dreamed of, participating in a PBA event.  Even though it didn’t end in a story book ending, it did give me an experience I’ll always remember and given the opportunity will happily do it again.  It did help having bowled the USBC Open here in Reno last year and knowing what the stadium would be like.

My kudos to the stadium staff.  They were pleasant and helpful.  They helped everyone with courtesy and respect regardless of stature, amatuer or pro.  They also made sure that all equipment the players would need was available for them.  You could do all ball maintenance necessary in the paddock short of ball drilling.  Ball drilling may not have been available in the paddock, but the was a pro shop truck available for that.

The number of balls the touring pros go through is staggering.  They made my 5 ball arsenal look like a bb gun.  The some of the pros also collaborated with each other setting up their equipment.  It had the feel of a team on league night with teammates borrowing from each other.

Most of the bowlers were friendly and approachable.  Most of the touring pros would say hi and talk if you approached them.  I found Carolyn Dorin-Ballard very easy to talk and joke with while we were bowling one of the sweepers.  The same could be said of some of the regional pros.  I bowled a sweeper with a regional pro JT ‘Action’ Jackson.  He was a character and though we were struggling, you wouldn’t have known it by talking to us.

On the flip side, there were some that seemed to look down their noses at amatuers.  There wasn’t a lot of comradery between bowlers out on the lanes.  Some yes, but not as a general rule.  I felt like a fish out of water with congratulations (open hand) and good try (fist).  It’s almost as if acknowledging someone else’s accomplishments you are admitting defeat.

Case in point, I was watching a few lanes this morning.  There were 3 bowlers per pair of lanes.  On one pair was Brad Angelo and on the other pair was Jack Jurek.  During game 3 of this morning Brad rolled 10 strikes in a row before it ended in the 11th.  Jack was the only person to acknowledge the accomplishment out of the 9 bowlers in the general area.

I grew up being taught sportsmanship.  Everyone wants to win, and I was taught to acknowledge the victor when the contest is over.  It’s hard, I know.  I don’t like to lose, but displaying a lack of sportsmanship isn’t the way to do it.  I guess I was expecting a tighter friendlier community.

The hardest thing for me to adjust to was 2 lane courtesy.  There were plenty of bowlers that felt you should know what they’re thinking.  The were a couple that seemed to have a new manner of letting you go first or wanting to go first.  Personally, I found rather annoying, but this is how the PBA works and you have to adapt.  I will admit struggling with signals.  Back home I was often told I take a long time and didn’t want to slow anyone down while I was here.  Oh well, there’s always something new to learn.

Overall, this has been an enjoyable and educational trip for me.  One, as I stated before, given the opportunity I’d repeat without a second thought.  Good luck and good bowling everyone.

2011 USBC Masters – Amatuer’s View – Day 4

My goal going into today was to bowl 5 clean games.  I figured if I could do that then I would hopefully finish on the positive side. As of the completion of Squad B’s last 5 games I was tied for 129th.  I was determined not to start any game with 2 opens.  Of the goals I mentioned, I only accomplished one.  I didn’t start any game with 2 opens, something that occurred twice yesterday.  A small accomplishment but not enough to really help me today.

I start the game with a 4-pin spare then a strike and try to settle myself in.  That lasted to the fourth frame when I missed inside of my target and left the 3-10 baby split.  I whiff the 3-pin and take out the 10-pin.  It was close and didn’t feel too bad.  Until 2 frames later the Greek church (3-4-6-7-9-10) appears.  I finish with a 161 game that had 2 opens and 2 strikes.

New lanes new game.  My first shot is high and leaves the 3-9-10 split.  Because of the 9-pin I decide to use my strike ball instead of my spare ball.  The problem with this option is the strike ball probably won’t deflect much to hit the 10-pin if it’s not out far enough.  Sure enough, because I think about the fear, I make it a reality.  Mental mistake, never think of the bad just before you roll the ball.  This game would be the only game that I miss a single pin.  I whiff a 7-pin and end with a 151 game.

The next set of lanes provide me with the only bright spot of my day, I throw a clean game 222.  Finally, a positive game.  That would be short lived.  The first ball of the next game leaves the 3-6-9-10 combination.  Because of my previous strike ball attempt I decide to use the spare ball.  The 9-pin disagreed with this option and I start another game with an open frame.  I’m able to prevent starting with two open frames.  The only issue is a couple of frames later I leave the 2-10 split.  Trying to pick it up I whiff both pins.  I finish with a 2 open 173 game.

Bound and determined to have one more bright spot, I’m determined to bowl well this last game.  My only mistake this game was the 1-2-4-7 in the 4th frame which I whiff the headpin.  I’m able to keep it together and finish with a 192 game, striking in the 12th frame. 

This set was my best for single pin spares, only missed one.  It was my best as far as fewest opens in total.  It wasn’t my best in regards to strikes.  I had 2 the first game, 1 in the 2nd game, 5 in the 3rd game, 2 in the 4th game, and 4 in the 5th game.

Just about every mechanical flaw I have tried to work on reared its ugly head this set.  I relaxed my wrist, tried to work the inside release, spent more time inside or outside of my intended target, as well as improper swing plane.  I have a greater respect what the pros do.  Physically I feel taxed, but not too bad.  I might have a different opinion if I had another tournament like this to bowl next week.  This has definitely been an enlightening experience.  Will I ever be a pro, probably not?  It takes considerable desire (that I’m not short on), time (that can be a challenge), money (either a flexible job, sponsorship, and or a combination of both), and support (the family will need to be supportive).  Stay tuned for my final thoughts edition.  Good luck and good bowling.

2011 USBC Masters – Amatuer’s View – Day 3

Well. I think that word sums up the way my day went. I was hoping for +25 for 5 games. Needless to say, I didn’t quite get there. Though there were moments when I thought I would and then I lost focus and the bottom fell out. I know this is the PBA and things are very challenging, but as I’m finding out, there is some much more I don’t know.

I have been a coach for over 15 years and just a babe in the woods compared to some of these guys. There’s so much more to learn and do. This is not giving up, just a realization to a burning question of mine. I need more work to be ready for the PBA. I’m on the cusp, and there is a lot of work that needs to be accomplished to take that step. Now I go back tomorrow to do what I couldn’t do today and that is to piece together 5 of the best games I can bowl. That way I can leave Reno knowing that I gave everything I had and know where I stand among the elite.

I started out the first game and was doing well and then I ran into a 4-pin hiccup. Minor inconvenience and I put it behind me to finish with a 212. Which compared to my previous first games was a major improvement. We moved 14 lanes right and started again. This game I felt better and started with 5-in-a-row. I was able to keep this one clean and end with a 225. That put me at +37 and I was on top of the world. Well, there was one thing I forgot about being on top of the world, watch where you step.

The next game brought me abruptly back to reality. I started by missing a 6-pin. I told myself no problem it’s one frame and come back the next one. The next ball was in the pocket, but a little weak and left a 10-pin. I missed a little right and left the 10-pin. Now I’m starting with two opens and trying to find a way to keep myself from self-destructing. Too late, self-destruct sequence had been initiated and count down was commencing. I would open two more times missing the baby split (3-10) and chopping the 3-6 combination to finish with a 161. That put me at –2 after 3 games.

Determined to erase that disaster, I renewed my efforts and bowled a clean 222 game. Now I’m at +20 and thinking I might have a chance. Then I let my guard down again and went through one disaster after another.

I started my last game not being able to hit the broad side of a barn being super glued to it. I start by missing the 4-pin. Okay, relax and come back strong. My next shot is a touch outside and leaves me the 1-3-8-10, of which I pick up two pins. I’m able to pick-up a couple of spares and a strike until I get a little wide again and leave the 1-2-4-10. Again, I’m only able to add two pins to my score. I get up in the 7th really needing to put a decent score up and bury a strike. Trying to positively talk to myself, I get up in the 8th and ring a 10-pin. After making the 10-pin, I’m at 108 in the 7th working on a spare in the 8th. Knowing what I need, I bury another strike in the 9th. Getting the first two in the 10th would give me a shot at 180 and remaining on the plus side for the day. As fate would have it, I came around the ball a little and was a touch inside and left the 4-9 split and finished with a 156 game. Leaving me at –24 and tied for 71st place out of 126 bowlers. This is Squad A only and Squad B has yet to bowl.

As I put in my other posts and if you were keeping track, I had 9 opens. 4 of the opens were singles pins, one combination and some washouts. The multiple pin spares can be tricky, but to miss single pin spares. Single pin spares leave quite a bit behind. Those 4 spares are worth 44 pins. That could have put me at +20 and tied for 47th and only 5 pins off my goal and having to roll a 216 average for 5 games for a shot at the cut.

Realistically, being in 71st position out of 126, after Squad B I’m tied for 143. I guess I don’t believe in doing things the easy way. I still have my goal, that I feel is reasonable and to finish the tournament at +50. Based on last year’s cut for the top 65, it took +100 make the money round. Based on the pattern and my performance to date, I have averaged 194.

I am capable of bowling a 225 average and on league conditions I would give myself better than average odds. At the Masters, I think going after 215 for 5 games is going to test me. I’m going to do everything in my power to finish this tournament at +50. That would be a 205 average for 10 games and I’ll take it.

I will admit, I’ve had my chances and let them slip through my fingers. I’ll shoot for my goal and let the rest take care of itself. Good luck and good bowling.

2011 USBC Masters – Amatuer’s View – Day 2

The field for the tournament is about 256 bowlers.  About 26 are touring pros, probably as many amatuers, and the rest are regional pros.  It’s quite a diverse group with just as diverse styles.  It just shows that there’s only one rule in bowling, there are no style rules in bowling you just have to be able to repeat it.

Today was mandatory practice for all participants based on their squad.  Squad A was at 2:30pm and Squad B was at 4pm.  There was another sweeper at 7pm.  I spent my time working on a few items that I found yesterday.  The main items needing attention were staying on target or just inside of target and mutliple pin spares.  I will say I’m glad I started throwing a plastic ball at my spares.  Trying to hook at spares in this tournament would drive me nuts.

Practice seemed to go pretty good.  I tried the Passion and found that it had inside forgiveness but could be prone to leaving the 10-pin, even if I was firm and strong with the release.  Might be a good ball to transition from the Red Alien to the Invasion to the Special Agent.  That’s my game plan right now.  Based on what I have encountered in 3 hours of practice and 8 sweeper games, I think the plan might work.

Mentally I think I’m starting to prepare myself for qualifying.  Physically is another matter.  The tape wasn’t quite right in the thumb hole and the lip was a little sharp and the thumb started wearing.  Before it got any worse I invested in some skin patch.  I’d use the skin tape, but it would require reworking the thumb holes that I finally have comfortable.  Right now everything feels pretty good considering I’ve done more bowling in two days than I’ve done in 2 weeks, including practice.

Tonight’s sweeper had more big names than last night and and 2.5 times more participants for 3 games.  Fewer games is a double-edged sword.  On one edge you have fewer games to make mistakes in, but on the other you have fewer games to recover from a bad game.  I fell into the latter tonight. 

I started out alright with a strike followed by 2 spares and then the wheels came off.  By the time the game ended I had a 3 open 178 game.  Two of the spares were very makeable.  The only positive, tonight’s start was 10 pins better than last night.  That put me at -22 and in 59th place out of 83.  As I explain to the kids, you have to forget the last game and start over.  That was going to be hard considering my goal was to be +15 for the sweeper.

The next game was a new set of lanes.  This time I focused a little better and it showed.  The only open frame was the 12th.  I left the head pin from a washout.  Like I tell the kids, you can’t make your spares if you don’t hit the lead pin.  I finshed with a 230 which put me at +8.  I went from 59th to 24th.  Amazing how much of a differnce 30 pins can make.

Feeling good about my game I started of the next game 10-pin, strike, 10-pin, and 10-pin.  Then I went on a two frame vacation.  Feeling like everything was slipping away, I had to focus myself on what I could do and forget the bad frames.  Again as I tell the kids, positive thoughts yield positive results.   I finshed with a 204 and was at +12.  Not bad consdering where I started myself.  I finshed in 24th and missed cashing by 1 pin.

If you’re keeping track I had 6 opens tonight.  I’ll take away the wash-out and that leaves 5 opens, that’s 55 pins.  Had I had those, I would’ve cashed in 10th place.  I can’t emphasize more how important spares are.

Tomorrow is day 3 and the first day of qualifying.  I start on lanes 15 and 16.  I’m not paired with any touring pros, but am bowling beside Jason Couch and Rick Steelsmith.  Most of the other touring pros are lanes away from me.  Tomorrow is my chance to show that I can learn from practice and do better.  Good luck and good bowling.

2011 USBC Masters – Amatuer’s View

I haven’t posted in a long while and thought I’d give you an amatuer’s view of participating in the 2011 USBC Masters.  The trip from Maine wasn’t bad, a little tiring.  The best thing, my luggage and bowling equipment made it with me.  I didn’t have to wait and wonder where it was.  Looking at this year’s roster there are quite a few pros and bowlers from around the world.

Some of the pros include; Liz Johnson, Chris Warren, Carolyn Dorin-Ballard, Chris Barnes, Norm Duke, Walter Ray Willams, Jr, and many more.  The countries represent include; Finland, Sweden, Russia, Japan, Australia, Argentina, Columbia, and the Phillipines.

Today was optional practice.  Being my first trip to the Masters and having reviewed last year’s pattern, I wasn’t going to give up any chance to practice on the pattern shot.  The arsenal I brought to the Master’s was the Storm Invasion, Elite Red Alien, Storm Paradigm Passion, Storm Special Agent, and the Hammer Black Widow plastic ball.  I thought I had a good pattern of ball use worked out only to have to trash 5 frames into practice.

The Invasion (supposed to be my aggressive ball) was limping to the pocket.  It spent more time sliding than turning.  I tried a couple of different releases and nothing seemed to remedy my issue.  I may need to take the Invasion up to 2000 and see if that helps, I have it a little lower than that.  Just to see what would happen I picked up the Red Alien.  Boy am I glad I didn’t leave it behind like I was going to.  The Red Alien seemed to have everything I needed in a ball.

I found I was able to play a similar line to Family Fun Bowling Center, but a little more left on the approach.  Looking at the pattern from last year, 39′ very little crown and alot flatter than a house pattern.  Practice went well.  I found the higher end of the stadium played better than the lower end.  The lower was a lot tighter and a much smaller margin of error.  If you’re afforded time to practice on the pattern, I would strongly encourage that you don’t skip it.

There was a 5 game sweeper following practice and I decided to give it a go.  I figured any practice I could get on the pattern would be worth the cost.  The first game I struggled to control myself.  It seemed my arm had a mind of its own which made hitting target a slight challenge.  I struggled to a 168, very humbling.  I missed three makeable spares.  The next game I seemed to be a little more comfortable and was able to forget the previous game.  This time I was able to finish with 223, but again missed another makeable single pin spare.  That left me at -9 and in 14th place.

The next game I seemed to feel that I might have something figured out and shot a clean game 210.  That put me at +1 and in 12th place, 2 pins ahead of Liz Johnson.  That would be the last time she trailed me.  The next game would bring me quickly back to reality.  4 open frames in a row will do that in a hurry.  Only one could be considered a challenge to pick-up.  I finished with a 161 that put me at -38 and dropped to 19th place.  Liz Johnson was now 17 pins and 3 positions ahead of me.

The last game was the hardest I ever worked for a 182.  Again another open frame appearred, this one was the baby split (3-10).  Again I had trouble hitting target, pulling it inside more than I was pushing like the other two games.  If you’re keeping track, I had 9 open frames.  I give myself a pass on one being the wash-out, I sent the head pin out and around the 10-pin, close but no cigar. 

For kids reading this that’s 8 open frames which means about 88 pins left behind.  Had I made my spares, I might have been +50.  You notice I didn’t say more strikes, just my spares.  Instead of being 20th out of 33, I could’ve been 4th and earned my money back.

Tomorrow, 7 Feb, is mandatory practice and another sweeper.  Another day to try to improve.  Good luck and good bowling.

Bowling Ball Terminology & Maintenance, by James Goulding III

Bowling Ball Terminology & Maintenance

by James Goulding III

Hello bowlers, and thank you once again for reading the bowler-2-bowler blog. my latest entry really combines the efforts of two of my older posts, one talking about Bowling Ball Terminology and the other one dealing with the maintenance aspect of your bowling equipment. I thought it would be nice to update both of those concepts, and combine them into one blog post, since they really go hand in hand with each other. I mean, what good does it do if you know a ton of information about how your bowling ball is set up, the reaction it is supposed to have on the lanes, but yet have no clue as to how to keep the bowling ball reacting the way you want it to over and over again with the proper care. This is why I have combined my blog posts into this one big post to make it easier for you, the bowler, to pull out the useful information needed to not only know about your equipmeny, but also how to take proper care of your equipment. The first part will deal with the terminology commonly used around pro shops and well educated bowlers out on the lanes, and the second part will deal with proper care of the equipment you just learned about. So, without further delay, let’s talk technology!

Bowling Ball Terminology (Ball Dynamics):

I am writing this blog post to give bowlers some basic, intermediate, and advanced information on terms used pertaining to ball dynamics. You have probably heard terms like Differential and Radius of Gyration (RG) and never really understood what they actually mean. I am going to list some of the terms myself, and other experienced bowlers and pro shop operators, use pertaining to ball dynamics. This list is a combination of terms used by experienced bowlers and ball drillers (like myself), and grouped together by a member of the site, whose name is Sean Cross. While I have added my own terminology and expertise to the list (which you can find on the FAQ section of ballreviews), the list was put together by Sean, so I feel he deserves some of the credit for combining everything together on this list. Thanks Sean, and I hope everyone can learn from these terms, and effectively use them in their bowling language dictionaries.


Internal or core torque refers to the mass distribution within the core and the internal lever arms created by the core. Core torque is an assigned value of the ball’s ability to combat roll out, the complete loss of axis tilt and axis rotation. High torque balls are more effective than lower torque balls at delaying roll out. Core torque can also be one indicator of the type of reaction that a bowler can expect at the break point with high torque balls having the propensity to be more “violent” and the lower torque balls tending to display a more even, predictable transition from skid to roll.


It is the difference between the lowest and highest RG values of a bowling ball. You compute the high rg value and subtract the low rg value, and you have the differential. There is no minimum for differential. What differential tells you: RG Differential is an indicator of track flare POTENTIAL in a bowling ball. Differentials in the .01 s to .02 s would mean that a ball has a lower track flare potential, .03 s to .04 s would be the medium range for track flare potential, and the .05 s to .08 s would indicate a high track flare potential. These ranges above are not based on cardinal rules. They are BTM (Bowling This Month) in-house rules of thumb because there are no published guidelines. Also, differential is a guide to the internal versatility of a ball. It can indicate just how much of a length adjustment can be made through drilling. A low differential will allow for only a modest variance in length (from shortest drilling to longest) which may translate into as little as a foot or two on the lane. An extremely high differential may translate into a length window in the neighborhood of eight feet on the lane.


The planned apparent imbalance in balls due to high tech cores and drilling techniques. Many people claim that this has created balls that hook out of the box with a lessening requirement to have the skill to impart the hook and power by the bowler themselves. This is still up for debate, but the increase in scoring pace of the game of bowling over the past 15-20 years can not be ignored.


In the old days, before the advent of modern core design in bowling balls, the center of the ball was, more or less, symmetrical. In today’s high tech computer designed ball, in the cores and multiple cores designs, you can have cores that are not evenly balanced and distributed within the center of the ball. This allows balls to be drilled and designed in a manner that the apparent “weight” of the ball can shift depending on the drilling pattern i.e., it is not “static” it is “dynamic”.


The migration of the ball track from the bowler’s initial axis, the axis upon release, to the final axis, the axis at the moment of impact with the pins. The more flare created by the core, the more hook potential for a given cover stock. Higher differential bowling balls will flare, on average, significantly more than a lower differential bowling ball due to the increased track migration of the bowling ball with the higher differential.


Simply put, the mass bias in a bowling ball occurs when the mass (weight block or portion of weight block) is bias (more dominant) in one direction inside of an object (in this case a bowling ball). If you took a bulb shaped, single density core and positioned it dead center from side to side inside the ball, there would be no mass bias. You also would have a ball that is a pin in ( 2″), you have to “tilt” the core inside the ball, or place the entire core slightly off center. This became a common practice among manufacturers as the demand for pin out balls increased. When this is done however, you create a “dynamic imbalance” inside the ball because the mass is more dominant or “bias” in the direction of the “tilt” or “offset”. That is the most important factor when discussing the mass bias, it is a DYNAMIC POINT ON THE BALL. Positioning the mass bias in different positions when laying out a ball will have a great impact on the “motion” the ball will make as it is going down the lane (even arc, hook/set, skid/flip and so on).

There are people who will argue that static imbalances (finger weight, side weight etc.) are more important than dynamic imbalances. My reply to this is that a dynamic imbalance is a real point in the ball, it is constant and does not change unless you alter it by drilling into it with a drill bit. A static imbalance, or the CG (center of gravity), will change as soon as you put one hole in the ball. It will change again with each additional hole you put in the ball as well. While static weights can be used to “fine tune” the reaction of the ball at the break point, it is the dynamic lay out that dictates the roll of the ball. If a pro shop operator truly understands the principals of the mass bias and how to apply them, they can greatly increase your overall satisfaction with the ball you purchase. On a ball that doesn’t have a pre-marked MB it’s theoretical position can be found by measuring from the pin through the CG 6.75″.


A Pin-in ball (when the pin is located within two inches of the CG) is excellent choice for control and less overall hook. A Pin-out ball (> 2″ away from the c.g.) usually can be made to hook more and flip more dramatically than pin-in balls. They (pin out balls) often give the driller more options as far as fine tuning reaction shapes of the bowling balls for varying styles of bowlers.


This is the final position of the axis after the ball has lost all axis rotation and tilt. The length of time it takes for the ball to reach it’s PSA and it’s post drilling PSA are influenced by the amount of friction, the drill layout, and bowler’s spec’s.


The measurement that tells us the core’s impact on the skid potential of the bowling ball. It identifies how fast a ball begins to rotate once it leaves the bowler’s hand. Three designations for the RG of bowling balls are: low, medium, and high. A high RG ball goes further down the lane before hooking because it takes longer to begin rotating and stores its energy on dryer conditions. A low RG ball revs up early and is a more evenly arcing ball used on wetter conditions. There are three axis on a bowling ball used to measure RG (radius of gyration). The lowest RG axis (usually denoted by the letter Z) is the axis through the pin. The highest RG axis (usually denoted by the letter X) is located 6-3/4 inches from the pin through the center of gravity (CG or heavy spot). The intermediate RG axis (usually denoted by the letter Y) is located 6-3/4 inches from both the low and high RG axis.

Even though all bowling balls of a given weight are about the same size (minimum diameter of 8.500 inches to a maximum of 8.595 inches), these balls are constructed differently. Some use two materials (one shell and one core), others use three, four or five or more pieces to construct the shell(s) and core(s). Each of the materials used has a density (which roughly translates into weight per unit of volume). Zirmonite (as used in the Columbia pin) is denser (heavier by volume) than Bismuth Graphite (used in the core of the Brunswick Zones) which is denser (heavier by volume) than the fired ceramic that is used in the Columbia and Track cores. These, and the other dense-material cores used by other manufacturers, are all heavier by volume than the material used in the main cores. The main core material is denser than the foam-like material used as outer cores or inner shells, the purpose of which is to keep some balls in compliance with the USBC (United States Bowling Congress) weight limitation and to help pinpoint a certain RG value. Then there is the urethane used for the outer shell of the ball, which by density fits in between the core materials.

Even though you may have a bowling ball with as few as two parts or as many as five or more, all balls have one characteristic: they will act as if all of their weight is located at a point some distance away from the rotational axis. This distance is the radius of gyration (RG).

For example, a bowling ball has a maximum allowable diameter of 8.595 inches (maximum radius = 4.2975 inches). Theoretically, the RG could be any distance from just over zero inches by placing ultra-dense materials in the center of the ball and extremely lightweight filler beyond, to just under 4.2975 inches by placing ultra-dense materials near the outer shell and filling the inner areas of the ball with lightweight foam.

In the first example, the ball would be as center heavy as possible. In the second, it would be as shell heavy as possible. The problem with unlimited RG is that the two extremes would produce variations in ball performance that would be enormous. One would roll immediately and the other would “lope” all the way through the pin deck.

The USBC (United States Bowling Congress), in an attempt to limit the amount of variation in ball performance that could be achieved through construction, placed minimums and maximums on RG. The rule states that the minimum RG can be no lower than 2.430 inches and no greater than 2.800 inches. This means that every ball must act as if its entire weight (mass) is rotating at a distance of not less than 2.430 inches or more than 2.800 inches from the axis. Since the total span of RGs ranges from 0 to 4.2975 inches, technically all bowling balls fall within the overall medium RG range. However, when anyone in bowling talks about RG, they are not referring to the total range of possible RGs, but instead only to the RG range allowed for the sport, which currently is 2.430 to 2.800.

In the At a Glance chart, and in ball reviews and comparisons in BTM, the following scale is used for low flare potential balls:

Low RG = 2.430 to 2.540
Med RG = 2.541 to 2.690
High RG = 2.691 to 2.80

There is a slight upward adjustment for high flare potential balls. Determining the RG for BTM and fellow ball geeks, the formula for finding the radius of gyration (usually denoted by the letter k) is: the square root of the ball’s moment of inertia divided by its mass (k squared = I / m). What RG tells you: like with everything else in bowling, RG in and of itself tells you very little. It is ONE indicator of length. The characteristics of the three types of balls are as follows:

A low RG ball will be easier to “rev up” and it will rev faster, quicker because most of the mass is located relatively close to the center of the ball. Since it revs faster, sooner, it also wants to hook earlier. Medium RG balls are intermediate length balls. They are a little more difficult to spin (takes more power), so most bowlers will see a slight loping characteristic through the heads and early mid lane, followed by a faster revving action and later hook than you would get with the low RG ball. High RG balls are the hardest to rev up, since the mass is concentrated farthest from the center, and therefore bowlers will see longer lope, much later revving action, and the latest hook from these balls.

Well, there it is in a nutshell. Hopefully by seeing what these terms mean, you can make more sense out of what goes into a bowling ball manufacturing process, as well as how these technical terms apply to you out on the lanes. Now we will move onto the next part of this blog post, and that is the proper care of your bowling equipment once you begin using it. If you follow the directions below, you will find that your bowling balls will last longer, react closer to the out of box finish that you require, and give you one more leg up on your competition. Here we go!

Keeping Equipment Clean: One Key to Success

Getting good coaching, watching video, and working in a pro shop have all been valuable tools that have helped me become a successful bowler. But, there is also another part of my game that is important on a weekly basis, and that is taking care of my bowling equipment so that it takes care of me on the lanes when I need it. What I mean is, I can’t expect to bowling balls to perform at their peak all the time if I am not willing to put in some time of my own to make sure factors such as lane oil, rubber marks, track grooves, and such don’t take away from the balls performance. A little bit of extra time spent on cleaning and maintaining your bowling equipment goes a long way to not only keeping your bowling balls working at their optimum level, but also extends their life so that it saves you money on buying new equipment in the long run. I am going to discuss a few areas where bowlers need to pay attention to, which is daily maintenance, bi-monthly maintenance, and annual maintenance.


When I write this, I don’t mean go in your bowling bag every day and do the following steps, but rather after each time you bowl a league set, tournament, etc. before the next time you bowl. First off, I recommend all bowlers use a microfiber towel to wipe the bowling ball off. This type of towel gets the oil off of the surface of the ball, without scratching the coverstock or leaving marks.

Secondly, you should take a USBC approved bowling ball cleaner with you in your bowling bag, and use it to thoroughly clean your bowling equipment IMMEDIATELY after you are done bowling, before you get home. I can not stress enough the importance of getting the lane oil and dirt out of the coverstock as soon as possible, as with the porous coverstocks on resin bowling equipment, it takes no time at all for the oil to “soak” into the cover and stay in the ball. This causes loss of hooking action, and possibly premature ball death due to it being contaminated with lane oil deep in the coverstock. By simply cleaning the ball as soon as you are done, you have a very good chance of removing most of the oil from the outer surface of the ball, before it has a chance to soak in and cause long-term damage to your bowling equipment.

Lastly, invest in a ball carrier to put each of your bowling balls in before you put them in your bowling bag. These carriers are fairly cheap (in the $10 range) but by putting your ball in them, you are protecting it against anything sticking out of your bowling bag that could damage it, as well as protecting it from getting cracked in case you accidently drop it. Also, if you have a locker, it prevents the ball from rolling around and getting scratched up from any rocks or debris in the locker.


Calling it bi-monthly maintenance is a “loose” term, what I mean is the following steps should be taken every 50 games or so (which would be bi-monthly if you bowl twice a week). What I am referring to is giving your ball a hot water bath so that you remove any lane oil that has been soaked into the deeper parts of the coverstock. Using the towel and cleaners works good to get MOST of the oil out of your ball night in and night out, but to get the oil that is missed, you need to do something that can extract the oil out where the cleaner and towel can’t reach. This is where the hot water bath comes in.

First, I recommend you sand your ball down to about a 400 grit surface before putting the ball in any water bath. This can be done with regular 400 grit sandpaper, or a maroon scotch brite pad, or even a 500 abralon pad will suffice. What this does is it opens up the pores of the ball, allowing the oil to escape out when the ball is submerged in the water bath. If you do not have any sandpaper, doing the bath is technically “better than nothing”, but you can always go to your local pro shop and ask them to sand it for you before you do the bath, so doing that would be an option as well.

As far as the actual bath goes, the biggest thing to remember is to make sure the water temp. does not exceed 140 degrees. If your water is hotter than 140 degrees, you run the risk or removing plasticisers in the ball, which will harden the resin and ruin the bowling ball. If you are not sure how hot your water temp. runs, as long as the water is not too hot to put your hand in for an extended period of time, that should suffice for the water bath. Using an actual thermometer is best, but use you head, don’t just “drop” the ball in the water if it is too hot to handle.

When you start running the water, put in a few drops of liquid dish soap (DAWN or equivalent) that will be used ot help break up the lane oil and grease in the coverstock. Fill a bucket up enough so that the ball will be completely submerged below the surface and then place the ball gently in the bucket. Some people like to tape over the finger and thumb holes, but I do not recommend doing this. You are blocking a route of escape for oil and dirt, and the bath does not hurt finger or thumb inserts since it is just water and dish soap. At this point, you let the ball soak for approximately 15 minutes and place on the counter on a towel ot let the remainder of the water drip off of the ball. You will notice an oily/water type mixture on the surface of the ball, especially if it has been a very long time since this process has been done (if ever). Wipe the surface clean using a microfiber towel (or equivalent) until it is dry. If you are seeing this oily mixture on the surface, you need to perform the water bath again, until you no longer see any oil come to the surface of the bowling ball. I would recommend changing the water each time to start fresh, and not have any oil floating around in the water when you re-submerge the ball. Once the ball has only water on the surface (and on oil or dirt), you are done. It may take 2-3 15 minute sessions to get all the oil out, but it is well worth it. Give the ball ample time to dry before use again, I would recommend 24 hours to make sure all the water has gotten out of the coverstock.

Now, once the water bath is complete, you need to take the coverstock of the ball back to whatever the factory finish was on the ball. This will ensure you get the same type of reaction you are used to out of your bowling ball. If you do not have the tools at home to do this, take it to your local pro shop and have them complete the process.


This section is going to deal with a few of the things bowlers should do once a season to their bowling balls to make sure they last long, and perform well. I have covered ways to keep oil out of the ball, but now I will get into what to do when the ball becomes “tracked up” with all the marks from the lanes. When a bowling ball has more than 80-100 games on it, it loses its polish (if it is a polished ball), and also gets a series of grooves in the coverstock form the places that the ball touches the lane consistently. This has an adverse effect on your ball motion, and causes it to not perform at a peak level. The only way to get these grooves out (an re-polish the ball) is with a resurfacing. This will remove the scratches and gouges and get the ball back to like-new performance.

When I resurface bowling balls, I like to take them down to a 220 grit surface, sanding the ball in (4) different directions in a ball spinner. The first two directions are having the finger holes and thumb holes both sit horizontally, parallel with the top of the ball spinner. Once you sand that side of the ball, flip it over 180 degrees to do the other side. Then when you’re done on both of those sides of the bowling ball, position the ball so that the fingers and thumb are on top, pretty much horizontal (perpindicular) to the ball spinner. Sand the ball with the fingers and thumb up, and then turn the ball 180 degrees to sand the other side of the ball. At this point, you are done with the 220 grit (or whatever other grit you might be using). Sand the ball this way for each grit, until you reach the final grit that the ball came in at from the factory. Refer to the bowling ball companies website or sheet that came with the ball to make sure you get the correct final surface for your bowling ball.

Also, if the ball requires a polishing process, polish it in the same (4) directions you sanded the ball in to ensure you are doing things the same way all the time. Refer to the company recommendations for what type of polish to use on your bowling ball to achieve the correct reaction on your bowling ball. If you do not feel comfortable doing this process, which can be very time-consuming, take the ball to your local pro shop and have them complete the process for you. Usually this costs in the $25-40 range, varying from shop to shop and how bad the ball was to begin with for the cost of resurfacing. That is still much cheaper than having to buy a new ball because your old one “died” from lack of proper maintenance.

The last thing I will recommend for yearly maintenance is to change your finger inserts (if you use them) in your ball. Over the course of a season, the inserts become worn out, causing them to feel big or slippery since there is a good chance there is some lane oil and dirt mixed into the rubber inserts. It costs between $5-10 for a new pair from your local pro shop, and should be done at least once a season (probably more if you bowl more than twice per week). When it comes to your thumb, also make sure you change out your thumb tape regularly, because the sweat from your thumb, as well as the oil and dirt from the lane, causes the tape to lose its grip. Those two simple steps can go a long way to making you feel comfortable all the time in your bowling ball.

Well, that is all I have for tips to keep your bowling equipment in tip-top shape, for now anyway. Today’s bowling balls are more aggressive and condition specific than ever, and hopefully with the methods I discussed earlier, you can keep those bowling balls running at peak performance, and able to be used for the right conditions they were intended for. The opinions expressed in this blog post are my own, and do not reflect the opinion of the MSUSBC. Thank you for reading, and feel free to comment on anything you see here, I will try and respond as quickly as possible. I hope you have been able to pull something out of both sections of this post, and have armed yourself with the most useful weapon out on the lanes…..knowledge! Good luck, and good bowling everyone!

James Goulding III
(M.I.S.T. Tournament Manager)

Knowing Your Pre-Shot Routine by James Goulding III

Knowing Your Pre-Shot Routine
By James Goulding III

Hello again bowlers, and welcome to another entry in the bowler-2-bowler blog series. I am sorry for the delay in posting, but sometimes life catches up with you, and other times I only want to write on the blog when I feel I have something of value to offer everyone, and not just putting pen to paper with mindless dribble “just for the sake of it”. I think this time it is a combination of both of those factors, but here we are with a topic not talked about much when it comes to factors that influence a bowlers score, and that is the pre-shot routine. There are a few areas of this I would like to break down and discuss, so let’s get started!


Being prepared mentally on and off the lanes is probably THE most critical phase of bowling, even more so than the actual physical act of throwing the bowling ball down the lane. What good does it do for you and your game if the only thing you are thinking about on the approach is the new video game you just bought at the store for your Playstation 3? This leads you to missing your mark and throwing bad shots, and the worst part is, if you do not realize what you are doing wrong mentally, you may mistake a bad shot for a bad read on the lane, and all of a sudden you are fishing around for a line when you probably had the right one to begin with. Before you ever step on the approach, you need to clear your head of the distractions off the lanes, and visualize what you want the ball to do as it goes down the lane and hits the pins. This technique is something the PBA pros constantly work on, and it can work for anybody to help improve your scores. The thought process here is that by thinking about throwing good, consistent shots, you will help train your mental game to match your physical game and achieve the greatest outcome possible out on the lanes. Try it the next time you go bowling, you will be glad you did.


I know what people are thinking when they read that, something like “duh, I KNOW I am at a bowling alley”. Well, not quite. What I mean by “know your surroundings” applies to each specific night of league or a set in a tournament. You may be bowling on a pair of lanes that typically hook more, so you should know that you may want to start with a weaker bowling ball at the beginning of the night. Or, the approaches in a certain bowling center, and especially on the lanes you are bowling on, tend to be sticky so you can change the heel or sole on your bowling shoe to compensate before falling on your face on your first shot. Those are just two examples of knowing your surroundings, but I could list many. Basically, a good rule of thumb is to keep a journal of key points you should know about each bowling center, and specific pairs of lanes in that center, especially if you bowl league there on a weekly basis. Knowing the tendencies of a pair of lanes, or approaches, gives you a leg up on your competitors and can help to positively influence your game for the entire set. This works well even for tournament bowling in a center you rarely see, because by having that kind of “inside info” about certain pairs of lanes will have that much more of an effect the next time you visit there for a tournament in the future. Any way that you can maximize your score just by knowing and remembering little things around you, can help you achieve your goal of bowling your absolute best each and every time out.


Ok, so don’t take that comment out of context, but it is actually a very important part of a pre-shot routine, and that is checking everything in your bowling bag before you leave the house to hit the lanes. Make sure you have the essentials such as bowlers tape, skin patch, rosin bag, micro fiber towel, extra heels and/or soles for your bowling shoes, and a shoe brush. I like to keep other things such as bowling ball cleaner, sandpaper, bevel knife, crazy glue, insert remover, and extra pairs of finger inserts in my bowling bag, too, but you don’t have to keep all of that stuff with you all the time, though it wouldn’t hurt to be prepared for ANYTHING. Trust me, there is nothing worse than tearing open your thumb, and not having any skin patch to fix it, or forgetting your extra heels at home when the approaches are so slippery or sticky you can’t slide correctly. It only takes a minute or two to inventory your bowling bag before leaving for the lanes, but it is time well spent I can assure you. Also, don’t forget to inventory the bowling balls you are bringing in those bowling bags, because you may like to use different bowling balls at different bowling centers, so you don’t want to bring the wrong equipment with you on any given night. This is where keeping that journal I told you about earlier comes in handy, as you can flip it open, see what has been working well for you lately at a certain house, and go with it. Even though peeking into your bowling bag once a night doesn’t seem like the most glamorous thing to help your bowling game, trust me it can go a very long way to determining how the rest of your night goes.

In closing, I would like to think that I have covered some thought provoking areas of the pre-shot routine that usually get skimmed over and rarely talked about, but can make a huge difference in your scores out on the lanes. Being mentally prepared, knowing your surroundings, and checking your bowling bag, are all things that YOU can do before you ever step foot on a bowling lane to give you the best chance possible to score your highest. After all, nobody wants to bowl badly, so why handicap yourself by being lazy before you ever hit the lanes? Chances are, if you can’t take the time before throwing the ball to care about your scores, your opponent is, and you have already been beaten before you have even thrown the ball. I hope these tips about the pre-shot routine help, and please let me know what you think with your comments and feedback. As always, the opinions expressed in this blog are my own, and in no way reflect those of the MSUSBC or any of its members. Thank you for your time, and good luck and good bowling everyone!

James Goulding III
M.I.S.T. Tournament Director

No Matter What Hand You Use…Just Throw The Ball, by James Goulding III

No Matter What Hand You Use…Just Throw The Ball

by James Goulding III

Hello again fellow bowlers, and sorry for the delay in posting.  It was a crazy end to summer and beginning of the new bowling season, so bear with me as I try and get back on track with posting.  This month’s installment was inspired, in part, by some recent comments and activity I have been following on a local level, but its roots are as old as the sport of bowling itself.  I am talking about the age old debate over which hand is easier to use when it comes to bowling, right handed or left handed, and the pitfalls bowlers fall into (mentally) by using this as an excuse for their own bad bowling.  If you ask any number of righties out there, a majority of them would probably say that most lefties have the advantage because they have less traffic, so the shot should stay more stable for a longer period of time.  But, if you ask a group of lefties, they would probably say righties have it easier due to the fact that a team of good right handed bowlers can “set up a lane” by all playing different parts of it with different types and surfaces of equipment so that the shot opens up, and the scores increase as the night goes on.  Which one would be right?  I don’t know, and I have been bowling now for over 20 years, but I will say there is a common theme that I wish all bowlers would follow, and that is to just shut up and throw the ball.

What I am saying is this, bowlers need to stop making excuses, and two of those instances are highlighted in the following:  a) When your opponent bowls well and beats your brains in, and b) When you bowl bad and can’t seem to find a good line, or carry, etc.  I will deal with scenario (a) first, as it is the one that drives me nuts when I hear other bowlers complain about it. 

No matter how much you may not like to lose, it is going to happen at some point, and probably more often than not, even if you are the best of players.  So, get used to it.  I don’t mean you should be praising up everyone who beats you and sound like some care free lunatic running around, but use some common sense and just give your opponent their due when they beat you, that’s all.  To me, there is nothing worse than a sore loser who constantly shows bad sportsmanship, and that can be a stigma that never leaves you no matter how much you try and change it down the road.  Some people will always look at you as a poor sport, so try and create good sportsmanship habits now before its too late.  This relates to the left handed / right handed debate because one of the first excuses that always comes out, if the person that beat you uses the opposite hand as yourself, is that they beat you because they were left handed (or right handed).  This is the ultimate slap in the face to your opponent, as they can not help which hand they use, they are just trying to make the best shots possible, and you are tearing them down just because you think they have it so much “easier” than you do on their side of the lane.  Unless you actually bowl on their side of the lane, you don’t have a clue as to whether that side is easier or harder, so just shut up about it.  It’s a dumb argument, and lame at best.  Why even go there and create drama?  Be a good sport, congratulate your opponent on a good match, and try and bowl better next time out.  The sport of bowling comes down to who can knock down the most pins in any given 10 frames, so you need to find out how to do that better than the person you are bowling against no matter what hand you use to do it, it’s just that simple.  Concentrating less on how they are doing, and why they are doing it, will make you a better bowler, as you have shifted your focus from your opponent back onto your game, and you can make corrections quicker and more accurately this way.  Sounds simple right?  Well it really is when you think about it, and removing yourself from the negative mindset of finding ways to tear down how your opponent beat you, by tearing down your opponent themselves, will allow you to fully reach your potential on and off the lanes as a bowler.

Now, with scenario (b) from above, bowlers will also fall into the trap of blaming carry on losing, whether that be their own bad carry, or complaining that their opponent caught “all the breaks” and carried everything.  This is just sour grapes to be honest, and makes you sound like a 4 year old who couldn’t have a cookie after supper.  Whining, putting, and stomping your feet are all unattractive qualities, but some that far too many bowlers possess, as I have seen over the years.  If you had poor carry, there is a reason for it, plain and simple.  Bowling is a game that can be explained by physics, and if you could not carry strikes on a given day, then there is a scientific reason why it happened, and not just because the bowling gods were not on your side that day.  You need to have the ability to clear your mind of distractions, and find a way to get the ball to carry strikes for you.  The great Pete Weber once told me “there is ALWAYS a line out there, you just have to find it”, and he is 100% right.  There is always a proper way to attack a lane, and it is up to you as a bowler to find the correct way to do it before your opponent does, period.  But, if they figure it out before you, and happen to get dialed in and beat you, that doesn’t mean you should go around telling everyone that he (or she) “got lucky” or that you “couldn’t catch a break”.  No, they figured it out better and faster than you did, so tip your hat to them, and vow to do the same to them the next time you face each other.  This shows good sportsmanship and also shows your opponent that you will be ready the next time you face them since you didn’t make any dumb excuses this time around.  I know as a bowler I never fear the person who whines when I beat them, but I do keep an eye out for the ones who just shake my hand and say great match.  I know those bowlers mean business, and I may have just caught them on an off day, so I better be on my guard next time out.  You see how much more respected you become when you show class and sportsmanship, not only for your opponent, but also for the sport of bowling in general?  Trust me, when your opponent respects you it helps you out because there is a fine line between respect and fear, and if you happen to jump out to a lead on someone and they know you aren’t the type to fold or make excuses, it makes it harder for them to come back and beat you as they know you are a rock out on the lanes.  So, it pays to grind out tough matches and give your opponent their due when they find a line and carry better than you on a given day, because the next time out, if you concentrate on your game and get the focus off of them, it can be you who wins the match with your superior mental game.

In closing, I would just like to say that my term in the beginning of “just shut up and throw the ball” may sound harsh, but I hope that you now understand exactly what I mean by that.  Don’t make excuses on the lanes for poor play, and don’t down grade your opponent based on what hand they throw the ball with, or how they do it.  Just show the same respect you would want them to show you, and you will find much more enjoyment out of the sport of bowling.  None of us can win all the time, and it’s just as important to be a good loser, as it is to be a gracious winner.  Once you master those two parts of the game, then you will truly be a good all around bowler and person on and off the lanes.  Thanks for reading, and remember the opinions expressed in this blog are my own and in no way reflect those of the MSUSBC or any of its members.  Please feel free to comment on anything you read, and I will try to respond as quickly as possible.  Good luck and good bowling everyone!!!

James Goulding III

M.I.S.T. Tournament Director

USBC Annual Fees: A Raging Debate by James Goulding III

USBC Annual Fees: A Raging Debate

by James Goulding III

Welcome again everyone to another blog installment on bowler-2-bowler.  I have been thinking about this subject ever since reading (and blogging about) the USBC annual meeting back in May.  At the meeting, there was a proposal that the annual USBC dues that every sanctioned bowler pays should go from the $10 yearly that it currently is, to a fee of $15.  This is the national amount, not including whatever your local association charges on top of the USBC amount.  This proposal was voted down, so the national USBC dues will continue to be $10 for the 2010 – 2011 bowling season.  Many people have varied, and sometimes very passionate, feelings on the USBC and the amount they charge for yearly fees, some good and others not so good.  For this reason, I have decided to weigh in with my very own feelings on the subject, and also try to propose my own solutions that could appease the many differing opinions on the debate about what USBC should charge bowlers on a yearly basis.

First off, I think I need to classify bowlers into (4) different categories, so that anybody reading this can see why it is so difficult for the USBC to please every bowler with the decisions they make.  Here are the (4) categories I have come up describing bowlers as it pertains to USBC and their dues program:

1) These bowlers are the ones who bowl every season and rarely will ever challenge for an honor score in their lifetime.  But, as it pertains to USBC dues, while they might complain they pay too much, these bowlers actually have somewhat of a valid point because the only service the USBC offers them is sanctioned lane conditions.  It’s not like they are going to be soaking the USBC for the cost of a 300 ring every season, so going up on dues will not sit well with this crowd.  I think the USBC knows this represents a major faction of bowlers out there, and they do not want to risk losing a ton of members by going up on dues, so to appease this crowd, they cut back on the available awards and keep the costs the same.

2)  These bowlers are the ones who constantly complain that dues are too high, even though they have the ability to grab multiple honor scores every  year.  The cost of (1) plaque that the USBC gives the bowler in this group costs them more than double the dues for a season, but these type of bowlers still complain that they should get more awards and at a cheaper rate.  Easy house shots have inflated their egos to the point that they lose all rational thought process when it comes to the amount of money it takes for the USBC to produce the awards for which they seek.  This is a relatively small percentage of bowlers, but a significant enough amount that the USBC had to scale back the awards program because they were going to go bankrupt if they kept giving away awards basically for free.  There is no way the USBC can ever truly please these bowlers, no matter what they charge or the awards that they offer on a yearly basis.  You never want to be lumped into this category if you are a bowler, and if you are in this category, please feel free to change your ways and exit at any time.

3)  These bowlers are happy with the current awards system, and will contend for USBC awards on a regular basis.  These bowlers may think that the USBC dues are a little high, but they don’t put up a stink about it.  These bowlers put their faith in the USBC that they make the best decisions for the sport of bowling, and even if the dues go up, they will pay to play.  There are a small number in this category, so the USBC doesn’t cater to them or their needs (per se), and will make decisions not based on the wants or needs of this group specifically, but will cover this group most of the time when they make decisions about the sport of bowling.

4)  This is the smallest group, but one that I fashion myself to be in.  This group will bowl and pay the USBC dues no matter what the cost.  This group feels that the recognition of an achievement is more significant than the ring or plaque that describes it.  The USBC could charge $40 a year for dues, and this group would pay, because they love the sport of bowling, and will do whatever it takes to make sure they continue doing it.  The USBC could eliminate the awards program altogether, but as long as they still recognize personal accomplishments on a national level (and database), then this group will not complain about it.  Unfortunately, this group is small in number, so it is hard for them to get their voices heard over the roar of the other groups who are in the USBC’s earshot.

Those are the (4) groups I think cover most bowlers out there as they pertain to USBC dues.  I personally have no problem with the USBC scaling back the awards program (like they have done now) and keep costs in line at $10 a year.  They are a business, after all, and if they do not generate sufficient funds to stay afloat, then there will be NO MORE awards for bowlers, because the USBC won’t be around to give them anymore. 

I get frustrated when I hear bowlers whine and complain that they are giving the USBC their money and getting nothing back in return.  That is the biggest load off poo I have ever heard.  For starters, IT’S ONLY $10 A YEAR!!!!!  Many bowlers complain like they have to pay $1,000 a year to bowl in a sanctioned league.  Of course these same bowlers will go out and spend over $500 for a couple of new bowling balls to try to achieve the awards that they complain are too expensive at a $10 fee once a year, so there is quite a bit of irony in there I think.  I guess some people think that the USBC has a stash of plaques, patches, and rings, and they are all FREE to produce for the USBC.  Well, let me tell you, it costs money for them to give out these awards, and paying a measly $10 is peanuts compared to what bowlers probably SHOULD pay to compete in USBC sanctioned leagues.

I would also be fine with the USBC telling bowlers they have to go up on dues from say $10 to $15.  But, and let me stress this, the USBC should do some research before a rate hike, and sell it to the bowlers.  I think they should do a cost analysis and see what they would need to charge to bring back some of the awards they eliminated, and still keep the quality of awards they have now, and give that final total to bowlers and let them know exactly what is going on and why.  Remember, the biggest group of bowlers are the ones who win the least amount of awards, so a rate hike would need to fly with this crowd for the USBC to stay viable.  So, by explaining to everyone that the cost increase for dues is to solely expand the awards program for ALL bowlers, the USBC might get away with a rate hike and not lose too many bowlers in the process (I still think it would be crazy to quit bowling just because you don’t want to pay a one time $10 or $15 fee once a year, but hey, that’s just my opinion).

I just feel like many bowlers don’t realize that their $10 they give the USBC each year isn’t just for awards.  They offer bowlers the opportunity to bowl on sanctioned lane conditions, ensuring that any and all scores you throw are legitimate.  Also, they require each bowling center to pass an annual inspection covering all aspects of the game, from lanes to pins, and approaches to pin decks.  This way, bowlers can compete against one another on a level playing field night in and night out.  The USBC also provides coaching classes, so that bowlers have certified coaches available in their area to help improve their bowling game(s).  Also, the USBC has a state of the art research and development facility to stay on the cutting edge of bowling technology, and to ensure that the playing rules accurately reflect the changing landscape of the sport of bowling.  The USBC rulebook gives leagues and tournaments guidelines to follow so that all competition is conducted in as fair of a manner as possible.  If you felt your $10 was too much at the beginning of this blog post, do you still feel that way after reading all the different services that the USBC provides?

I am not saying the USBC is perfect, but I think that for what they charge, they get the most out of our money on an annual basis.  I would be fine with paying double or triple the amount we currently pay, but I also realize that the USBC would lose many members if they did that, so I just try to let people know that their $10 can only go so far as it pertains to the awards program the USBC provides.  I do have a few possible solutions that the USBC could implement, or at least bring up for discussion at the next annual meeting, as it pertains to the amount they should charge bowlers to sanction.  Here are a few of my ideas:

1)  Set a base price for all new bowlers who have never received a USBC award before.  Say that price is $10 for example.  Well, if you achieve say (2) awards during the season, the following year you would pay an additional fee depending on the amount of awards you won.  Maybe that fee could go up by $3 for each award you get.  So, if you won (2) awards the year before, your sanction dues for the following season would be $16, instead of $10.  This type of sliding scale doesn’t penalize those who do not achieve honor scores, and passes the extra cost onto those who want the awards from USBC, and the bowlers who also achieve those awards from USBC.

2)  Give bowlers three different cost options when they sanction with the USBC.  The first, and cheapest, option is to pay for basic USBC services minus the awards program.  You would only pay something in the range of $10 like it is now, you would get recognition of your achievement in the USBC’s database, but not receive any actual award from the USBC for what you accomplish.  The second option would be an upgraded $15 annual fee, and that entitles you to the current awards system that is in place.  You get (1) of each type of award per season, all the benefits of USBC sanctioning, a subscription to US Bowler magazine, and basically keep things the way they are in the current system.  The last option would be an upgraded $20 sanctioning, and that gets you (2) of any award, a subscription to US Bowler magazine, first choice of bowling dates and times for the USBC National Tournament over the $10 or $15 crowd, and all the other benefits that USBC sanctioning has to offer.  I am just guessing at the costs of all of these options, but I think that some sort of tiered system would be a viable way for the USBC to make all types of bowlers happy, from the ones who could care less about awards, all the way to the ones who live to collect plaques and patches.

In closing, I would like to say that the debate over what the USBC charges for sanctioning is far from over.  I have just tried to shed some light on the subject, and make bowlers think about where that $10 goes that they give to the USBC every season.  $10 is a small amount to pay for the peace of mind that there is a governing body trying to make the playing field as level and competitive as possible, while still giving awards back to the bowlers who achieve great things on the lanes that they sanction.  I would give my $10 a year to the USBC just for that, even if they eliminated the awards program altogether.  As long as they keep a national database so that I can look up what I have achieved over the years, then the rest is just gravy.  Actually achieving a 300 or 800 (for example), and having that out there for the world to see, means more than some ring or plaque that will sit in my house will ever mean.  Knowing that what I achieve is legitimate and on a fair playing surface is reason enough for me to sanction with USBC every season, in every league and tournament, no matter what the cost may be.  As always, the opinion expressed in this blog are my own, and in no way reflect those of the Maine State USBC, or any of its members.  Thank you for reading, and please feel free to comment on anything you read, and I will try and respond ASAP.  Good luck, and good bowling everyone!