Bowling can be a very social sport. It doesn’t take a tremendous amount of athleticism to play. The startup investment can be practically nothing if you don’t mind renting used shoes and a ball.
Parties and events like candle-light or midnight bowling remain popular at bowling centers across the country.
Bowling is fun. Events are fun. They are meant to be enjoyed by everyone who attends, whether it is their first bowling experience or a years-long addiction.
But Americans are a competitive breed. No matter how sociable bowling is supposed to be, none of us wants to lose a game by fifty pins.
So we ask, “What is a good bowling average, anyway?” Then we have our target.
Bowling Like a Pro
To find a good average, it makes sense to see what the professionals bowl, right? These are the guys who really know how to bowl.
The highest average among Professional Bowlers’ Association (PBA) bowlers with over 100 games was 226 (Jesper Svensson) last season.
When we watch a PBA match on television though, we usually see a winner pushing into the 260s or 280s.
That just shows that everyone has better days than others. Heck, I even bowled a 226 once. Just once.
Bowling Like Joe
Obviously, we’re not professionals. We can probably gauge our games better by comparing our averages with an average Joe.
So let’s look at a few league bowler averages.
A quick Google search of leagues in my area shows that top New Jersey league bowlers average between 190 and 225.
So question number one is, can you and I be good enough to bowl between 190 and 225?
Question number two is, if a good league bowler averages only one pin less than the top professional, why doesn’t that league bowler go pro?
Marketing Skills at Work
The reason you should dismiss professional bowling averages is because you and I and most league bowlers do not bowl on professional alleys.
You bowl in your local bowling alley. It may be a very good facility. It may even be certified by one of bowling’s governing agencies.
Regardless of their certification or quality of the alleys, all bowling facilities know one thing: if bowlers knock down more pins, they have more fun.
If they have more fun, they are more likely to come back. So the bowling centers have a trick or two to help new, amateur, and league bowlers garner higher scores.
Wax On...Wax Off…
Bowling alleys are covered with a combination of wax and oils. Wax helps balls curve, while oil makes it more difficult to create movement.
Your local bowling alley probably uses more wax on the outer edges of an alley and oil in the middle.
Wax on the outer edges helps the ball “bite”. Its spin will change the trajectory of the ball easier on wax and help direct it to the middle of the alley.
The waxed edges also can create a slight trough, helping keep the ball thrown down the middle from curving off the alley.
Finding Their Groove
With the proper amount of wax on the edges, sometimes called a dry area, and some oil in the middle, bowling facilities can help lead slower balls toward the pins.
The result is that everyone’s average is a little higher than they might have been.
PBA alleys on the other hand, are often oiled across the entire alley, offering no advantage to the professional bowler.
Therefore a 226 bowled on a professional alley is way more impressive than the 226 I bowled at the alley down the street.
So What is a Good Bowling Average For Us?
We discussed the league averages (between 190-225). Most of us will not hit that mark.
Subjective reports from various bowling alley owners and coaches say that a typical amateur or “good” leisure bowler’s average is closer to 130-150.
For that reason, you can find handicap leagues easier than straight-up leagues.
A handicap bowling league works the same as a golf handicap. Bowlers are spotted a certain amount of pins based on their average when they join the league.
I Try to be Good, but...
Without a doubt, a typical leisure bowler is not “good”. Their average is nowhere near the 130-150 cited above.
For the majority of leisure bowlers who do not yet fall into the definition of good bowlers, consider the following:
The most likely bowling score a bowler will achieve is 78. In fact, if you bowl over 78, you can honestly say that you are an above average bowler.
We Have Charts and Graphs and Real Math!
A website called Balmoral Software provides the analysis that shows us how likely every possible bowling score is.
They explain that there are eleven possibilities for each first-ball thrown down the alley. So at the very least, there are not just 110 possible combinations of scores, but rather 11 to the tenth power or almost 26 million possible scores from just the first ball!
Balmoral shares graphs and charts and all the math that proves the median score of the millions of possible scenarios in a bowling game is indeed, 78.
So...79 is Good?
You probably want to set your sights on a higher average than 78. Remember, this is an average. A lot of your games will score lower than your average score.
A worthy starting goal is probably to never score lower than 78. Breaking triple-digits may be rare at first, but as you bowl more, it should be more common.
Eventually, you should set your second goal as an average of over 100. As you find scores of lower than 100 become rarer, raise the goal.
How much and how often you raise your targets are up to you. They can probably be more aggressive if you are able to bowl often.
If your local bowling center has a handicap leagues, you might consider using their thresholds as your target increments, even if you do not plan on joining a league.
What’s the Best Average of All?
Bowling is a wonderful pastime. The more people who turn an occasional night off into a bowling hobby, the better.
The more people who turn a bowling hobby into competitive league participation, the better.
Whatever your average is today, with practice it will become a distant memory. By the time it settles into a consistent number, you will be an engaged member of the bowling community.
That’s why a good bowling average is whatever average you hold right now.