Bowling History  -  Records and Record Scoring


I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and are preparing for a joyous Christmas. It is time to roll out the Bowling History column for this bowling season.

If you have followed the Bowling History column over the last few years, you have read about the bowling happenings from the beginning of bowling in Kokomo up through 1980. This season, I hope to summarize Kokomo's bowling highlights from that point through the end of this century. A lot has happened over these last 20 years and I hope to review these events in five-year intervals as in the past. I will wait until the May 2000 time frame to do the 1995-2000 time period summary so I can include this seasons highlights.

If you missed any of these columns, or would like to review them, you can see all the information on the Kokomo Bowling Association (KBA) web site. The address is

In addition to covering the most recent 20-year period, I plan to sprinkle in a few specialty topics to fill out the year. If you have any topics that you would like to see Bowling History address, please let me know.


Team Series Record Update

I would like to thank Scott Nelson for bringing to my attention that I overlooked the fact that his team set the Kokomo team series record on two occasions in the early 1990's. You may recall that last season Bowling History charted Kokomo's team series record from the beginning of the KBA up through the current record of 3457 set by the Kokomo Sports Center team in 1997.

On March 18, 1992, Arvin Construction set a new Kokomo team series record when they rolled a fabulous score of 3344. They eclipsed the Fletcher's Steak House record of 3318 set at Astro Bowl in 1980. Rolling at Cedar Crest Lanes, Arvin Construction put together games of 1164, 1053 and 1127 for the new mark. Members of the team with their scores were: Bob Dunn (722), Scott Nelson (572), Brian Walker (640), Mike Phillips (683) and Greg Garretson (727).

Then on October 6, 1992, only 7 months later, they broke their own record when they rolled a 3351. Scores this time were: Greg Garretson (782), Scott Nelson (683), Mike Phillips (633), Brian Walker (628) and Bob Dunn (620). Nelson's 683 was a career high.


High Scoring Debate Continues

The great debate surrounding high scoring in bowling is still on as has been discussed in Doug Arnold's recent bowling columns. I thought that it would be interesting to look back on earlier local articles on the subject of high scoring conditions.

Don Lowry first discussed the disparity of scoring in various regions of the country in his column back in the late 1950's. In the 1965-66 season, the issue of "lane doctoring" was covered quite thoroughly in his column. He talked about "sand-blocking" (outside boards dry, or sanded, with heavy oil in the center) and "strip-dressing" (applying lane dressing in strips to create good scoring in a given area of the lane).

Lowry also noted that the issue of "lane doctoring" was a major issue that had no easy solution. At the time there was no American Bowling Congress (ABC) rule pertaining to lane conditions. The ABC contended that "lane-doctoring" violated the spirit of the rules and sportsmanship. Lowry agreed but questioned how you can enforce the spirit of the rules. Lowry expressed his opinion that "lane-doctoring" was prevalent in highly competitive areas where bowling centers had to fight to get bowlers. These proprietors recognized that high scores brought people into their bowling centers.

Lowry cited an example of a league in northwest Indiana that had two 300 games and many 700 series in one week. That center was due to host a national tournament. Ten days prior to the tournament, the ABC moved in and told the proprietor how to dress the lanes. A team of 200 average bowlers couldn't shoot 877 their final game to make the finals. Lowry also reported on some comments made at a then recent PBA tour stop. One PBA member stated that "lane-doctoring" was making a "mockery out of bowling". Another stated that he had hit his mark only two times in a game and still scored a 289!

Since that time, the ABC has tried to define lane dressing rules. First came short oil so that you could not put a path and steer the ball all the way to the pocket. Then came the three unit rule in 1991-1992. It's intent was to force proprietors to put more lane conditioner on the outside boards to prevent "steering" the ball to the pocket.

Although these rules were well intended, they have not solved the problem. As Lowry indicated in his column in the 1960's, this was going to be a difficult problem to solve. Once there were rules in place, the ball manufacturers got more creative and designed equipment to "bite" the lane more in the presence of more conditioner. The reactive resin balls, introduced in 1990, are a good example. So were the urethane balls before that. Even locally, you could see the changes in scoring as new rules took effect and new ball technology was introduced. Today, lanes are not "doctored" as such. But lane conditioner patterns generally laid down are conducive to higher scores. With the sophisticated lane-dressing equipment, it would be easy to turn high scores off like flipping a light switch.

Where will the debate end? Will it end? It's been going on now for over 35 years. How can you go back to tougher scoring conditions? These are certainly tough questions to answer. I sure cannot answer them. Are bowlers now shooting in the 200's going to want to shoot in the 180's? I don't think so! However, many bowlers participating in bowling as a sport, as opposed to purely recreational bowling, are forming leagues with tougher lane conditions. They want to better measure their skill level. They want to improve their games. But will it last when their buddies are getting 300 rings while they are fighting for a measly 200 game? For this reason, I believe whatever is done must be done nationwide. We will probably see additional differentiation between the sport and recreational sides of bowling.

I would like to make a few observations regarding this issue. They pertain to the sport side of bowling. Although I bowl for fun, I also like the competition and continuously try to improve. So, it disappoints me when I see the sport side of bowling decline. So how does getting more strikes hurt the sport of bowling?

It used to be that you wanted to practice in order to improve. You work to reach your goals. We still hold the 200 average as one of our generic bowling goals. If we are already shooting 200 games because striking is easier, why practice? Under the current situation we need to raise our goals. Instead of practicing to raise your average to 200, we should be thinking of raising it to 220 or 230!

The professionals are the elite of bowling. Amateurs are supposed to look up to their skills and achievements with awe. It is tough to look up to professionals averaging a mere 220 when local bowlers, here and around the country, are averaging 220, 230 or even 240. Local bowlers shoot higher scores every night then they see the professionals shoot on television.

The casual public, and many of the higher average bowlers rolling on the same "house" condition each week, do not have a feel for the lane conditions that the professionals encounter. In bowling, you cannot see the "hazards" like you can on a golf course. Only the ball reaction tells you how much conditioner is where. The professionals often bowl on conditions where missing your target by a single board (one inch) means missing the head pin. On the typical "house" condition you might have three to five boards to play with. Most bowlers do not have a feel for the skill level that these professionals possess.

With the number of strikes per game rising, a tap or lucky break now has a greater significance on your score. A tap between two spares only costs you two pins. A tap between a string of strikes usually costs you 21 pins. With more strikes now occurring in a game, it's not just the number of strikes that determines your score, it's increasingly where they occur in the game. Over a full bowling season the breaks should even out. But in a one or three game match the breaks can easily determine the outcome. Maybe we need to look for ways to better quantify the skills and athleticism of the professional bowlers.

The good news is that recreational bowling is up. If we could only get more people interested in the sport side of bowling. One way is through high school bowling which, by the way, is growing significantly across the state. Although not yet an ISHAA sport, bowling will have its first Indiana high school championship this spring. Hopefully, Kokomo can be part of that new wave soon!