Bowling is a fun sport for the entire family. Any time of year and whatever the weather, the lanes are ready and waiting for you. How much it will cost depends on a number of factors, all subject to how often you expect to bowl. Let’s look at those factors right now.
The Sport of Kings
Be happy that you can go bowling whenever you want to go. The game has a long history. One interesting part of it is that in 1511, King Henry VIII, who loved bowling, made it a law that only nobility could bowl. In 1545, this was loosened a bit – workers could bowl on Christmas Day, but only in their masters’ houses. That law stayed on the books, as they say, until it was repealed in 1845.
When commoners like us go to the bowling alley today, we pay by the game. When you get to the alley, you go in and up to the counter to be assigned a lane. Most alleys allow you to call ahead for a reservation so you are assured a lane at the time you want it.
Once you are assigned a lane, you will set up scoring and then play as many games as you want to play. Keep in mind the per game price, which you will pay for each person per game after you have finished playing.
A way of cutting costs is taking advantage of discounts, daytime rates, and specials. There are usually discounts for children and senior citizens. Keep in mind that game prices can be half as much or less during the day from 11 am to 4 pm. Also, sometimes you will find a special deal that allows bowling two or three hours at a set rate of $15 to $25 per person, often with reduced beverage prices to sweeten the deal. That’s right — you can eat nachos and drink a soda (or beer) while you bowl. It’s a beautiful sport.
Bowling requires special shoes, and it’s not only about performance and care for the alley. It’s also about your safety. Street shoes may have grime or other substances on the sole that can compromise the approach as bowlers are sliding to release the ball. That could result in an injury.
Shoe rental runs between $2 and $3. That adds up quickly if you bowl every week or even twice a month. And that’s not the only troublesome thing about it.
When you rent shoes, someone has worn them before you. Suppose the shoes are changed out once a year. With only one rental per week, 52 people have worn the shoes before you. Are you confident in their foot care regimen? Do you trust the little squirt of deodorizing disinfectant the attendant sprays into the shoes is sufficiently effective against routine perspiration, let alone athlete’s foot?
No, of course you do not. If you are going to bowl regularly, you want to consider having your very own shoes. Some will ask, “Isn’t renting cheaper?” Not necessarily. It depends on how often you use them.
Let’s look at the lower end of that rental price range. It is no problem at all to find a good bowling shoe for around $40. Easy, simple math is all it takes. If you pay $2 to rent shoes every time you go bowling, you will have spent $40 on shoes after twenty trips to the bowling alley.
A good pair of bowling shoes will provide three to five years of regular use, depending on how often you use them and how well you care for them. Using our figures from before, after the first year you’re ahead of the game as far as shoe cost goes.
Now, if your bowling excursion is a once a year deal, maybe for a special charity event held annually, you might try bringing your own can of disinfectant to give the rental shoes a super spray down before donning them. I’d also wear heavy socks and bring a second pair of socks to change into before returning to my own shoes when bowling is finished.
When you go to a bowling alley, pay for a game, and don your shoes, the ball is free. Just pick up one, and another, and another, until you find a ball that is the right weight with a good hand fit.
You might have noticed when renting shoes that when you return then, the attendant sprays a disinfectant into the shoes to kill odor-causing bacteria before the next renter wears them. What you may not know is that nothing like this is done for the bowling ball.
Imagine the many and varied things a person might do with their fingers between frames. Now, imagine them picking up the ball at the next frame, sticking their fingers deep into the holes, and rolling it down the lane. Two days later, you come in to play a game and pick up the same ball. You put your fingers in the same holes.
A bowling ball costs more than bowling shoes, and there is more that can go wrong if you don’t get it right. For the shoes, if you know your size and width, there is not a whole lot you can get wrong for a casual bowler. A bowling ball is a different story. You need the right weight, and you have to have the drilling done by a competent professional.
Bowling ball cleaning towel and seesaw.
If you have ever bowled before, you probably have a good idea of the weight you want. Women usually go for a 10 to 12 pound ball while men tend more toward 14 pounds or more. Do not use a ball so heavy that it causes injury, but do use the most weight you can handle well. That extra ‘oompf’ from an extra pound or two will knock down more pins.
A good bowling ball can be had for $50 or less at Amazon and at specialty sites like bowling.com, but when you get a ball online for that price you will have to find the drilling on your own. That service can easily add another $50 to $100 to the cost of the ball. When you buy a bowling ball at Dick’s Sporting Goods locally or online, the drilling is included – just remember to bring proof of purchase to the store if you ordered online. Drilling will be included when you buy one at your local alley’s pro shop, too.
Someone may point out to you that there have been no wide-spread news reports of people dying from germs picked up from an alley’s bowling ball. That’s true. But who is to say what caused an illness?Would you necessarily say four days later, “I bet it was that bowling ball that gave me this cold?” No, you’ll think it was someone who coughed in your direction across the hallway at work. And besides, illness or not, the thought of all those sweaty (at the very least) hands being inside the ball before my own just makes me shudder.
If you absolutely cannot justify the expense of a bowling ball just yet, come up with a system. I would advise against spraying the entire ball with Lysol but maybe bring along some disinfectant wipes. Wrap your finger in one and go into the finger holes with it then leave it there for a minute to let the solution work its wonders. Do that for each of the holes in the ball. To clean the exterior of the ball, invest in a $10 towel or seesaw. You will read more on that in the Accessories section, below.
Like most sports, bowling can be as basic or elaborate as you want it to be, depending on your budget. The most basic cost for bowling – game fees and shoe rental, during standard hours – will cost an adult about $8.00 with an additional $5 per game played after the first. Just be sure to remember those Lysol wipes and a ball towel or seesaw.
Thumb saver and rosin bags to improve delivery.
Now that we’ve covered the standard implements of the sport, let’s look at a few of the basic bowling accessories that will benefit anyone who bowls more than a few times a year.
First, a ball cleaner. You will want this whether you are using your own ball or a rental. The seesaw type cleaner is a more hands off device. Meaning you keep your hands off the ball so that you do not get the grime on your hands. If you are confident in your ability to towel off the ball without getting dirt on your hands or clothing, then a towel might do for you. This might also be your choice if you feel using a seesaw is too conspicuous. I don’t think that, but you might. A towel will run around $6 – $10 while a see saw will go from $10 to $15.
Second, you want the best grip on the ball you can get. At the very least, consider carrying a rosin bag with you. A thumb protector is nice, too. There is also bowling tape and wrist supports to help with your delivery. Rosin packs cost between $6 and $12, thumb protectors are around $10, and a wrist support will price out at anywhere between $15 and $50.
Another nice accessory for those of us with our own bowling balls and shoes is a bowling bag to tote all of it to the alley every week. Quality bags can be found for around $25. A bag with wheels will start at around $60.
Bowling is fun and gets us a bit of exercise. It is enjoyable in a group, with the family, and even alone to improve our game. How much it costs you in the end is up to you, but if you go regularly, picking up a few of the basic accessories is worth the splurge. Especially the shoes. Thanks for reading!