Bowling is back, in a big way

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Bowling at Broadway Lanes in Fort Edward (Photo courtesy of Broadway Lanes website)

It could be said that bowling is back in the game.

Like many sports, bowling was adversely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. While law enforcement was not enforcing then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s mandates that inside gatherings of large groups were prohibited, businesses were forced to shut down or at least curtail their operations to some degree. Thus, bowling lanes fell silent.

While the pandemic may not officially be over, restrictions have been lifted, and bowling is experiencing a resurgence around Washington County, the state and the nation as a whole.


People want to get out and socialize again. Families are looking for entertainment that won’t break the budget. It’s an avenue to happiness.

Those are some of the reasons for more bowling balls smashing into the pins, according to Brandon Bickford, whose family owns both Slate Valley Lanes in Granville and Broadway Lanes in Fort Edward. He said the month of December was especially good, particularly when it comes to open bowling.

Bowling represents an afternoon or evening out in a warm friendly environment. To encourage this trend, he says both houses have been running specials that have been well received. Leagues are doing better as well but are not yet completely back to the participation levels they saw only a few years ago.

A strike is a good thing

While bowling is enjoyable when it comes to leagues and tournaments, it is also competitive, and those high scores can be very difficult to achieve. It takes precise footwork, a well-practiced delivery and the ability to read the way the lanes are running, so to speak.

If bowling on a pair of lanes, one lane may play very differently from the other. It takes concentration and knowing how to let the ball roll out of your hand to achieve a high scoring average.

Bickford said that before the pandemic started, seeing many bowlers average 230 games (300 being a perfect game, or 12 strikes in a row) was rare.

Nowadays, scores are higher. He credits this to changes in what is called the oil pattern, the way the lubricant that helps a ball roll down the lane is applied. Many lanes are now synthetic instead of wood, which would more readily absorb the oil and change conditions as games wore on.

The machines that oil the lanes also are more precise – and expensive, costing upwards of $40,000. Higher scores are being seen, and human nature being what it is, more success, of course, brings more enjoyment from the sport.

It does cost more

In addition to scores, the cost of bowling has gone up.

Bickford said the installation of new infrastructure and inflationary pressures have forced his family’s lanes to raise their prices with the cost of two games and shoe rental no longer a ten-dollar bill.

But, he pointed out, compared to many other forms of recreation, bowling is still a bargain.

Bickford said whether you are new to bowling or thinking about coming back to the lanes, just get out and get back in the game.