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JEFF RICHGELS • 11thframe.com

The United States Bowling Congress sometimes is slow to make changes that obviously are necessary for fairness in bowling, but it usually gets the big things correct eventually.  

Some prime examples include having fresh oil for all squads at the Open Championships and having an adequate amount of warm-up time before team and minors at the Open Championships. Those were changes that greatly improved the equity of the tournament for all players.

One issue that had been below the radar screens of most bowlers is the quirky ball surface altering rule at the Open Championships. That all changed when Kyle Troup broke the rule in practice prior to his team event last April 11 live on BowlTV and after I was informed of what happened the next morning, I decided it was time to put the rule on the radar screens of anyone reading my blog.

If you want to refresh yourself on what happened and the issue, my lengthy and detailed blog is here.

I had total confidence that once called out on the rule, USBC would do what was right and fix it before the 2015 Open Championships.

Whatever the negative types may believe about USBC, most of the people I know who work for the organization love the sport and care deeply about doing what is best for it.

And they have proven me correct again by changing the ball surface altering rule for the 2015 Open Championships.

Here is the page with the rules for the 2015 tournament.

And here is how the pertinent part of rule 9 on equipment now reads:

The Manager on Duty will handle any questionable circumstances.
BOWLING BALLS — Every bowler must have a bowling ball and shoes for his/her exclusive use. Each entrant will be allowed a maximum of eight bowling balls. Only USBC approved bowling balls will be allowed and MUST have the manufacturer’s name, product name and serial number clearly visible at all times for identification purposes. Balls and drilling must meet all USBC specifications. All bowling balls may be checked for compliance with USBC Equipment Specifications.


EQUIPMENT ALTERATIONS — Altering the surface of a bowling ball by the use of abrasives, cleaners or polish is prohibited during competition. In addition, no substance may be placed on the outer surface of the bowling ball. You are permitted to sand the surface of your bowling balls prior to certified competition; however, the use of abrasives is strictly prohibited once the first ball is thrown in competition. The outer surface of the bowling ball may only be cleaned with a dry towel once the bowler has begun competition. No modifications can be made to affect the balance of the bowling ball once competition has begun (i.e. additional weight holes, modification of existing holes, etc).
NOTE:
Rule 18/3 – Since the tournament is conducting doubles and singles concurrently, you cannot alter the surface of the bowling ball (including sanding) between events. Competition is defined as any time teams or individuals are bowling for score.
• Penalty for the first offense: Individual is warned and the ball is removed from that competition for the remainder of the series, match or block (Doubles and Singles is considered a block).
• Second offense: Disqualification from the remainder of the event in which the violation occurred.

This essentially make the rule the same for the Open Championships as it is for other certified competition, which is how it should be. You can lter the surface of your equipment prior to the start of competition, including out on the lanes during practice, not just in the lockerroom.

Props to USBC for taking another step that improves the Open Championships.

Maybe some day they will do what I have advocated for years and allow ball surfaces to be altered at any time, which will level the playing field to a degree between staff players and others who can afford many bowling balls and the average bowler: A 4-ball arsenal effectively becomes a 12-ball arsenal or more if surfaces can be altered at any time. 

In at least some international competition, players are allowed to alter their ball surfaces between games in a designated area outside the settee.

For more information about this article and the sport of bowling visit:  11thframe.com

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