Types of Bowling Leagues


Bowling leagues can be structured many different ways in order to accomplish different things. As an example, a center might promote varying leagues in order to encourage as many individuals as possible to come to the alley. Leagues can be competitive or non-competitive and can restrict player entrance by any number of specific player requirements. In this article you’ll learn about some of the different leagues and what benefits accompany each of them.

Some of the different leagues include:

  • Gender Specific: All male, all female, mixed gender
  • Age brackets:  under 18, 18 and above, senior citizens
  • Couples or pairs: Spouses, Parent and Child, Siblings, friends, etc.

Just for Fun or Non-competitive

Leagues in this category are generally less competitive, focus more on the social aspects of the game, and players are not required to have exceptional skill. In fact, many beginners shy away from leagues because of the assumption that you have to score as high as 180 or 190. But according to John Jowdy at Bowling Digital, the median average for bowlers is much lower. Men average about 165, while women average 140. Don’t let a low average keep you from joining a league. Leagues that are non-competitive are usually best suited to beginning bowlers who are new to the league system and need an introduction to the rules, a place to practice, or to test their abilities in a friendly environment.

These types of leagues allow players to have fun with family and friends. Handicap leagues generally fall into this category and allow players with less skill to compete on teams with players of higher skill. You may also be able to compete for smaller prizes, which is always a fun way to end the season.

Some benefits of these leagues are that sometimes your league fees will cover or contribute to your USBC membership and you’ll be eligible for awards and prizes through the association. Part of your league fees usually go toward a prize fund for the individual league from which prizes will be awarded at the end of the season. Sometimes leagues use the funds to provide food, drinks, shirts, etc. You should always ask for a breakdown of what you league fee is going to.


Competitive leagues are usually more focused on scores both individually and as teams. If you want to push yourself to do better, competitive leagues provide more motivation through award systems and bigger championship tournaments. Such awards can include prizes of significant cash value or other items. Within competitive bowling, there are generally two categories: professional or amateur.

Professional bowlers are usually members of the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) and earn a living bowling. Some professionals may have regular careers, but bowling makes up an equal part of their total salary. While you may not currently have the skills to compete against professionals, you can compete in PBA sponsored pro-am tournaments that pair professionals with amateurs so it’s a good idea to have a little knowledge about them.

Amateur bowlers are not members of PBA and compete in amateur tournaments that professional bowlers are not permitted to participate in. Amateur tournaments typically have high payout for winners and amateur bowlers can make a living this way as well. As you get better, you may start winning some of these sought after funds too.

Interesting note: both professional and amateur bowlers are currently permitted to play as representatives on the United States Olympics bowling team.


Currently, there are two main bowling associations. The United States Bowling Congress (USBC) is essentially the amateur’s regulating body. The USBC regulates all aspects of bowling including:

  • Lane conditions – oil application, lane specifications (such as length and width), pins and pinsetting machinery, ball return, and balls.
  • Rules of Play
  • Certifications – leagues, tournaments, coaches
  • Championships and awards
  • Regulating amateur status among youth bowlers

The Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) is exactly as it sounds. The association is, in essence, the equivalent of Major League Baseball or Professional Golfing Association. Its members are considered professional bowlers. Much of the PBA’s involvement in bowling is promoting it as a professional, spectator sport through televised championship tournaments and tours much like in professional golf. The PBA, like the USBC, regulates all aspects of competition to ensure equal play between competitors.




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