What is Bumper Bowling?

Kris Roudebush

Bumper bowling has got to be one of the best ways to spend an afternoon with a group of young children or adults with bowling challenges. Bumper bowling is played on a regular bowling lane and the gutters are covered or protected by rails to keep the ball in the game. Because bumper bowling is designed for young children or special needs adults the bowling balls used are lighter to meet the player’s ability.

Bumper bowling is played on a regular lane, but features bumpers to block the gutters.
Bumper bowling is played on a regular lane, but features bumpers to block the gutters.

Some bowling alleys have pop up rails that can be programmed for those users who require them. They slide up along the inner edge of the gutter and slide back down for users who don’t require them. This is a very nice feature for families with small children or groups with adults who may want to take advantage of the help.

The balls used for bumper bowling are usually a maximum of 6 pounds.
The balls used for bumper bowling are usually a maximum of 6 pounds.

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Other bowling alleys may use an inflatable tube that runs the length, or most of the length, of the lane to protect each gutter. If your bowling alley uses a tube, and sometimes even a bumper rail, there can be a weight limit on the bowling ball. The limit is usually 6 pounds, but check with your bowling alley to be sure.

The rules will vary in different areas, but two rules are stressed most often. First, the player can’t cross the foul line. If you do, you’ll hear a buzz and that will tell you that your points won’t be counted for that ball. Second, have fun. Bumper bowling is about building a love of the sport, not competition.

You’ll also find bumper bowling leagues just about everywhere. Children’s bumper bowing leagues start at about age 5 and can go up to around 16 years of age. They are used to teach bowling and encourage self esteem while the player learns. Adults with special needs also have bumper bowling leagues, so be sure to check with your bowling alley for more information.

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Discussion Comments


I suppose taking gutter balls out of the equation would help some very young players become more confident, but I think they need to move up to the regular game once they master the basics. Gutter balls happen to all bowlers, and it's just part of the game. I can see where throwing four or five gutter balls in a row would be discouraging for a young child, though.

Good information as I wasn't aware there was a limit on the weight of bowling balls. We taught our daughter to bowl using bumpers and were never told that we were restricted from using heavier bowling balls while playing with her. I don't know if some bumpers are sturdier than others, or if the folks down at the local alley just don't care.
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