Josh Blanchard: This past month, USBC announced new equipment specification changes that would be taking place over the next few years. There was a lot of talk and bashing of the rule change when it came out from many bowlers around the world. I personally applaud the USBC on trying to tighten the standards back up to keep integrity from being tarnished in the coming decades. The two major changes was 1) Elimination of weight holes in all bowling balls; 2) Not allowing you to clean or adjust the surface during competition. I believe the rule change with eliminating weight holes is something that only effects less than 5% of bowlers. Most weight holes are currently put in balls to bring them back to legal static weight under the current rules. So lets all just relax and take a deep breathe and ask your local pro shop to plug your weight hole this off season and practice with the ball and see if you really see a difference in reaction.
Their goal is try to and recapture control of the playing environment and equipment. In nearly every other sport there isn't anything a competitor can do to significantly change the playing environment or approved equipment to create an advantage or disadvantage for someone else. However, in bowling those things are currently ingrained into the sport. The have main rule changes: 1. Weight holes will no longer be allowed starting in 2020. 2. Balls much meet a new oil absorption rate. 3. Balls can no longer be cleaned during competition.
While one or two of these changes have an impact on scoring or two handed deliveries, the only thing that is affected by all three rules is the goal I mentioned, the player's ability to influence the playing environment and equipment. Weight holes used to be used to keep the ball legal, but now they are more commonly used to increase the ball's ability to flare and completely change a bowling ball's nature from what it was designed and approved to do by the USBC. This change will help USBC maintain control over the equipment that is used, because now the equipment won't be able to be modified significantly after USBC has approved it for use. The second rule is to help with the constant innovation of bowling balls to absorb more and more oil. Again, oil absorption isn't a scoring pace issue. Scoring pace is determined by the pattern put down on the lanes. Oil absorption puts a lot of power in the player's hand to influence the playing conditions, which again, doesn't exist in other main stream sports. Lastly, the final rule of not allowing a ball to be cleaned during competition echos the same goal of trying to eliminate how much a ball can carve up or change lane conditions. If it can be cleaned after every shot, it's going to be much more likely to absorb more oil and change conditions at a faster rate. I know many of you are worried about when your bowling ball comes back with sludge on it, and now you can't clean it. While I totally agree with that thought, a more optimistic perspective would be that it may force bowling centers to keep their establishments cleaner, as now a poorly maintained center can cause a customer a huge amount of dissatisfaction, which could cause them to lose that customer to a cleaner center.
Based on those things, I think the rule changes are great, because they should accomplish the goal of minimizing how much players can impact the playing conditions and equipment. We have to remember that the USBC's job is to manage the integrity of the sport. In my opinion, they fell asleep at the wheel for a number of years. They are starting to do their job again, and we should continue to scrutinize their decisions and make sure they are keeping our interest at heart, but we should scrutinize fairly and let them know when they get it right! I think they got this one right!