In the United States, a lot of bowlers choose to participate in bowling leagues. Leagues usually have teams of four bowlers, but this can differ between different leagues. Leagues that are not money leagues are available for people of every age and skill set. These leagues have tournaments in which teams compete for trophies and patches. Even though players are charged a nominal weekly fee, this fee covers lanes and the small rewards that are offered, and is a very small fee indeed.  

Money leagues differ in that the bowlers involved play for cash, trophies and awards that are rewarded at the end of the bowling season. These leagues generally only accept bowlers that are at least 18 years old. It is more expensive to join a money league than it is to join any other type of league. Dues not only cover lane time and awards, but the big cash prize that is awarded at season’s end as well. Even though it varies per league, most will give cash to the teams that come in 1st, 2nd and 3rd places and smaller awards to teams in categories such as highest series, highest average for the year, and highest single game score.

Most bowling leagues have teams bowl once per week, at three games apiece. Leagues can be arranged around almost any activity or interest and can consist of just women, just men or a mixture of the two. Inexperienced bowlers often have a handicap that acts to even out the completion. Bowling handicaps are figured out by getting the difference of a universal score, set forth by the league, and the bowler’s average, then taking a percent of that figure. If the league decides on a universal score of 200 and a percentage of 85%, a bowler that has a 160 average would end up with a handicap of 34. This is added to the player’s score before it is calculated into the teams score. If that bowler shot 185 during the game, the adjusted score would be 219. Handicaps exist to reward bowlers relative to their skill and performance, not just experience.

Some teams have their own contests that are not league involved, simply to spice up their night out bowling. One common thing a team may do is have a designated frame, where the member who scores the lowest must add cash to a fund for that team. This fund goes to either the person on the team with the highest average, or to each person on the team, at the end of the season. One take on this is instead of contributing cash, the player who scores low in that frame may buy beers or food for the other team members.

Winning money can make bowling more appealing for those who truly enjoy the game. The team not only wins patches and trophies, as in other leagues, but cash at the end of the season as well. Add to that the fact that handicaps exist for bowlers, even the inexperienced can contribute to their team’s standing. Money leagues are more expensive to be involved with, but add to the excitement of an already exciting sport.