The term "recreational bowler" refers to a person who goes bowling once-in-a-while with family, friends, the company, or some other special occasion. This person's main interest lies not in the score of the game but in socializing and having a good time. Some of the following tips apply not only to the first-time recreational bowler; but, may also serve as reminders to the ones who have not bowled in a while (over a year or so).
1) Call ahead to check the status of available ("open") lanes - it could save you a lengthy drive and a group of unhappy kids. 99% of all bowling alleys have league competition in the early evenings on a continuing basis. The two main seasons for league competitions are Winter, which starts in August/September and ends in April/May; and Summer, which goes from April/May to August/September. (In the Winter season, it is often difficult to get a lane between 5:00 PM and 9:30 PM., Sundays through Thursdays.)
2) Reservations may or may not be taken - each bowling center has their own policy. Many centers are on a "first-come, first-served" basis when only a few lanes are available for "open play."
3) When you enter the bowling alley, look for the front desk ("check-in counter"), which will generally be close to the central area of the building. This is the focal point where you will check-in, check-out, and call on if there are any problems with the machinery or equipment. It'll be easy to recognize.
4) Prices of games and shoe rentals vary based on the time of day. Game prices are per-game/per-person and shoes are for the duration of your session. Expect to pay higher prices in the evenings and on weekends. Many bowling alleys have specials that are not widely advertised so ask for them since they are sometimes as much as 50% off their regular prices.
5) Make sure that the soles of your rental shoes are clean and free of anything that would prevent you from sliding on the lane approach. Since they are rented to right-handed and left-handed bowlers, both sides will have leather-like soles. Along with this, always test your sliding foot on the approach, especially in the area closest to the foul line.
6) Bowling balls for public use ("house balls") are placed throughout the concourse area and range in weight from 9-lbs to 16-lbs. For the younger kids, 8-lbs balls are usually kept behind the desk so you have to ask for them. Many places have them color-coded by weight.
7) Since "either-handed bowlers" will use the house balls, the holes in them are drilled for generic use. There are three holes in the ball, middle finger, ring finger, and thumb. To select a fairly good fit:
a) Place your thumb in the hole and make sure it is "not-too-tight" nor
"not-too-loose," but, "just right."
b) With your thumb in the hole to the palm joint (all the way in), lay your middle
and ring fingers over the finger holes. The best fit is when the first joints of
both fingers are over the near edge of the holes.
8) Bowling is a social game in that each person's "playing field" is adjacent to another's. The number one rule when playing the game is termed, "right-of-way." With the exception of the end lanes (or if there's no one on the immediate adjacent lane), you should yield the right-of-way to the person who is already up and prepared to bowl. This is so you won't distract them from their efforts to get a strike or spare; and, for safety reasons. You'll observe that other bowlers who've learned this rule will do the same to you.
9) Learning more about bowling etiquette (courtesies) and terminology will further enhance your enjoyment of the game. This tip applies even if you always remain a recreational bowler.
I leave you with a final thought that is more often used in educational and business seminars but very appropriate here. That is, "The only stupid question is the one that's never asked." If you're not sure about what to do when you're in the bowling center, always ask. The center employees or the more experienced bowler on the next lane will be more than happy to answer your questions.