New USBC Certification Procedures to Put Focus on Lanes

Is it the lanes or is it the balls? That’s the question that always comes up when discussions turn to the scoring explosion in bowling.

In a move that seems certain to ignite a firestorm of debate on social media, the United States Bowling Congress this morning put the focus on lanes — in particular, synthetic lanes — announcing plans to implement new requirements for lane inspections and adjust specifications for new installations, effective with the 2019-20 season.

At the USBC Annual Meeting at The Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, USBC Executive Director Chad Murphy acknowledged that USBC has become “very relaxed” in many areas of the country when it comes to making sure lanes are in compliance with USBC specifications. He also said that with 82% of certified lanes now being made of synthetic materials and only 18% of wood, it was time to take a closer look at specs that were written for wood lanes.

“This is a complicated, sensitive, emotional issue for the entire industry, but we’ve gone way too long in trying to figure this out,” Murphy said. “We are the national governing body. We have to start enforcing the rules if we’re going to clean it up.”

Decisions about the initial steps to take were based on recent research conducted by the USBC Equipment Specifications and Certifications team.

The research included analysis of the lane certification paperwork submitted by 323 centers, and an examination of more than 1,000 lanes throughout the country, with lanes checked to determine compliance with current specifications, a study of the pin deck, and an examination of lane topography.

The studies were undertaken to determine the extent of lanes that were out of specification, which pin deck measurements have the most effect on scoring, how lane topography shifts over time, and how lane topography affects the ball path.

“The USBC team did a tremendous job in its research, looking at how lanes are inspected and how the lanes perform under current specifications,” Murphy said. “The results helped us to make decisions on ways to improve the lane certification process and how installations are done. The studies and subsequent changes are important to ensuring the lanes USBC members compete on in leagues and competitions meet required standards.”

The key changes to lane certification will be the specification change for new installations, including overlays on existing lanes, the number of measurements required for each lane, and how kickbacks, the side panels of each lane in the pit area, are measured.

For new installations, including overlays on existing lanes, the specification for crowns/depressions and crosswise tilts now will be plus/minus thirty-thousandths of an inch, starting Aug. 1, 2019. USBC also will require an inspection within 14 days following the completion of a new installation.

The specification change only is at the time of installation, and will minimize maintenance costs. The specification returns to plus/minus forty-thousandths for the next annual inspection.

Lane topography, which looks at contours, crowns and depressions, showed lane surfaces can change throughout the year because of environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity. If lanes start flatter, they will stay within the current specification of forty-thousandths of an inch for a longer time, prompting the specification change.

Starting with certifications for the 2018-19 season, a new application for center certification will be available on that will address the number of measurements required for each lane and how kickbacks are measured.

Lane inspectors will be required to measure the lanes at five locations for crowns/depressions and crosswise title, instead of the current three locations. With many lanes using synthetic panels, and the fact it takes five synthetic panels to construct a lane, there is a need to have at least one measurement for each panel.

A pin deck area scoring study determined the most important measurement affecting percentage of strikes is the distance between the kickbacks at the back of the pin deck. Measurements now will be taken from kickback plate to kickback plate starting with the 2018-19 season, as it simplifies the measuring process and is not a change in the specification.

Lane inspectors also will be required to submit inspection applications signed by the inspector, association manager, and center representative to USBC national headquarters.

To ensure the accuracy of the data, USBC will allow a one-year grace period for center certification. Simply having a proper inspection of the bowling center and supplying the data to USBC Headquarters will allow the center to be certified for the 2018-19 season. The data collected during these inspections will be analyzed to determine if additional improvements to the process will be needed for the 2019-20 season. Proprietors always will be encouraged to make needed repairs to their lanes.

Go to and click on Lane-Center Certifications to view the complete Lane Certification Study.

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