What is Bumper Bowling and How It Works?

bumper bowling

Kids or adults- bumper bowling is for everyone who is new to this sport. Are you a beginner? Is your bowling ball going into the gutter again and again, no matter how much you’re trying to roll it straight? Well, then you definitely need to know what is bumper bowling and how beneficial it can be without risking your bowling score. Bowling center bumper system is also helpful for those who are handicapped or those who lack strength and physical coordination. So you can see important bumpers can be in bowling. Let’s learn more about this above-mentioned system of bowling in detail.

What is a Bumper Bowling?

When conventional bowling is played with the bumper system, it is called bumper bowling. When the bumper system is installed, the gutters are covered so that your bowling ball doesn’t go into the gutter and stays in the lane. The bumpers are actually rails that prevent gutter balls. Some bowling centers have pop-up rails, meaning, those are automated and programmed to work when players need them. The bumper rails slide up close to the inner edge of the gutter, and when players don’t need them, they slide back down.

The bumper doesn’t let your ball getting into the gutter, and it increases your chance of hitting the pins. When you get a gutter ball, you get zero points; and the bowling pinsetter only has to confirm the pin height and return the ball to you. Knocking pins over is the only way to get points. Beginners often experience gutter balls, and it is a frustrating experience. This is when turning on bumpers works like magic as it allows them to experience normal bowling ball rolls and the thrill of knocking over pins. It also lets them gain some confidence, which is very important for both kids and adults.

Who invented Bumper Bowling?

Bumper bowling was first invented by Phillip Kinzer back in 1982. He developed bumper bowling in Jupiter Lanes bowling Center, Dallas, Texas. Phillip Kinzer aimed to make bowling fun for everyone despite their skills and physical ability. Bumper bowling made this sports fair for everyone no matter how a person throws the ball because anyone can manage to knock down some pins. Bumpers also allow you to improve your ball throwing technique without changing the complexity of the game.

How do Bowling Bumper work?

If a bowling alley has the bumper system installed, it means you can play bumper bowling besides regular bowling. Bumper bowling offers a bumper (a barrier) on each side of the bowling lane. The bumper systems can be manual, semi-automated, or automated. These bumpers you will see on both sides of the lane are usually movable to an extended positioned. As we said, the bumpers are actually rails that prevent your bowling ball from falling into the gutter, let it roll straight on the lane, and retract its position like traditional bowling.

The bowling bumpers rails have multiple air cylinders attached that help the ball to give it a little bump and set it in place again. Those air cylinders are made bouncy so that when they are in contact with the ball, they don’t mark or scratch the ball’s surface and ruin the coverstock. The bowling centers also have electrical actuators that move the bumpers between the positions.

The automatic bowling bumpers are generally popular in most bowling centers. After all, who wants to bear the hassle of placing the long rails, right? That’s why you will see most of the local and downtown-based bowling centers prefer automated bowling bumpers. It is usually connected to a computer that is linked to the automatic scorer. So when the scorer notices you’re getting consecutive zeros, it can sense that you’re getting gutter balls and it automatically raises the bumpers. If the system notices that your ball isn’t touching the bumpers and you’re getting good points, it automatically lowers the bumpers.

If your local bowling centers don’t have this facility, ask them if they have the semi-automated ones where a switch is pressed to activate or deactivate the bumpers. To activate the bumpers for your game play, you will have to go to the reception desk and ask them if they can turn on the bumpers for the lane you’re playing. Don’t forget the tell them which lane it is. Once you tell them, it will take about a minute or so for the bumpers to slide out and your bowling lane will be ready to use.

If you already see 1 or 2 lanes in the centers have bumpers on, then wait for your turn for the availability of the lane instead of having another lane with bumpers. Those who don’t need bumpers to play won’t have enough lanes to bowl.


There is nothing wrong with using bowling bumpers if you’re not scoring well. Kids, adults- anyone can make the best out of bumpers and enhance their bowling skills with time. So don’t you worry. Keep practicing with the bumpers on. Once you have the knack for bowling straight without touching the ball with the bumpers, you will know you can now shoot your balls without bumpers. So, be fierce and keep on rolling!


I’m an aspiring bowler with an immense love for bowling. I started playing the game at a very early age and it’s been an integral part of my life ever since.

Recent Posts