Bowling’s new pinsetters are causing drama

String pinsetters are cheaper, but some say they change the way the sport feels.

Most of us probably don’t think too hard about bowling pins; we just try to knock ‘em down. But it turns out they don’t all fall quite the same.

Bowling’s new pinsetters are causing drama

Alleys have been switching to a new automated system using “string pins,” per The Wall Street Journal.

How it works

Nylon strings attached to the pins’ tops pull them up into a rack after a shot, then replace those the player missed. (You can see a video here.)

This system is simpler and less expensive than the free-fall machines alleys used to use, and repairs are cheaper and faster. It’s also cheaper than hiring human pinsetters, a nearly obsolete practice.

Owners say that due to pandemic setbacks, increased operating costs, and a dip in bowling’s popularity, cost-cutting has become necessary.

But there’s a catch

While the International Bowling Federation says string pins are fine in tournament play, the US Bowling Congress (USBC) claims a study of 86k+ shots found string pins result in ~7% fewer strikes and more frequent splits.

The USBC proposed some kind of standardization for pinsetters in its report, which may appeal to the pros and purists.

Most casual bowlers, however, won’t notice a huge difference in between slices of greasy pizza and pitchers of beer — though one player did tell the WSJ they don’t make the same sound.

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