What are Bumpers for Bowling?

What are Bumpers for Bowling

Last updated on January 5th, 2023 at 11:53 am

A bumper in bowling is a metal railing raised along the bowling lane’s side to block the gutters so the ball can not roll into the gutters. These usually get erected when a young child is bowling or if the current bowler is a beginner to the sport. It’s an attempt to make the game a better experience for everyone, regardless of age or experience, since the ball won’t go into the gutter on a roll.


So, when did bumper bowling start? How do bumpers work in a bowling game? What are the benefits of using bumpers in bowling, and are there pros and cons to using this assistance in games?


Here is the complete guide to bumpers for bowling.


When Did Bumper Bowling Start?

When Did Bumper Bowling Start

Bumpers became a thing in 1982 thanks to Philip Kinzer. Phillip owned Jupiter lanes bowling center in Dallas, Texas, at the time. He came up with the bumper system after watching his son struggle during a bowling game, throwing multiple gutter balls. Sensing his son’s frustration, Phillip wanted to even out the game and make the bowling experience fun for everyone. To help make the game more enjoyable for everyone, he put cardboard tubes along the side of the bowling lanes. The cardboard tubes then got upgraded to inflatable tubes.


Eventually, however, when these got too tricky for most bowling alleys to maintain, he created the modern bumpers, two long, retractable metal railings along the bowling lane.


Today, bowling alleys either have automatic bumper rails that customers can have erected from the scoreboard console, or they have to get installed manually. These are now common sites in all bowling alleys where small children, people with special needs, novices to the game, or birthday party takes place.


How Do Bumpers Work in Bowling?

How bowling bumpers work is simple. Once a player chooses to participate with bumpers, the metal bars get raised for the game. These rails get extended in front of the gutters, extending the entire length of the bowling lane, and will prevent balls from falling. These bumpers remain in place until the group finishes their session playing or again if they request to have them removed.


What is the Benefit of Using Bumpers in Bowling?

What is the Benefit of Using Bumpers in Bowling

The main benefit to using bumpers in bowling is to eliminate gutter balls. Rolling a gutter ball becomes very frustration during a game. Especially when you are in a group, rolling a gutter ball can be embarrassing.


If you are a child or beginner, you may be unable to help roll gutter balls. Using bumpers during your bowling game is the logical choice if that is the case. Also, it is worth noting that hitting the gutter on a roll does not result in any point reduction.


What are the Pros and Cons of Using Bumpers in Bowling?

While bumpers are a helpful tool, they possess pros and cons. The pros and cons of bumpers include the following:



  • The game is less serious and emphasizes the fun part of bowling. Having bumpers, especially for a birthday party, is an excellent choice to keep the game fun for everyone.
  • It will enable beginners to adapt to the game faster.
  • If done correctly, they are part of someone’s bowling strategy, as you can bounce the ball off the railing to place it on a better trajectory.



  • Some may become reliant on the bumpers and need to learn the necessary skills later. For example, if you choose to roll into the bumpers for better trajectory hits, you might struggle to play games that don’t have that option.
  • It can be embarrassing for some to play with bumpers as it shows their lack of experience.
  • It does not guarantee you will hit the pins. It only ensures the ball does not go into the gutter, but it still could roll against the railing and not hit any pins. For example, if your roll only hits the pins on the right-hand side, your next roll can go to the exact spot, resulting in no pin hits.


Do Professional Bowlers Use Bumpers?

Do Professional Bowlers Use Bumpers

A professional would not typically need bumpers when they are playing. They have muscle memory and experience not to roll a gutter ball during a game. A professional on their off time with their child may use a bumper. However, if they were playing in a professional league, they would not.


Most bowling leagues or tournaments consisting of adults do not allow for the use of bumpers. Not only because it would make the game easier for them but also because they typically throw the ball harder than children and would be more likely to damage the bumpers if they were there.


Conclusion: What are Bumpers for Bowling?

Phil Kinzer created the bowling bumper with pure intentions. Bumpers are steel rods along the gutters of the bowling lane to help make the game fun and fair for everyone. Thanks to Phil Kinzer, these bumpers are everywhere, from the local bowling alley to luxury bowling alleys.


Bowling alley bumpers are a popular choice for a kid’s birthday party. Since some players might not be familiar with bowling, having bumpers creates a fun and safe atmosphere for everyone to participate. Since you can’t roll a gutter ball with bumpers, the game won’t become frustrating for them.


Finally, bumpers are not part of professional bowling leagues. Experienced bowlers tend to roll the ball much faster than your average player, so hitting the bumpers might cause them physical damage. Plus, in these professional leagues, every roll counts toward winning. Having any assistance with bumpers that could take an otherwise bad roll and bounce it into the pins will create an unfair advantage.


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