Bowling Bumper – What Is It and When to Use It?

Being a bowling mom or dad and seeing the frustration on your children’s faces when they are crying because of throwing the bowling ball into the gutters time and again can be pretty stressful. That is why Bumper Bowling is one of the most revolutionary inventions in the sport of bowling for toddlers.

You might be wondering, what is Bumper Bowling and how does it work; Well, if that is what you are here for, you are in the right place because these are the topics I will be addressing today.

In this article, I will talk about a bowling bumper, what it is, how you can use it when to use it when it was invented, and everything in between. So, make sure you read this article till the end if you want to make your child’s next bowling experience happy and fulfilling.

Bowling Bumper - What Is It and When to Use It?

What is a Bowling Bumper?

A bowling bumper is a pair of grills or covers used to block the gutters on either side of the lane to prevent any wayward ball from going into them and pushing the bowling ball back onto the middle of the lane.

Bumpers are not the kind of bowling equipment you will see in a professional bowling alley simply because it is meant as a practicing tool. However, bowling bumpers are becoming much more common and widespread in bowling entertainment centers due to more and more children taking up the sport of bowling.

These bumpers take away the frustration of a child or a beginner bowler who cannot keep the bowling ball in the middle of the lane due to poor throwing and keeps the bowling balls within the bowling lane’s boundaries, away from the gutters. The bowling bumpers are placed right in front of the gutters on each side at a minimal distance, so they do not cramp the bowling lane surface too much even after being erected.

If bowling bumpers are used in a game of ten-pin bowling, the game is known as bumper bowling. If you have a child who wants to play the game but cannot, you should take them to a bowling alley where bumpers are available.

When was Bumper Bowling Invented?

In 1982, bumper bowling was invented by a Dallas bowling center owner and a concerned father who was the owner of the Jupiter Lanes Bowling Center; his name was Philip Kinzer. According to his wife, Philip’s only motivation to create this piece of equipment was that his toddler child, who was three years old, could play with his dad without crying due to all his balls going into the gutters.

Jupiter Lanes was one of the biggest bowling alleys in Dallas, Texas, and hosted more than 2,500 children on school trips, parties, etc., every single week. So, turning their cries and anguish into happiness was one of the most remarkable achievements for him.

Philip said that although bowling bumpers might give your children a significant advantage over you, they will be happier in the alley, take more interest in the game, and finally learn to bowl without the use of bumpers is what is most important.

Kinzer continued to reinvent the bumpers and make them as convenient as he could. He started with purchasing cardboard tubes and placing them on either side of the lanes, and once he saw that this could work well, he shifted to inflatable plastic cushions. Finally, automated bowling bumpers are used nowadays, which are easy to set up and can help children have fun with all the adults in the bowling alley.

Why is Bowling Bumper Used?

I’ve said this many times; bowling is a game meant for all kinds of people, children, adults, and senior citizens. However, when it comes to children aged five or less, holding a bowling ball can be quite difficult, let alone throwing the bowling ball towards pins at the end of the lane. Most children are not able to throw a heavy bowling ball towards the pins exactly right, and thus their bowling ball ends up going into the gutters, which can lead to disappointment and loss of will.

According to Philip Kinzer, playing with bowling bumpers is like playing baseball without the consequences of getting strikes. And that is precisely what bowling bumpers do.

With the help of bowling bumpers, casual bowling outings with your family can become less tragic and happier. Over the long run, bowling bumpers will also help children learn to throw the bowling ball in the middle to the point where they will not need the bumpers, like helping peddles work on a bicycle.

Bowling bumpers are not meant for adults, but if you are a complete beginner who wants to learn the art of bowling, using bowling bumpers is not illegal or anything, so if you are going to use them, you surely can. There will not be any problem, and you would learn quicker.

What Age is Appropriate for Bumper Bowling?

Bowling bumpers are considered helping equipment for children who want to have a fun time at the bowling alley but cannot do so because of their smaller frame.

That is why most bowling alleys have restrictions on using bowling bumpers. In addition, these bumpers can be erected only if the children playing there are less than ten years of age.

For any older child than the age of ten or an adult, bowling bumpers are not to be used. But there are some bowling alleys where these restrictions are lighter than others.

And then some bowling alleys do not consider bowling bumpers fair equipment for bowlers. They believe that these bumpers reduce the quality of bowling displays in a bowling alley.

To make things clear, if you are heading to the bowling alley with your children or smaller siblings aged ten or less, you will be able to use a bowling bumper for them so they can enjoy as much as you are doing.

How to Use Bowling Bumper

Bowling bumpers are available in different kinds, and depending upon where you bowl in the world, your experience can be different. Using a bowling bumper is quite simple.

But what is different is the kind of bowling bumper used in a bowling alley. To make sure you know what you are dealing with, here is how different bowling bumpers work and how you can help your children play with them.

Plastic Inflatable Bumpers

At the start of the invention of bumper bowling, the only kind of bowling bumpers available were plastic inflatable bumpers that were inflated whenever the need and requirement for them arrived.

Even in Jupiter Lanes Bowling Center, mechanics filled the bumpers manually to erect them when needed. But the plastic inflatable bumpers were ditched because of the excessive manual labor and time required to fill them. However, some bowling alleys still use these inflatable bumpers with automatic pumps that fill the bumpers whenever they are needed for a children’s game.

Steel Bumpers

After inflatable plastic bumpers came to the steel bumpers, which were placed on the sides of the lanes whenever needed and did not need to be filled or anything at all.

If a children’s game were taking place or any child under the age of ten was at a bowling lane, these bumpers would be brought out and placed as railings on the sides to avoid any gutter ball.

But keeping these bumpers in place, transporting them, and storing them used to be a complicated kind of ordeal which is why they were discontinued after some time.

Automatic Retractable Bumpers

The most advanced and recent upgrade of the bowling bumpers is the automatic retractable bumpers used in most high-quality bowling centers and alleys nowadays.

These bumpers are designed to be a part of the bowling lane architecture. They are fitted with mechanics that allow them to be erected on their own whenever needed on the sides of the bowling lane.

They are planted under the bowling lane and connected with the wiring of the bowling lane to behave this way. They are expensive to install, but in comparison to other bumpers, they are the best in terms of efficiency and portability.


Bowling bumpers are a great invention, and they have been around for quite a while now. They might not be a permanent solution to bad throwing, but they can surely help you learn to correct your throw and ensure that your children have a great time at the alley, giving you tough competition.

Make sure you use bowling bumpers to help your children learn and not rely on them all the time. I hope you learned a lot from this article and that you’re going to have an excellent time bowling with your friends, family, and children. Have a great day ahead of you!

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