Bowling as Wintertime Golf Methadone

SMG BowlingEight years ago, my regular golf buddies and I decided that, instead of moping around all winter, as usual, we would go bowling. Eight guys showed up the first Sunday. Ferris, it turned out, had bowled in high school, and Billy had been a member of a hippie team in college. Nick and Gene already owned their own balls and shoes. Ray brought his old ball but couldn’t use it because his fingers no longer fit into the holes.

As soon as I got home, I went online and ordered bowling shoes, a bowling instruction book, and a bowling ball that looks like a giant golf ball. Two weeks later, I bought a second ball (with more spin) and a two-ball bag, to which I attached my golf-club bag tag. I had my name engraved on one of the balls, and “SMG” (for Sunday Morning Group) engraved on the other.

bowling ball

Taking up bowling was like discovering a previously unsuspected continent of things that you can buy. (Did you know that good bowling shoes have different right and left soles—one to grip and one to slide?) We transferred over all our regular junk, including skins, negative skins, nassaus, presses, and the money hole. We bowled in golf clothes and golf hats. We referred to frames as holes and to games as rounds. We used golf towels to wipe lane oil from our balls. I even managed to preserve most of my swing flaws: I came over the top in bowling, too.

I created an Excel spreadsheet that automatically updated everybody’s average and handicap whenever I entered new scores. In one of our earliest outings, after shooting a depressingly characteristic 82, I had six consecutive strikes, a spare, another strike, and two nines, for 226. Hacker (real name) said, “Aren’t you kind of sad that you’ve already shot the best round you’ll ever shoot?”

A bowling alley is one of the few sporting venues where a golfer can feel almost like an athlete. There were so many smokers at one of the ones we went to that even the parking lot smelled like cigarettes. Most of the regulars, who gave us dirty looks when we collapsed in hysterics over somebody’s double gutter ball, had very low centers of gravity—they were shaped like bowling pins—and their bowling bags had  wheels on them. The specialty at the snack counter was panzarotti, which is made by combining all the things your doctor tells you never to eat and deep-frying them.

Bowling is fun, but it’s just golf methadone. We bowled for two winters, but then winters around here started seeming more like late fall or early spring. We found several open golf courses within an hour or two of where we live, and they made us forget all about our fancy bowling shoes. This winter, though, we’ve had a couple of big snowstorms, including a huge one this past weekend. We’re probably not going to see grass around here again for a while, even if it doesn’t snow this coming weekend, the way it’s supposed to. So who knows?

smb reminder

4 thoughts on “Bowling as Wintertime Golf Methadone

  1. And to think. After a Super Bowl party with several of my golfing buddies the goodbyes were riddled with, “Okay boys. All we need is this light dusting to melt off, and we’re golden.” What a fargin difference a week makes. Now it’s, “See you in June. Maybe.”

  2. Bowling as golf methadone — I like it! Bowling is actually an under-rated sport; there’s a lot more to it (at a high level) than most people realize. (It’s easy to laugh at the idea of a bowler having a whole set of balls — but a bowler might just as easily come back and as you why you need 14 clubs! It’s actually a very similar concept.)
    But if you’re looking for a really stimulating wintertime challenge/golf substitute, I suggest shooting pool. Even more so than bowling, pool played at a high level is much more complex than most casual observers realize. (And you really only need one stick! But it should be a good one — there is a difference.) The type of concentration required is very similar – except with golf you (usually) have several minutes between shots, whereas in pool when you make a shot your next one follows immediately. A good player on a good run goes into a kind of trance — much more so than you see in golf (with the possible exception of Tiger stalking a crucial putt).
    I’ve often said that if pool were played outside on green grass in beautiful sunshine under a brilliant blue sky, I might even give it the edge over golf. But of course it’s not. So golf still wins. But not by as much as you might think.

    • Bowling caused more injuries among my pals than golf ever has, if you don’t count Hacker’s heart attack. It’s all one side–plus a fifteen-pound weight!

  3. Dr. Owen: Here in the Great White North, it is curling. No coincidence that many of Canada’s top curlers are golf pros in the summer. Crokinole is another alternative. (Look it up.)

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