New 'String Pin' Technology May Change Bowling

Serious bowlers see a difference in how the pins fall
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 22, 2023 2:55 PM CST
A Big Change Is Coming to Bowling, on Strings
A screen shot of 'string pins' in a bowling alley.   (YouTube)

Back in 2020, the 11thframe blog suggested that "string pinsetters" might be "the next big thing in bowling." The prediction appears to be spot-on—and plenty of bowlers aren't happy about it, writes Ben Kesling at the Wall Street Journal. So what is a string pinsetter? It's a new automated technology more alleys across the US are using to set pins. Gone is the familiar mechanical arm long used to sweep away downed pins. With this new device, the bowling pins are attached to strings, and they get hoisted back into place, kind of like marionettes, explains Kesling. As you might expect, the strings appear to have an effect on the game. Casual bowlers probably would not notice, but more serious ones—and certainly professionals—would.

"It kind of leaves some weird, like, Tetris designs, I would say, you know, just because of how they fall and how the pins interact with each other," pro bowler Bryanna Cote tells NPR. The US Bowling Congress did some research and found that string pins resulted in 7% fewer strikes, along with fewer spares and, as Cote says, more unusual splits left standing. Bowlers of all stripes better get used to it. String pinsetters are cheaper and easier to maintain than the old-school equipment, and cash-strapped alleys need all the help they can get. “Whether you like it or not, the reality is it’s going to happen," says Thomas Shannon, CEO of the Bowlero chain of bowling centers. The shift will be gradual, however, as lanes phase in the new systems in as the older ones go down. (More bowling stories.)

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