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A bowling league is a group event where several teams bowl against each other over the course of a season. Most bowling leagues consist of four team players that meet up once a week or once every other week, usually at the same day and time. Teams of three or five players are also common. Leagues can be set up as male-only, female-only, or mixed. Four-person teams tend to be used in mixed leagues, while three- and five-player teams are more common in male-only and female-only leagues.
Each session, each team in the league faces one other team. In most bowling leagues each team plays three games per scheduled match. After the first week of the league, the average for each player is set, and the average can go up or down after each subsequent session as more games are bowled. Though there are "scratch" leagues where only actual score counts, most leagues use the bowler averages to determine team and/or individual handicaps. The handicap is the difference of the sum of averages between the two teams that are facing each other (sometimes then multiplied by a percentage, such as 90%), or an amount calculated from a score that is above the highest team average in the league so that each team gets a handicap amount. The handicap gives teams with lower averages a chance to compete against teams with higher averages.
Besides the fun of having a team and rolling a ball down the alley to hit a few pins, there are often weekly and seasonal cash prizes and pools that go along with the game. The point of this is to have something to work for. Some leagues will have strike pools or spare pools. This is when team members put in money to play the game. The first person to get a certain amount of strikes or spares wins the total amount of money that everyone put in. In some cases, a ticket is drawn and the bowler holding that ticket must roll a strike to win the jackpot. If no one wins it in one week, then the money carries over to the next week until someone finally gets a strike. Other common jackpots are high scratch game, high handicap game, and "mystery" game (where a score is drawn and anyone whose game matched that score wins a prize).
Bowling leagues normally attract an adult crowd, whether it is duck pin bowling or ten-pin bowling. However, youth bowling leagues are also common, particularly on weekend afternoons. This gives kids the time to learn the game while competing with friends. They start off with bumpers and work their way up until the bumpers are no longer needed. (Bumpers are used to block the gutters so that the bowling ball always has a chance to hit some pins.)
Leagues normally consist of weekly sessions that require each bowler on a team to bowl three games per week (or more/less depending on the league's rules). Some leagues have special prize funds accumulated by a small weekly fee (above that which is paid to the bowling center) that can fund cash prizes at the end of the season, or anything from a trip to Las Vegas to a bowling ball of your own.
In a given weekly session, each team will face another team in the league in scheduled competition. Teams are awarded points for winning each game, plus points for having more total pins than the other team at the end of all games that week. Scoring systems vary by league. Some of the most common ways of scoring matches in leagues that have three games per week are:
Some leagues may have scoring systems in which each individual on a team bowls an opposing team member for a point, in addition to team points being awarded. Such systems can have 30 points or more up for grabs every night.
League standings are published after each session, and teams with more points at the end of a season (or end of a half in split seasons) generally win the most money or a special prize.
"Bowling for All" by:Joe Falcaro
"The Book of Rules: A visual guide to the laws of every commonly played sport and game." by:Duncan Peterson