Across nearly three-fourths of the United States, AMF Bowling Co. reverberates year-round as families, friends, and competitors send bowling balls in search of upright pins careening down slick lanes. The company first established itself as an industry leader in 1946, the same year the sport introduced automated pinspotters.
Today, more than 20 million bowlers annually make AMF their battleground for wars against pins. As the largest owner and and operator of bowling centers in the US, AMF locations offer high-tech scoring technology, a classic design, and a menu stocked with American-inspired classics such as wings, pizzas, burgers, and beer.
As friends sup quietly in a private banquet hall, chaos reigns a floor below. There, stones hurtle toward the wall, forming piles of rubble soon swept away and forgotten in the clamor. Still, the friends dine peacefully, unaware of the destruction happening under their feet. At the two-story Irvine Lanes, bowlers topple pins on the first floor's 40 lanes while the second floor hosts private parties and catered events in an elegant setting. Of course, a snack bar lets bowlers eat downstairs, too, and a full arcade, bar, and smoking patio keep outings interesting as the machine whittles new pins between frames.
Forty gleaming synthetic lanes sprawl the length of Concourse Bowling Center's 42,000-square-foot bowling gallery. Overhead screens keep score, and lane-illuminating lights lie in wait until 10 p.m. on weekend nights, when the audio-visual spectacle of cosmic tenpin induces squirrels to temporarily suspend hibernation and just dance. Larger parties can rent out one of the alley's VIP suites, which sequester lanes and lounge areas behind giant curtains to create fortresses of bowling solitude that can accommodate up to 320 simultaneous bowlers. When not immediately engrossed in clobbering pins, bowlers can seek out snippets of a sports game on 1 of the alley's 25 sports-tuned plasma screens, or scarf a slice of house-made pizza and an amber pint at Kingpin's Bar & Grill, located just aft of the bowling action.
Driving by Linbrook Bowl might inspire a double take. Not because of their classic and colorful neon signage, but because of what it advertises: the alley is open 24 hours a day. This means people can pummel pins or dance around like Fred Flintstone no matter what time it is. In addition to 40 lanes, Linbrook Bowl is equipped with an onsite coffeeshop that helps fuel players all day and night. Bowlers can also grab a drink or bite to eat at The Kopa Room, while watching a sports game on TV or listening to amateur crooners charm the crowd with karaoke.
At Westminster Lanes, pins crash from the early morning until late at night. Here, players strap their feet into rental shoes and select the optimal ball for knocking down those poor pins, who just got back on their feet. Toes start tapping during Rock 'n' Bowl on weekends, and the alley occasionally hosts live entertainment, such as comedy shows.
Bowlers on a quest for either recreation or league glory can soak up the retro vibe at La Habra 300 Bowl until at least 11 p.m. every night. On Friday and Saturday, cosmic effects add a festive glow to nocturnal bowling (extra fee), evoking the excitement of outer space without the danger posed by reckless spaceship drivers. The center also offers party packages that furnish groups with lane space and shoes but require partygoers to bring their own cakes.