- $29 for two hours of candlepin bowling for up to six people, with shoe rental ($59 value)
Candlepin Bowling: A Difficult Recreation
Candlepin bowling is designed for the social athlete who likes a bit of a challenge. Prepare to face its unique complexities with Groupon’s introduction.
In its 130-year history, a perfect game of candlepin bowling has never been played. A glance at the anatomy of the game—a New England–bred alternative to tenpin bowling, the kind that clatters through most lanes—shows why. Though the pins are striped like their traditional counterparts, they’re about as thin and cylindrical as their name would suggest. Then there are the balls: measuring only 4.5 inches across and up to 2 pounds, 7 ounces, they may match the weight of a single pin. They also have no holes, so bowlers hurl them down the lane from their palm.
If these difficulties weren’t enough, the pins are placed farther apart than in tenpins, and when the first ball knocks them down, they remain there for each of the two remaining throws. Depending on where they land, these fallen sentries (called deadwood) can aid the bowler by being propelled into standing pins. But they can also be just another barrier to clearing the lane.
Three foul lines mark the candlepin-bowling lane. As in tenpin bowling, there’s a foul line that the bowler’s toes can’t cross. To prevent players from pitching the light-weight ball directly through the air into the pins, the ball must make contact with the lane before passing the lob line, positioned 10 feet down from the foul line. Finally, there is the deadwood line. Toppled pins located between the lob line and the deadwood line are unplayable, and if a player hits any pins in this area, they get a foul and an automatic shift polishing the balls.
Candlepin bowling is an old-fashioned sport, and its popularity has dwindled a bit in recent decades; the Boston Globe reported that the number of available lanes has dwindled by two-thirds since the 1980s. But candlepin lanes still dot the East Coast, with an especially dense concentration around the sport’s birthplace of Worcester, Massachusetts. There, area residents may fondly recall the not-so-distant days when an enormously popular candlepin-bowling program aired on Saturday-morning TV.