The changing composition of bowlers

Bowling is going thru a major transition from a sport dominated by league bowlers several decades ago to a casual social activity. And with that change, the composition of who goes bowling is changing.

There is shift from serious sport and league bowling to casual social bowling. Since 2007, the share of all serious bowlers who bowled 13 or more times a year has declined from one-quarter to one-fifth (26% to 21%) of all bowlers while the share who are less frequent bowlers, the casual social bowler, has increased to four-in-five bowlers (79%).

If we drill down further and just look at people who have bowled four or less times a year, they now represent 93% of all bowlers.

The socioeconomic composition of bowlers is also going thru a transition from the middle-class league bowler to a higher socioeconomic casual bowlers.

One reason that college graduates have grown in share from 27% to 40% is because there has been a decline in the number of casual bowlers since 2012, but that decline is wholly from people who have not had any college education. The number of casual bowlers with high school degrees or less has declined by 10% whereas the number of casual bowlers with some college or a college degree has slightly increased.

Younger adults now dominate casual bowling.

A lot of this change to a higher socioeconomic casual social bowler is being driven by the growth of new community social venues that include upscale bowling combined with great contemporary food and beverage offerings such as Punch Bowl Social, Splitsville, The Painted Pin, The Painted Duck, Bol Vail, Kings, Pinewood Social and our company's recently opened Ocean5 and Doc Brundy's projects, to name just a few.

4-lane VIP bowling suite at Ocean5 Bowling at Doc Brundy's Delectable Diversions

These venues are in sharp contrast to the many old, worn and run-down bowling “alleys” built years ago that are on their last legs, that still cater to the league bowlers and where the food and beverage offerings are something you would have found in the 20th Century, not the 21st we're in now. It's these type facilities that totally drove the higher socioeconomic social casual bowlers away from bowling as a leisure option until the new centers came along over the past decade or so. Now the casual bowlers with discretionary incomes and more sophisticated food and drink preferences are returning to bowling as one of their out-of-home leisure options.