I’m Not Sure Whether to Say I’m Sorry, Or You’re Welcome

by Dave Williams

One of the missions of working for AMF in an executive capacity was giving back to the bowling community. That meant donating time by volunteering for various committees initiated by the National Bowling Council and the Bowling Proprietors Association of America (BPAA).

As the “bowling ball tester” at AMF, and a member of the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA), it was only natural that Ron Wood of AMF Bowling Products asked me to be a part of the Limited Distance Dressing (LDD) Committee.

To say that being a part of this committee was an honor would be putting it lightly, as the members of this brain trust read like a “Who’s Who in the Bowling Industry,” back in 1988. Here’s a look at the committee that was structured with leaders from all parts of the bowling community:

George Bradner – Manufacturer
Remo Picchietti – Manufacturer
Joyce Deitch – Women’s International Bowling Congress (WIBC)
Flora Mitchell – Women’s International Bowling Congress (WIBC)
Sonny Frantz – Bowling Proprietors Association of America (BPAA)
V.A. Chief Wapensky – Bowling Proprietors Association of America (BPAA)
Marcel Fournier – Multi-Unit Bowling Information Group (MUBIG)
Hank Harris – Brunswick
Dave Williams – AMF
Robert Halleen – American Bowling Congress (ABC)
Richard Merrill – American Bowling Congress (ABC)
Roger Dalkin – American Bowling Congress (ABC)

Limited Distance Dressing was a concept that evolved from the suggested hypothesis that scoring assistance due to lane dressing distribution could be negated by restricting the distance that dressing may be applied to existing lane finishes.

Growing up in Northern California, where the winters are wet and the summers are dry with very low humidity, meant that the initial concept made complete sense to me, because in my experience more oil applied farther down the lane was a prerequisite to higher scores.

Reducing the distance would also eliminate the “human element,” by taking the decision out of the hands of local ABC representatives that had the power to approve or disapprove any score based upon their perception/relationship with an individual bowler, the proprietor and the application of oil upon the lane.

In the first year a limited distance of 26 feet beyond the foul line was established with lane oil applied across the entire width of the lane. Scores plummeted as you can imagine with a “reverse block” situation developing, and without enough lane oil to protect the primarily wooden lane surfaces of 1986.

Within three years the distance had been shortened to 24 feet, but the application of oil was no longer measured. Essentially this allowed proprietors to apply oil anyway that they wished as long as the application did not exceed 24 feet from the foul line.

That year was 1988, when we “let the cat out of the bag,” and proprietors discovered inventive ways to produce high scores by following the directives set forth by the Limited Distance Dressing Committee, through the auspices of the American Bowling Congress.

In a September 1988 article in the Richmond (Virginia) Times-Dispatch, staff writer Stan Cary said that “after three changes in lane conditioning rules in three years, this often cussed and discussed aspect of bowling may remain unchanged for awhile as industry representatives turn their attention to more stringent standards for bowling balls and pins.”

Cary went on to say that “this is the view of Dave Williams, vice president of marketing with Richmond-based AMF. Williams is satisfied that bowlers can count on no major conditioning rule changes in the next few years.”

“Simplicity in the rules ought to be the aim,” Williams said. “People come to a bowling center to escape the problems of life. We should give them good lane conditions, and a good clean center with exceptional operating equipment.”

“Of course, there has to be some kind of standards,” stated Williams, “but we shouldn’t make things more complicated for them.”

I still feel that way today… just 30 years after we “let the cat out of the bag.” But as the title of this article states, I’m not sure whether to say I’m sorry, or you’re welcome!?