Duckpin bowling, for those unfamiliar with the term, is similar to traditional bowling but uses much smaller and lighter balls, allows more rolls per frame, and has bumpers in the gutter. This makes it a perfect introduction to bowling for kids. There are only a handful of duckpin bowling centers in the U.S. and we are lucky enough to have one in the Maryland suburbs of D.C.
Stepping into White Oak Duckpin Lanes is like stepping back in time, since much of the equipment in use is 57 years old and scoring is done by hand. Very young children from about 2 ½ on up can enjoy rolling the ball down the lane and (hopefully) knocking down some pins. Balls are so light that my three year old can pick them up with ease. Older children can learn the rules of the game more in-depth.
When bowling you have the option of either renting the lane for an hour for $25.00 (that can be split among as many bowlers as you like) or paying per player per game. For bowling with children, an hour is a good amount of time and not all children may last the full hour. I was told that a typical two-person game should last around 20 minutes, but I found that it takes longer playing with young children.
White Oak is very strict about keeping score if you are paying by the game and requires you to turn in your score sheet. If you do not, they will charge you $25.00 for an hour’s rental. I panicked a little when I heard this since I had no idea how to keep score but I was told by an employee that it was okay to just mark and X for each three balls rolled (duckpin bowling has three balls per frame).
All bowlers must wear bowling shoes which can be rented for $4.00. Note that children’s shoe sizes start at size 11 so if your child has a smaller shoe size they can wear their own shoes. Adults helping little bowlers but not bowling themselves can also wear their own shoes.
There is a snack bar that offers full meals, including pizza, hot dogs, subs, and milkshakes. There are tables set up behind the lanes for eating. There is a very strict no outside food or drinks policy, even for children. Plenty of free parking is available in a lot outside of the lanes. The lanes are down three flights of steps so it is not stroller friendly. There also aren’t any changing tables or highchairs.
Nearly every child I know who has tried duckpin bowling has loved it. It is a great way to introduce your child to bowling and it can be enjoyed by nearly all ages from about 2 ½ on up, making it a great activity for groups of mixed-age children.
Photos by Jamie Davis Smith.