This question comes up all the time. I’m sure you know people who make illegal “alterations” during league play, knowingly or unknowingly. You may even be inadvertently doing something wrong yourself. Not to fear. You will not be immediately punished 🙂 Rule 18 of the 2009-2010 USBC Rulebook clarifies the situation.
Here’s how it works…
You can use any acceptable cleaner at any time during a USBC sanctioned event, be it league or tournament.
Here is the link to acceptable cleaners. Be sure to check this carefully.
However, how you do it is restricted! Within the Rule 18 Commonly Asked Questions, 18/2 strictly forbids the use of a ball spinner. That means you must apply an approved cleaner by hand. This is my interpretation of the rules.
When can you alter the surface?
Here’s the simple version:
Sanding: Before or After bowling only
Polishing: Before or After bowling. Once play begins, no ball spinners. Automated polishing machines are allowed. In other words, don’t take your ball into the pro shop during play and expect them to throw it on the spinner! Someone could immediately ask that your ball is taken out of play for the remainder of the competition.
What’s the point of this rule?
Well, the USBC is really trying to eliminate the use of abrasives during play. You really should have your coverstock set to how you want it before you start play. This is why it’s so important to understand your arsenal and have all of your equipment prepared prior to the start of bowling.
How do you know what’s abrasive?
Well, the USBC is set to clarify for us if it wasn’t clear already. As of August 1 2010, there will be no more question…I think (see article). The USBC will require each non-commercial cleaner and polish to carry a new logo indicating whether it is approved for use during play or only before and after. This will make it so much easier to confirm if you or your fellow bowlers are “legal”. Remember, there will be a handful of commercial products like rubbing alcohol, Windex, etc. that will not be required to carry the logos. At least your league officers will need to know what’s legal and what’s not.
Hopefully this provides some clarity on what you can do to your bowling ball… Good Luck!