String Bowling Pinsetters vs. Free Fall Pinsetters: What You Need to Know

Mar 23, 2020 | Bowling Business | 3 comments

Funk is one of the leading manufacturers of string bowling pinsetters in the world. We are going to be advocates for the string pinsetter. However, it isn’t self-interest that is driving our perspective. We see just how much we save our clients that choose string pinsetters. This is especially true for the entrepreneurs that are focused on offering a family entertainment experience.

String Bowling

As the traditional sport bowler declines, the entertainment bowler is growing in numbers. String bowling has grown in popularity as well. It may be true that the sport bowler is accustomed to the free fall pinsetter. On the other hand, the USBC is considering sanctioning the string pinsetter for competitive play. The entertainment bowler doesn’t really care either way and simply wants a fun, exciting and consistent bowling experience that isn’t spoiled by failing machines.

When deciding between installing string bowling pinsetters or free fall pinsetters, here are some questions to ask yourself to determine the best pinsetter decision for your business and for your bowlers.

Who is your target bowler?

While the sport bowler is on the decline, in some markets they are as strong as ever. Sport bowlers are accustomed to the free fall pinsetter, but more and more sport bowling centers are moving toward string as the USBC considers sanctioning string machines. This could result in a major shift toward string and we’re already starting to see this trend take hold.

With declining numbers of sport bowlers and a rise in casual, family entertainment bowlers, the free fall pinsetter is becoming less and less viable from a financial perspective. Given the maintenance costs and common issues with free fall pinsetters, coupled with the fact that entertainment bowling is on the rise, string is likely to have a prominent place in the future of bowling in the US.

Are your string bowling pinsetter maintenance costs out of control?

One of the largest expenses of any bowling business is the costs associated with free fall pinsetter maintenance and repair work. From the cost of replacement parts to the costs associated with staffing a pinsetter mechanic, maintenance costs can be extremely high when it comes to free fall pinsetters. In comparison, string pinsetters utilize fewer parts and therefore have fewer issues. Additionally, they are much easier to repair and many of the common issues can be handled by any bowling staff member.

Do your lanes experience significant downtime as a result of broken free fall pinsetters?

Compounding the costs associated with maintenance is the fact that when a lane is down due to repairs, that lane can’t generate revenue for you. Especially during high-traffic periods of your business, down lanes means lost revenue. Given the fact that free fall pinsetters have so many moving parts and require regular repair work, you’re not only losing money in maintenance costs, but in lane downtime. Given the ease of up-keep for string pinsetters and their reliability, that means less lane downtime and more revenue per lane.

Are your customers complaining about pinsetter failures?

The reality today is that the customer expects a certain kind of bowling experience: fast, reliable and uninterrupted. When they come to your bowling center, they expect the machines to work as intended and to have a seamless bowling experience. When free fall machines fail and interrupt a game, your customers aren’t going to like it. If it happens with regularity, your business reputation could be significantly hurt. Additionally, this can be compounded online by bad reviews of your business, that might prevent people from coming to your lanes in the future. Investing in the more reliable string pinsetter can protect you from these kinds of experiences.


The main reason that string pinsetters aren’t being used in every single bowling alley across the country is because the sport bowler isn’t convinced that string offers a true bowling experience. However, from the business perspective, string presents the most financially responsible option for bowling business owners and proprietors. While we expect the USBC to certify the string pinsetter for competitive use, until that happens, each bowling business will need to make the best decision for their business and for their bowlers.


  1. Donna Dickens

    I have bowled with strings this season and have not noticed any differences

  2. MINO

    No problems with string bowling. I am a professional and nothing wrong

  3. Wayne

    I am a regular league bowling an my alley is making the switch. We will be closing our league and taking our business elsewhere. Its not that we aren’t willing to try it, but until USBC starts sanctioning leagues then we won’t be able to give out awards or track our progress online. I myself have quite a few 299’s and would be devastated if I got my 300 with string pins and couldn’t have my ring.


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