As much as I would like to see the sport bloom and grow, it is simply not happening. When was the last time you stepped into a bowling alley? And when was the last time you stepped into one out of your own accord (and not some company event etc)?
Week in week out we see golf ranges filled to the max with regulars, new learners as well as seniors working hard on their game. We don't see that many in the bowling alleys. It is not a coincidence that golf is such a popular sport. We cannot ignore the fact that golf is an essntial tool in business whereas bowling will probably never be one where people can talk about multi-million dollar deals.
Then there's the travelling factor. I only know a few people who will make their way to Malaysia or Thailand for bowling tournaments. Golfers do travel quite a bit for their game. Take in some greenery as well as enjoy the climate in another country, it all adds to the game experience. Honestly one bowling alley don't look that different from another...
Then there's the perceived inequality. The other guy got a better ball. He's bowling on an easier lane. The oiling suits him better etc etc etc. I guess we have too many players with sour grapes in bowling. Houseshot or sports pattern. $300 balls or 2nd-hand balls. If a little kid can make a strike or spare with a 12lb plastic ball then there's no reason why an adult cannot do the same. Its down to accuracy and consistency. In golf it is much more straightforward and people acknowledges the better golfer more readily no matter which tee they starts from (at least that is what I observed).
As bowling alleys start to close down one by one, we are stuck with a big question. Do we make the lanes tougher or easier? Tougher and varied lane conditions will keep the hardcores coming back for much challenges, but will scare the average/poor players out of the game. "Easy" house patterns will keep the players happy as they will get more strikes and feel good about themselves but will be pretty boring after a while.
But things are not all that gloomy. I do see high takeup rate of lanes from schools these days. And we have a few bowling academies grooming future talents. Most may not make it big to change the landscape but we are assured of a generation of bowlers. At least that will keep the lanes in business.