I will take a shot at as many of these as I can...I hope it helps. I will number them to match the numbers on the questions.
1. A handicap is where there is a set score (usually between 200 and 200), and in a handicapped league those who do not maintain an average at that limit are 'given' points that are added to their totals. Example: A bowler who is averaging a 180 will get an extra 20 pins added to their scratch score if the handicap is set at 100% of 200. If it were 100% of 210 they would have 30 pins added, etc. Sometimes a league will use like 90%of 200 and then math kicks in a little more
You would take 90% of the difference between the bowler's average and 200.
2. As for my thoughts on handicap leagues, I think it is decent that it levels the playing field for those leagues that use one. Without a handicap, it is easy for some teams to never have a chance to win while others would win all the time. This would hurt the popularity of leagues. In my area we do have scratch leagues that are very competative, so I don't mind that there are also handicap leagues (and I bowl on both types). If I did not have the option to bowl on a scratch league I would be disappointed to only bowl on a scratch league.
3. I practice several times a week in addition to leagues. I also try to practice on conditions harder than just the house shot.
4. I like to practice alone...I have not ever practiced with a team. I also like to bowl with my wife, but that's more fun than practice.
5. If I am correct, balls start at about 8lbs and go to 16lbs. Anything over 16lbs is against USBC regulations. The price of ball varies enormously. Most casual bowlers use house balls which are basically plastic balls (and do not hook much). More serious bowlers only use these to throw at spares and if they want the ball to go straight. They cost about $20-70 (and higher if you want certain characters or logos on them). Then there are balls that have particles, or resin built into them. These are put into the coverstock (the outer layer) of the ball. These help to create friction on the lane and have the ability to hook into the pocket. More serious bowlers use these. Some can cost $80-120. The high performance balls supposedly have highly advanced coverstocks on them and can cost $100-225. Balls bought at on-line pro shops are cheaper than balls bought at pro shops, and the pro shops usually already have the price of the drilling included.
6. There really is not a definitive answer to this. Even the pros on tour all use different balls and ball brands. What might work for one bowler may not be good for another. These days it is more about matching up the aspects of the ball with the bowler. Where you drill the fingerholes in relation to the weight block in the ball, whether the surface of the ball is poliched or sanded, and of course the condition of the lane and the oil on it have the most impact. So, there really are no balls that are better than others. These days it really is more about matching up the type of ball and the dynamics of it with the bowler and the condition he is bowling on. This is also why pro bowlers may have 20-30 different balls with them each week on the pro tour. You could buy 10 of the exact same ball and have all 10 of them roll differently based on the drilling and the surface adjustments on each ball.
7. I have never switched teams, but our scratch team essentially 'fired' a bowler because his average was too low and we were able to bring in a higher average bowler without going over our cap (or average limit for the team). I may bowl on different leagues throughout the year based on how good they are. I like to bowl 2-4 leagues at one time in both summer and winter.
8. Usually by the end of warm-up/practice, a bowler has decided which ball to start out with. However, as bowling progresses, the oil on the lane is altered as balls are rolled by the bowlers. The sanded balls with resin tend to absorb oil, and the plastic balls repel oil. Additionally, all balls carry the oil into the back part of the lane (the backend) which is normally dry (and the balls hooks as the friction kicks in). But, as the oil gets pushed further and further down the lane, balls may hook less and less as the oil goes further down. This is called 'carrydown'. And, while the oil goes down further, the heavy oil at the start of the lane is drying up and starts to hook more. Anyhow, all this comes down to the condition of the oil and lane changing. This is what may prompt a bowler to change his ball speed, hand rotation, where they play the lane, and as you said, changing balls. Again, because the balls can be altered in many ways, I find that I may change balls as the lanes change and the reaction I get with the ball I started with has also been affected to the point where I wish to try a different one.
9. I am a neat-freak, so I like to have the balls as clean as possible going into play (and it's good for the balls too). I like a clean towel each time. I have 2 towels...one to wipes
the ball with and one for if I get sweaty.
I do have a pre-shot routine of bending to get the ball, then I wipes
the ball with a towel, then I set my feet and then get into my stance. I try do this consistently before each shot. Having a routine is what helps some players get the mental part going to produce a good shot each time.
10. Don't have much of an answer other than they started it out of habit and in time realized it helped to get them focused before their shot.
11. I consider myself a die hard player. I'm not saying I am the best, but I love the sport and follow it and participate in it as much as possible. I am a member of the PBA and have started bowling in pro events. I love both the competition and people at these events. I watch bowling anytime it's on TV
and I travel hundreds of miles to both watch and participate in tournaments and events.
Sometimes it's hard to talk about bowling to the ones in it just for fun because there is so much more to the game than most understand. On the other hand, I have made good friends with people on teams that were not so serious. Occasionally it is hard to really concentrate on my game in handicapped leagues because when I try to focus I am more quiet and keep to myself, and a lot of people on the more fun leagues want to talk and laugh, etc. And that's fine...and that's why I do bowl in PBA events and tournaments and scratch leagues. Besides, we still need the people who enjoy bowling just for fun to keep the businesses open and the leagues going for all the bowlers. As long as there is a place for both fun bowlers and serious bowlers, I am OK with that.
I'd be happy to help if you have any more questions. Hope I didn't bore you and get into too much detail. Feel free to send me a private message if I can help any further.