What is the Game of Bowling?
Bowling (sometimes known as tenpins or ten-pin bowling) is a sport in which players roll a heavy ball down a narrow lane. The goal is to use the ball to knock down pins placed at the end of the lane. Players get ten turns to bowl, with two rolls per turn. The player with the most total pins knocked down at the end of the game wins.
When Was Bowling Invented?
The earliest reference to a bowling-like game was found in a tomb in Egypt dating to around 3200 BC. Modern bowling originated in Germany around the 3rd or 4th century.
Who Invented Bowling?
It is unclear who invented bowling. However, parishioners in Germany are thought to have first bowled as part of a religious ceremony.
The Basic History of Bowling
In the 1930s, British anthropologist Sir Flinders Petrie discovered what appeared to resemble a basic bowling set in an Egyptian child’s tomb. This discovery has been supported by several other anthropological findings, including hieroglyphics that depict a sport similar to bowling and an ancient hall that appears to feature bowling lanes.
Modern bowling most likely developed from a type of religious ceremony in Germany around the 3rd or 4th century AD. At this time, most Germans carried a club referred to as a Kegel which would be used for self-protection and, in some cases, for sporting activities. In religious ceremonies held in the cloisters of churches, a kegel would represent the heide, meaning heathen. The parishioners of the church would roll a stone at the kegel. If they knocked it over successfully, they would be cleansed of their sins. The clubs were later changed to pins, but the name has remained a part of bowling culture. In fact, today’s bowlers are frequently referred to as keglers.
Bowling Spreads Beyond Germany
Although it originated in Germany, bowling didn’t make its way to other countries for many centuries. A form of bowling had become popular enough in England in 1366 that King Edward III actually outlawed it for a time. During this period, bowling was an outdoor sport (a version called lawn bowling was played on grass). Around 1455, roofs were placed over lawn bowling lanes in London for the first time, which revolutionized the sport by allowing for year-round play. Indoor lanes soon started to feature wood or clay lanes rather than grass surfaces. Beginning around this time, bowling also spread to countries like Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, and the Netherlands.
British, German, and Dutch settlers are responsible for introducing bowling to North America. At that time, the British often played lawn bowling (similar in many ways to bocce ball) while the Germans and the Dutch played a form of pin bowling. There are depictions of bowling in New York that date back to 1670. The first written mention of bowling in America came from Washington Irving’s 1819 novel Rip Van Winkle. By that time, bowling had become quite popular, but it often involved gambling and was sometimes looked down upon as a disreputable activity.
Formation of Bowling Rules and Leagues
Bowling first spread to other American cities with a large German immigrant population, including Milwaukee, Chicago, Cincinnati, and St. Louis. Many local leagues were formed, but a lack of standardized rules made it difficult for players from different cities to compete. The National Bowling Association was formed in New York in 1875, but they were unable to get their rules accepted in other parts of the country.
The American Bowling Congress (ABC) was established in 1895 and set to work creating guidelines for the sport’s rules and equipment. These rules were widely accepted and helped to fuel the sport’s growing popularity. It also became to be seen as a more socially accepted sport rather than one mainly associated with gamblers or seedy establishments.
The ABC hosted its first national tournament in 1901. A national championship for women was introduced in 1917, just one year after the formation of the Women’s International Bowling Congress (WIBC). After prohibition, sponsorships from beer companies drove an increased interest in professional bowling.
Bowling continued to grow in popularity in the 1950s as bowling championships were first televised. In 1958, the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) was formed with over 4,000 members from 14 countries. Pro bowling tours attracted a lot of publicity and prize money and were often featured on TV. Around this time, ten-pin bowling was popularized in England, Mexico, Australia, and Japan. Bowling was demonstrated at the 1988 Olympics, but it has never been added as an official Olympic sport.
Today, amateur league play continues to be a big part of the sport. Players compete as teams or individuals at local bowling alleys all over the world. Bowling is also a popular recreational activity because it’s a game that can be played by people of a wide range of ages and physical abilities. Many children start out learning to bowl with helpful equipment like gutter bumpers or guards (which prevent excessive gutter balls) and bowling ball ramps.
Though ten-pin bowling remains the most popular form of this sport, there are other versions of bowling that have been developed over the years. Many are still played today, including bocce, lawn bowling, duck pins, ninepins, and skittles.
The Basic Rules & Gameplay of Bowling
What Is the Objective of Bowling?
The objective of the game is to roll the ball down the lane and knock down as many pins as possible, with one point awarded per pin. Players get 10 turns, with two rolls on each turn. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins.
What Are the Basic Rules of Bowling?
- Team size – Bowling can be played as an individual sport or as a team sport. However, each player on a team still receives an individual score in every game.
- Frames – Each game consists of 10 frames. Players are permitted to roll the ball twice per frame. The pins are not reset between rolls, but fallen pins are removed. If a player knocks down all 10 pins on the first roll, they do not roll a second time. In the 10th frame, a player who knocks down all 10 pins on the first roll gets two more chances to roll the ball (or one more chance if all 10 have been knocked down on the second roll).
- Lanes and pins – The ball is rolled down a long narrow lane with 10 pins set up at the end. After the first roll of each frame, any fallen pins that have been knocked down are removed from the lane. There are shallow troughs called gutters along each side of the lane. If the ball rolls into the gutter (called a “gutter ball”), it will continue to the end of the lane without coming into contact with any pins, causing the roll to be counted as zero points.
- Rolling the ball – Bowling balls come in different weights and feature three holes where players can insert their thumb, middle finger, and ring finger to grip the ball. Players can use several techniques to affect how the ball rolls down the lane (also known as their “delivery”), including:
- Classic: Sometimes called the stroker delivery, this strategy involves a fairly straightforward approach with limited wrist rotation and a moderate ball speed.
- Two-handed: With this delivery style, players do not put their fingers into the holes of the ball. Instead, they hold it with two hands on their approach in order to put more spin on the ball as it’s released.
- Spin: Players can use significant wrist rotation to put spin on the ball. They may or may not use the ball holes depending on their personal preference. Some players who use this technique along with a very high backswing for added speed are called crankers.
- Scoring – Players score one point per pin that is knocked down. However, additional points can be earned if a player knocks down all the pins within one frame:
- Strike: If a player knocks down all 10 pins on the first roll of a frame, it is called a strike. An “X” is entered on the scoresheet and the player does not roll a second time for that frame. The score for the following frame is then added to the 10 points earned from their strike. For example, if a player rolls a strike in the first frame, followed by a total score of 8 in the second frame, the total score for the first frame is 18. The highest total possible score in bowling is 300, which is 12 strikes in a row (one in every frame plus strikes on both bonus rolls allotted when a strike is rolled in the 10th frame).
- Spare: If a player knocks down all 10 pins or all of the remaining pins on the second roll of a frame, it is called a spare and a “/” is entered on the scoresheet. The score for the first roll on the following frame is then added to the 10 points earned from their spare. For example, if a player rolls a spare in the first frame, followed by three pins knocked down on their first roll in the second frame, the final score entered in the first frame is 13.
- Fouls – The line marking the start of the lane is called the foul line. Players are not permitted to step over this line when approaching the lane to roll the ball. If they do cross the line and touch the lane, a foul is called and the player receives zero points for that roll (even if they succeeded in knocking down pins).
The Basic Equipment in Bowling
The most essential pieces of equipment for bowling are the ball and pins.
A bowling ball is made from solid materials like hard rubber or urethane. The ball must feature a smooth surface and is typically coated with lacquer or a plastic-type material. It has a circumference of 27 inches. The maximum weight is 16 pounds, and there is no minimum weight. Typically, the lightest balls weigh around 6 to 8 pounds, though most adults use a ball weighing at least 10 pounds. There are three finger holes in the ball which can be shaped to match the size of the user’s hand.
There are 10 pins, each of which measures 15 inches tall and weighs 3.5 to 3.7 pounds. These pins are typically made with plastic coating over a wood core.
Players wear special bowling shoes with soles that won’t damage the lanes. Serious players often wear a pair in which the shoe on their non-dominant side has a somewhat slippery sole to assist in gliding smoothly along the floor surface. The shoe on the side of their dominant hand has a rubber sole that acts like a brake to prevent slipping or sliding too far and going over the foul line.
Bowling is played on a long, narrow lane made of wooden or synthetic boards. There are shallow gutters along each side with a rounded bottom shaped to accommodate a standard bowling ball. The length from the foul line to the first pin is 60 feet. There are targeting guides along the lane which can assist players in rolling the ball more accurately toward the pins. There is an approach area in front of the lane measuring 15 feet long where players can advance toward the lane before releasing the ball.
The pins are set up in a four-row pyramid formation at the end of the lane. The row closest to the players has one pin, the next row has two pins, then three pins in the third row, and four pins in the fourth. The pins are positioned 12 inches apart.
While original bowling lanes required attendants to physically remove and replace pins as needed, modern bowling alleys have automatic machines that arrange the pins and sweep away fallen pins. In addition, ball return machines transport bowling balls back to the approach area in front of the lanes. Automatic scoring systems are also commonplace, though paper scoring is still practiced by some bowlers.