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This article is about the sport. For other uses, see Bowling (disambiguation).
A ten-pin bowler releases his bowling ball
Playing bowls at West End Bowling Club, UK.

Bowling refers to a series of sports or leisure activities in which a player rolls or throws a bowling ball towards a target. In pin bowling variations, the target is usually to knock over pins at the end of a lane. In target variations, the aim is usually to get the ball as close to a mark as possible. The pin version of bowling is often played on a flat wooden or other synthetic surface (which can be oiled in different patterns for different techniques),[1] while in target bowling, the surface may be grass, gravel or a synthetic surface.[2] The most common types of pin bowling include ten-pin, nine-pin, candlepin, duckpin and five-pin bowling, while in target bowling, bowls, bocce, carpet bowls, pétanque and boules, both indoor and outdoor varieties, are popular. Today, the sport of bowling is enjoyed by 100 million people in more than 90 countries worldwide. It is one of the major forms of throwing sports.


Peasants bowling in front of a tavern in the 17th century

The earliest forms of bowling date to Ancient Egypt[3] and the Roman Empire. Remnants of balls used at the time were found among artifacts in ancient Egypt, going back 3000–5000 years.[4] Balls were made using the husks of grains, covered in material such as leather, and bound with string. Other balls, made of porcelain or even plastic, have also been found, indicating that these were rolled along the ground, rather than thrown, due to their size and weight.[4] Some of these resemble the modern day jack used in target bowl games. Bowling games of different forms are also noted by Herodotus as an invention of the Lydians in Asia Minor.[5] About 2,000 years ago a similar game evolved between Roman legionaries: it entailed tossing stone objects as close as possible to other stone objects (this game became popular with Roman soldiers, and eventually evolved into Italian Bocce, or outdoor bowling).[6]

The first standardized rules for pin bowling were established in New York City, on September 9, 1895. Rules can vary between different types of games. [7] The oldest surviving bowling lanes in the United States are part of the Roseland Cottage, the summer estate of Henry C. Bowen in Woodstock, Connecticut, at Roseland Cottage. The lanes, now part of Historic New England's Roseland Cottage house museum, date to the construction of the old cottage in 1846. They contain Gothic Revival architectural elements, in keeping with the style of the entire estate.[8]

Rules for target bowls evolved in each of the countries who had adopted the predominantly British based game. In 1905, the International Bowling Board was formed, and it subsequent constitution adopted the Laws of the Scottish Bowling Association. These variations allowed for various regulations at individual country level.[9] The oldest known bowls green for target style bowling is that which is now part of the Southhampton Bowling Club, in southern England. The use of the land as an area for recreational bowling dates back to 1299, and was then known as the "Master's Close".[10]

Today, bowling is enjoyed by ninety-five million people in more than ninety countries worldwide[11] and continues to grow through entertainment media such as: video games for home consoles and handheld devices.[12]


There are two main things that a professional bowler looks at in order to determine the kind of ball or rotation that he or she will use.

Lane Pattern- The lane pattern can be short, medium, long. The lane is 60 feet (18 m) long, from the foul line to the headpin,but the pins take up 4 feet (1.2 m) more. The approach (part of the lane that a bowler walks on) has no set limit (usually 15 feet (4.6 m)). Short- A short pattern will be anywhere from 0 feet until about 15 feet (4.6 m). Medium- A medium pattern will be from about 15–40 feet (4.6–12.2 m). Long- A long pattern is anything above the 40 feet (12 m). The length of the pattern affects the bowler because if there is less or more oil the ball will react differently to the lanes all together. Reacting, in this sense, is referring to the break point of the ball. The break point is when the ball goes from rolling straight to hooking inward towards the pocket (which is the one and three pin) or a Brooklyn pocket (which is one and two pin).

Lane Material- The lane can be either wood or synthetic. The difference between the two is very similar to importance of lane pattern. The different materials can cause more or less friction which would cause the ball to again, hook earlier or later.

Synthetic- The synthetic lanes are generally softer than the wood surfaces. The bowling ball being the weight that it is and the way that it is used, is able to manipulate the lanes all together, and without the strength of wood the lane would wear down much faster. The ball hooks a lot later, because it has so much more friction acting on it. Wood- The wood lanes are a lot harder and last much longer than the synthetic. Wood lanes have been used since the origination of bowling competition. The ball does not have as much material around it, so it does not have as much of a fight for the roll.

Pin bowling[edit]

(video) A man bowling in Japan.

Five main variations are found in North America, varying especially in New England and parts of Canada:

  • Ten-pin bowling: largest and heaviest pins, and bowled with a large ball with three finger holes, and the most popular size in North America
  • Nine-pin bowling: pins usually attached to strings at the tops, uses a ball without finger holes.
  • Candlepin bowling: tallest pins, thin with matching ends, and bowled with the smallest and lightest (at 1.1 kilograms (2.4 lb)) handheld ball of any bowling sport.
  • Duckpin bowling: short, squat, and bowled with a handheld ball.
  • Five-pin bowling: tall, between duckpins and candlepins in diameter with a rubber girdle, bowled with a handheld ball, mostly found in Canada.

Target bowling[edit]

A bowls tournament in Berrigan, New South Wales, Australia

Another form of bowling is usually played outdoors on a lawn. At outdoor bowling, the players throw a ball, which is sometimes eccentrically weighted, in an attempt to put it closest to a designated point or slot in the bowling arena. Included in the outdoor category:

Health benefits[edit]

Bowling is an anaerobic type of physical exercise, similar to walking with free weights. Bowling helps in burning calories and works muscle groups not usually exercised. The flexing and stretching in bowling works tendons, joints, ligaments, and muscles in the arms and promotes weight loss. While most sports are not suitable for elderly people, it is possible to practice bowling very well at advanced ages.

Apart from the physical benefits, it also has psychosocial benefits, strengthening friendships or creating new ones in groups.[13]


Technological innovation has made bowling accessible to members of the disabled community.

  • The IKAN Bowler, a device designed by a quadriplegic engineer named Bill Miller, attaches to a wheelchair and allows the user to control the speed, direction, and timing of the ten pin bowling ball's release. The name comes from the Greek work "ikano", which means "enable".[14]
  • For Bowls the sport has introduced a number of innovations to enable people with a disability to participate at all levels of the sport, from social through to Olympic Standards:
    • The use of bowling arms and lifters enables bowlers to deliver a bowl minimising the amount of movement required
    • Wheelchair and green manufacturers have produced modified wheel tyres and ramps to enable wheelchair athletes to access bowls greens.
    • Modified conditions of play as outlined in Disability classification in lawn bowls

In popular culture[edit]


The bowling game, by Dutch painter Jan Steen, c. 1655

Many Dutch Golden Age paintings depicted bowling.


Bowling is often depicted as a group date, teen outing, and blue-collar activity.

In films[edit]

The sport has been the subject of a number of "bowling films", which prominently feature the sport of bowling. Examples include:

  • 7-10 Split (film) (2007), renamed STRIKE for its USA DVD release in 2009
  • Alley Cats Strike, a 2000 Disney Channel Original Movie
  • The Big Lebowski (1998), bowling played a pivotal role in the film and figured prominently in the film's promotional advertisements.
  • Blackball – a 2003 comedy film about a young bowls player, based upon Griff Sanders.[15]
  • Crackerjack – a 2002 Australian comedy film about a wisecracking layabout who joins a lawn bowls club in order to be allowed to use a free parking spot but is forced to play bowls with the much older crowd when the club enters financial difficulty.
  • Dreamer (1979 film), a direct-to-video film
  • The Golden Years (film), a 1960 sponsored film that promoted bowling as a family sport
  • Kingpin (film), a 1996 slapstick comedy film
  • The Flintstones (1994 film) The main character participates in a bowling tournament
  • Spare Me (film), a 1992 "bowling noir" film
  • A League of Ordinary Gentlemen, a documentary film about 10-pin bowling that was released on DVD on March 21, 2006 and stars four PBA Tour players
  • Strikes and Spares (1934), a sports shorts film that was nominated for a 1934 Academy Award for Best Short Subject (novelty)
  • Jackass 2

Bowling is an important theme in other films, as well.

In shorts[edit]

On television[edit]

  • Several game shows have centered around bowling:
    • Many local television stations produced Bowling for Dollars as part of a franchise, mainly in the 1970s.
    • Nick at Nite had a one-time special entitled King Pins, which featured contestants bowling in unusual ways. Its bonus round featured the winning couple attempting to knock down six giant pins with a likewise oversized ball.
    • Comedy Central produced a televised version of a radio show, Let's Bowl, which featured two contestants (usually family members) settling some sort of dispute between each other and competing for nearly worthless prizes, with the hosting and modeling abilities of the cast likewise played for laughs.
    • On The Hub's game show Family Game Night with Todd Newton, there is a game called Yahtzee Bowling where families play Yahtzee with a bowling twist.
  • "King of Queens" Season 2 Episode 11, "Sparing Carrie", Doug has to decide whether winning bowling games is more important than hurting his wife, Carrie's feelings.[16]
  • In The Honeymooners and Jackie Gleason Show, bus driver Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason) and sewer worker Ed "Lillywhite" Norton (Art Carney) belonged to a fraternal organization called the Raccoon Lodge and regularly bowled on its team, "The Hurricanes", at the Acme Bowling Alley.
  • In The Flintstones (which imitated and spoofed The Honeymooners and The Jackie Gleason Show),[17][18] "bronto" crane operator Fred Flintstone and his next-door neighbor and sidekick, Barney Rubble, often bowl. Fred is an avid bowler who has won championships based on his incredible bowling skills. A number of episodes address Fred and Barney's bowling adventures, such as:
    • In "Wilma's Vanishing Money" (1962-01-26), Fred steals Wilma's money to buy a bowling ball, while Wilma thinks it's a burglar who stole it. She, meanwhile, was planning to use the money to buy Fred that ball he wanted for his birthday.
    • In "Bowling Ballet (aka Rush-in Ballet)" (1962-10-05), Fred goes so far as to take ballet lessons in order to improve his game, which leads to his nickname "Twinkletoes". The nickname of "Twinkletoes" stuck with him when Fred attended a local college and became eligible to play on their football team, and it became his call sign.
    • In "Seeing Doubles" (1965-12-17), Fred and Barney have a bowling game on Friday night, the night that they are to take Wilma and Betty out to dinner. After failing to convince the wives to let them go bowling, The Great Gazoo makes two robots that look like Fred and Barney. The robots can only say "yes" and "no" and they take the wives to dinner while Fred and Barney go bowling. The robotic impersonators, however, take Wilma and Betty to the most expensive restaurant in town and cause havoc the entire night. It's up to Fred and Barney to round them up and bring them back to Gazoo in order for them to be snapped out.
  • In episode 86-4.14 of Roseanne, titled "The Bowling Show", Dan Conner (John Goodman) and Arnie Thomas (Tom Arnold) try to bring their bowling team out of last place in their league.
  • Bowling featured prominently in Laverne & Shirley; Laverne (Penny Marshall)'s Italian-born father, Frank De Fazio (Phil Foster), runs the Pizza Bowl, a local hang out featuring pizza, beer, and bowling.
  • In episode 221 of The Andy Griffith Show, titled "Howard the Bowler" (originally aired September 18, 1967), Howard Sprague (Jack Dodson) fills in on the bowling team and rolls a perfect game.[19]
  • Bowling is the main theme in the JDrama The Golden Bowl.[20]
  • In episode 29 of Smile PreCure!, titled "The PreCures Are Sucked Into a Game!?", Cure Peace challenged Red Oni to a bowling game. She eventually won because of her lightning skills.
  • Bowling is featured in episode 19 of Dokidoki! PreCure called "Betting the Crystals! Jikochu's Game!". In the episode, the Cures challenged Jikochu for the crystals with bowling as the second game. The Selfish Trio also played bowling during the series' run. Ai also played bowling in episode 38 of the series called "Beel's Scheme! Ai Becomes a Jikochu!?".
  • The Simpsons episode 89-1.9 episode, "Life on the Fast Lane," has Marge Simpson taking up the sport in a fit of pique when her husband, Homer, thoughtlessly gave her a bowling ball engraved in his own name for a birthday present. In doing so, she finds herself attracted to an amorous player and finds her marriage in jeopardy.
  • One episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood features Fred Rogers and Mr. McFeely playing the game.
  • In episode 1.7 of The Golden Girls, ("The Competition"), Dorothy (Bea Arthur) and Blanche (Rue McClanahan) bowl a game against Rose (Betty White) and Sophia (Estelle Getty). If Sophia and Rose win, Dorothy will allow Sophia to go back to Sicily for a visit with an old beau; if Dorothy and Blanche win, Sophia will give Dorothy a pair of antique earrings.
  • In Japan, Bowling Revolution P-League is an 18-player tournament, played in rounds of three bowlers and aired on a weekly basis.

In video games[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ United States Bowling Conference
  2. ^ Crystal-Mark (2010). Laws of the Sport of Bowls. World Bowls Ltd. p. 9. 
  3. ^ Help with Bowling: The History and Origins of Bowling
  4. ^ a b Pretsell, James M. (1908). The Game of Bowls Past and Present. Oliver & Boyd. p. 1. 
  5. ^ Pretsell 1908, p. 2.
  6. ^ Bowling in ancient Rome
  7. ^ Springdale USBC Site
  8. ^ "Roseland Cottage — Historic New England". Retrieved 2014-01-12. 
  9. ^ Munro, J.P. (1951). Bowls Encyclopedia. Melbourne Australia: Wilke & Co. p. 167. 
  10. ^ Linney, E.J. (1933). A History of the Game of Bowls. Edingburgh Press. p. 22. 
  11. ^ Fit4FunKids site
  12. ^ AMF Bowling Pinbusters! for Nokia N-Gage
  13. ^ - How to Lose Weight by Bowling
  14. ^ "Ability Magazine: IKAN Bowler’’". Retrieved 2012-04-06. 
  15. ^ "From bowling green to silver screen". BBC News. 2003-08-28. Retrieved 2008-05-04. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ Stinnett, Chuck. "Rango is latest reminder that animated films are thriving". Evansville Courier & Press, March 8, 2011
  18. ^ "The Flintstones Frequently Asked Questions List". Retrieved 2010-07-20. 
  19. ^ Howard, the Bowler at the Internet Movie Database
  20. ^ "Golden Bowl". Retrieved 2013-07-16.