Bowling refers to a series of sports or leisure activities in which a player rolls or throws a bowling ball towards a target. It is one of the major forms of throwing sports. In pin bowling variations, the target is usually to knock over pins at the end of a lane. When all the pins are knocked down on the first roll, this is a strike. 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), while in target bowling, the surface may be grass, gravel or a synthetic surface. The most common types of pin bowling include ten-pin, nine-pin, candlepin, duckpin and five-pin bowling, while in target bowling, bowls, skittles, kegel, bocce, carpet bowls, pétanque, and boules, both indoor and outdoor varieties are popular. Today the sport of bowling is played by 100 million people in more than 90 countries worldwide (including 70 million in the United States), and continues to grow through entertainment media such as video games for home consoles and handheld devices.
From prehistory through the Middle Ages
The earliest known forms of bowling date to ancient Egypt and the ancient Roman empire. Remnants of balls used at the time were found among artifacts in ancient Egypt going back to 3200 BC 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. 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. About 2,000 years ago a similar game evolved between Roman legionaries entailing the tossing of stone objects as close as possible to other stone objects, which eventually evolved into Italian Bocce, or outdoor bowling.
In 1299 the oldest known bowling green for target style bowling to survive to modern times was built, Master's Close (now the Old Bowling Green of the Southampton Bowling Club) in Southampton, England; it is still in use.
In 1455 lawn bowling lanes in London were first roofed-over, turning bowling into an all-weather game. In Germany they were called kegelbahns, often attached to taverns and guest houses.
In 1463 a public feast was held in Frankfurt, Germany, with a venison dinner followed by lawn bowling.
To the 19th century
In 1511 English King Henry VIII (an avid bowler) banned bowling for the lower classes, imposing a levy for private lanes to limit them to the wealthy. Another English law passed in 1541 (repealed in 1845) prohibited workers from bowling except on Christmas, and only in their master's home and in his presence. In 1530 he acquired Whitehall Palace in central London as his new residence, having it extensively rebuilt complete with outdoor bowling lanes, indoor tennis court, jousting tiltyard, and cockfighting pit.
About 1520 Protestant Reformation founder Martin Luther set the number of pins (which varied from 3 to 17) at nine, and built a bowling lane next to his home for his children, sometimes rolling a ball himself.
On 19 July 1588 English Vice-Admiral Sir Francis Drake allegedly was playing bowls at Plymouth Hoe when the arrival of the Spanish Armada was announced, replying "We have time enough to finish the game and beat the Spaniards too."
In 1617 English King James I published Declaration of Sports, banning bowling on Sundays but permitting dancing and archery for those first attending an Anglican service, outraging Puritans; it was reissued in 1633 by his successor Charles I, then ordered publicly burned in 1643 by the Puritan Parliament.
In 1733 Bowling Green in New York City was built on the site of a Dutch cattle market and parade ground, becoming the city's oldest public park to survive to modern times.
In the 19th century
In 1841 the state of Connecticut banned nine-pin bowling to stop gambling, causing ten-pin bowling to be created to get around the law.
In 1846 the oldest surviving bowling lanes in the United States were built as part of Roseland Cottage, the summer estate of Henry Chandler Bowen (1831-1896) in Woodstock, Connecticut. The lanes, now part of Historic New England's Roseland Cottage House Museum contain Gothic Revival architectural elements in keeping with the style of the entire estate.
In 1848 the Revolutions of 1848 resulted in accelerated German immigration to the U.S., reaching 5 million by 1900, bringing their love of beer and bowling with them; by the late 19th century they made New York City a center of bowling.
In 1848 the Scottish Bowling Association for lawn bowling was founded in Scotland by 200 clubs; it was dissolved then refounded in 1892.
In 1864 Glasgow cotton merchant William Wallace Mitchell (1803–84) published Manual of Bowls Playing, which became a standard reference for lawn bowling in Scotland.
In 1875 the National Bowling Association (NBA) was founded by 27 local clubs in New York City to standardize rules for ten-pin bowling, setting the ball size and the distance between the foul line and the pins, but failing to agree on other rules; it was superseded in 1895 by the American Bowling Congress.
In the 1880s Brunswick Corporation (founded 1845) of Chicago, Illinois, maker of billiard tables began making bowling balls, pins, and wooden lanes to sell to taverns installing bowling alleys; it left the bowling business in 2014.
On 9 September 1895 the modern standardized rules for ten-pin bowling were established in New York City by the new American Bowling Congress (ABC) (later the United States Bowling Congress), who changed the scoring system from a maximum 200 points for 20 balls to a maximum 300 points for 10 balls, and set the maximum ball weight at 16 lbs. and pin distance at 12 inches. The first ABC champion (1906-1921) was Jimmy Smith (1885-1948). In 1927 Mrs. Floretta "Doty" McCutcheon (1888-1967) defeated Smith in an exhibition match, founding a school that taught 500,000 women how to bowl. In 1993 women were allowed to join the ABC. In 2005 the ABC merged with the Women's International Bowling Congress (WIBC) et al. to become the United States Bowling Congress (USBC).
The ABC initially used bowling bowls made of Lignum vitae hardwood from the Caribbean, which were eventually supplanted by the Ebonite rubber bowling ball (1905) and the Brunswick Mineralite rubber ball (1914). In 1980 urethane bowling balls were introduced by Ebonite.
In the 20th century
Rules for target bowls evolved separately in each of the other countries that adopted the predominantly British game. In 1905 the International Bowling Board was formed; its constitution adopted the laws of the Scottish Bowling Association, with variations allowed at the individual country level.
In 1909 the first ten-pin bowling alley in Europe was installed in Sweden, but the game failed to catch on in the rest of Europe until after World War II. Meanwhile, ten-pin bowling caught on in Great Britain after hundreds of bowling lanes were installed on U.S. military bases during World War II.
In 1913 the monthly Bowlers Journal was founded in Chicago, Illinois, continuing to publish to the present day.
In late 1916 the Women's International Bowling Congress (WIBC) (originally the Woman's National Bowling Association) was founded in Saint Louis, Missouri, merging with the United States Bowling Congress in 2005.
In 1920-1933 Prohibition in the U.S. caused bowling alleys to disassociate from saloons, turning bowling into a family game and encouraging women bowlers.
On 21 March 1934 the National Bowling Writers Association was founded in Peoria, Illinois by four bowling journalists; in 1953 it changed its name to the Bowling Writers Association of America.
On 20 August 1939 the National Negro Bowling Association was founded in Detroit, Michigan, dropping Negro from the title in 1944 and opening membership to all races, reaching 30,000 members in 2007.
On 18 April 1948 the Professional Women Bowling Writers (PWBW) was founded in Dallas, Texas, admitting men in 1975. On 1 January 2007 it merged with the Bowling Writers Association of America.
About 1950 the Golden Age of Ten-Pin Bowling began, in which professional bowlers made salaries rivaling those of baseball, football, and hockey players; it ended in the late 1979s.
In 1951 the first ABC Masters tournament was held, becoming one of the four majors in 2000.
In 1952 the Fédération Internationale des Quilleurs (FIQ) was founded in Hamburg, Germany to coordinate international amateur competition in nine-pin and ten-pin bowling. In 1954 the first FIQ World Bowling Championships were held in Helsinki, Finland. In 1979 the International Olympic Committee recognized it as the official world governing body for bowling. In 2014 it changed its name to World Bowling.
In 1952 American Machine and Foundry (AMF) of Brooklyn, N.Y. began marketing automatic Pinsetter machines, eliminating the need for pinboys and causing bowling to rocket in popularity, making the 1950s the Decade of the Bowler.
In 1958 the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) was founded in Akron, Ohio by Don Carter, Dick Weber, Dick Hoover, Buzz Fazio, Carmen Salvino, Glenn Allison et al., reaching 4,300 members in 14 countries worldwide. In 1975 Earl Anthony became the first PBA member with $100,000 yearly earnings, and the first to reach $1,000,000 total earnings in 1982. In 2000 it was purchased by former executives of Microsoft, who moved the PBA headquarters to Seattle, Washington.
In 1960 the Professional Women's Bowling Association (PWBA) was founded as the first professional women's bowling association; it went defunct in 2003.
In 1960 the National Bowling League (NBL) was founded to compete with the PBA, signing name players including Billy Welu and Buzz Fazio, but failing to sign top star Don Carter, after which failure to get a TV contract caused it to fold after its first championship in 1962.
In 1962 the American Wheelchair Bowling Association (AWBA) was founded in Louisville, Kentucky by Richard F. Carlson.
On 3–10 November 1963 the Fifth FIQ World Bowling Championships in Mexico City, Mexico were attended by 132 men and 45 women (first time) from 19 nations, and featured the debut of Team USA, which won seven of the eight gold medals.
On 25 November 1963 Sports Illustrated published the article A Guy Named Smith Is Striking It Rich, revealing that PBA stars made more money than other professional sports stars. "With more than $1 million in prizes to shoot for, the nation's top professional bowlers are rolling in money." Too bad, after the number of bowling alleys in the U.S. zoomed from 65,000 in 1957 to 160,000 in 1962, the U.S. bowling industry boom hit a brick wall in 1963, but this was compensated for by a new boom in Europe and Japan, making 10-pin bowling an international sport.
In 1964 Marion Ladewig, 9-time winner of the Bowling Writers Association of America Female Bowler of the Year Award became the first Superior Performance inductee into the WIBC Hall of Fame.
In 1965 the AMF Bowling World Cup was established by the FIQ.
In 1971 the U.S. Open was founded by the PBA.
On 16 December 1979 Willie Willis won the Brunswick National Resident Pro Tournament in Charlotte, North Carolina, becoming the first African-American bowling champion in the PBA in a non-touring event. In 1980 he became the first African-American in the Firestone Tournament of Champions, placing 13th.
On 27 February 1982 Earl Anthony won the Toledo Trust PBA National Championship, becoming the first bowler to reach $1 million in career earnings.
On 22 November 1986 George Branham III (1962-) became the first African-American to win a PBA national touring event, the Brunswick Memorial World Open in Chicago, Illinois.
In the 1992-1993 season the ABC introduced resin bowling balls, causing perfect 300 scores to increase by 20%.
In 1995 the first Best Bowler ESPY Award was presented.
On 2 February 1997 Jeremy Sonnenfeld (1975-) bowled the first officially sanctioned 900 series of three straight perfect 300 games at Sun Valley Lanes in Lincoln, Nebraska, becoming known as "Mr. 900".
In 1998 the World Tenpin Masters 10-pin bowling tournament was established.
In the 21st century
On 24 January 2010 Kelly Kulick (1977-) became the first female to win the PBA Tournament of Champions and the first female to win a PBA national tour event.
In November 2012 after league bowling dropped from 80% to 20% of their business, AMF Bowling Centers of Richmond, Virginia filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for the second time (first in 2001), merging in 2013 with upscale New York-based bowling center operator Bowlmor (which didn't support league bowling) in an attempt to turn league bowling around, growing from 276 centers in 2013 to 315 in 2015.
Bowling games can be distinguished into two general classes:
- Ten-pin bowling: largest and heaviest pins, and bowled with a large ball with three finger holes, and the most popular type 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.
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:
- Bowls ("Lawn bowls")
- Carpet Bowls
- Cherokee marbles
- Irish road bowling
- Lane/alley bowling
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.
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".
- 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
With notable individuals
In 1948, bowling lanes were first built in the ground floor of the West Wing of the U.S. Presidential residence, the White House, as a birthday gift for then President Harry S. Truman, in the location of the 2010s White House Situation Room. The lanes were moved to the Old Executive Office Building in 1955 to make way for a mimeograph room.
In 1969, friends of then U.S. President Richard M. Nixon, said to be an avid bowler, had a new one-lane alley built in an underground space below the building's North Portico.
Blackball, a 2003 comedy film about a young bowls player, based upon Griff Sanders.
Bowling is the main theme in the JDrama The Golden Bowl.
On 28 January 1950 the painting Bowling Strike by George Hughes (1907-1989) appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.
- Open bowling
- Glossary of bowling
- Automatic scorer
- Battle of the Bowling Alley, so named for the narrow valley north of Taegu, South Korea (dubbed the "Bowling Alley"), where United Nations forces defeated North Korean forces early in the Korean War
- Fédération Internationale des Quilleurs (FIQ), the top international bowling organization
- New Zealand Indoor Bowls
- Skee ball — a game that plays similar to bowling
- Skittles, the sport from which alley-based bowling originated
- Bowls, Lawn Bowling
- Bowling Alone, a 2000 book by Robert D. Putnam that argues the decline in league bowling since 1950 is indicative of a decline in social participation by Americans.
- Grand Theft Auto IV
- Comparison of orthotics
- United States Bowling Conference
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- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bowling". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.