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
- To the 16th century
- In the 19th century
- In the 20th century
- In the 21st century
- Pin bowling
- Target bowling
- Health benefits
- US Presidents
- In films
- On television
The term bowling in the United States and Canada most frequently refers to ten-pin bowling; in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries it more often refers to lawn bowls.
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 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.
About 400 AD bowling began in Germany as a religious ritual to cleanse oneself from sin by rolling a rock into a club (kegel) representing the heathen, causing bowlers to be called keglers.
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 1325 laws were passed in Berlin and Cologne limiting bets on lawn bowling to five shillings.
In 1366 the first official mention of bowling in England was made when King Edward III banned it as a distraction to archery practice.
In the 15th-17th centuries lawn bowling spread from Germany into Austria, Switzerland, and the Low Countries, with playing surfaces made of cinders or baked clay.
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 16th 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 1609 Dutch East India Company explorer Henry Hudson discovered Hudson Bay, bringing Dutch colonization to New Amsterdam (later New York); Hudson's men brought some form of lawn bowling with them.
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 1670 Dutchmen liked to bowl at the Old King’s Arms Tavern near modern-day 2nd and Broadway in New York City.
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
A painting which dates from around 1810, and has been on display at the International Bowling Hall of Fame and Museum, formerly located in St. Louis, Missouri (before its relocation on Jan 26, 2010, to the International Bowling Campus in Arlington, Texas), shows British bowlers playing a bowling sport outdoors, with a triangular formation of ten pins, chronologically before it appeared in the United States. A photograph of this painting appeared in the pages of the US-based Bowlers Journal magazine in 1988.
In 1819 New York writer Washington Irving made the first mention of ninepin bowling in American literature in his story Rip Van Winkle.
On 1 January 1840 Knickerbocker Alleys in New York City opened, becoming the first indoor bowling alley.
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 — some 31 years after the aforementioned British outdoor ten-pin bowling painting was dated.
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 1880 Justin White of Worcester, Massachusetts invented Candlepin Bowling.
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.
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 early 1890s Duckpin bowling was invented in Boston, Massachusetts, spreading to Baltimore, Maryland about 1899.
In the 20th century
In 1903 the English Bowling Association was founded by cricketer W. G. Grace. On 1 January 2008 it merged with the English Women's Bowling Association to become Bowls England.
In 1903 D. Peifer of Chicago, Illinois invented a handicap method for bowling.
In 1905 Rubber Duckpin bowling was invented by Willam Wuerthele of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, catching on in Quebec, Canada.
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 September 1907 the Victorian Ladies' Bowling Association was founded in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, becoming the world's first women's lawn bowling association.
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 2 October 1921 the annual Petersen Open Bowling Tournament (a.k.a. The Pete) was first held in Chicago, Ill., becoming bowling's richest tournament of the day. In 1998 it was taken over by AMF.
In 1926 the International Bowling Association (IBA) was formed by the U.S., Sweden, Germany, Netherlands, and Finland, holding four world championships by 1936.
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.
In 1947 the Australian Women's Bowling Council was founded, holding the first Australian women's national lawn bowling championship in Sydney in 1949, which was won by Mrs. R. Cranley of Queensland.
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 1950-1951 the ABC and WIBC opened membership to blacks.
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 1954 Steve Nagy (1913-1966) became the first person to bowl a perfect 300 game on TV on NBC-TV's "Championship Bowling". The PBA later named its sportsmanship award after him.
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.
On 28 November 1960 the first PBA Championship in Memphis, Tennessee was won by Don Carter. In 2002 it was renamed the PBA World Championship, awarding the Earl Anthony Trophy to the winner.
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 PBA Tournament of Champions was founded, sponsored in 1965-1993 by Firestone Tire.
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 "Mr. Bowling" Don Carter became the first athlete to sign a $1 million endorsement contract, a multi-year deal with Ebonite International.
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.
On 27 January 1967 the Japan Professional Bowling Association (JPBA) was founded in Tokyo, Japan.
In 1971 the U.S. Open was founded by the PBA.
In 1978 National Negro Bowling Association pioneer J. Elmer Reed (1903–83) became the first African-American to be inducted into the ABC Hall of Fame.
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.
In 1982 the Young American Bowling Alliance was formed from a merger of the American Junior Bowling Congress, the Youth Bowling Association, and the collegiate divisions of the ABC and WIBC.
In 1982 the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane, Australia added women's bowls to the events.
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.
On 18 September 1988 the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea featured ten-pin bowling as a demonstration sport.
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.
In 1995 the National Bowling Stadium in Reno, Nevada opened, becoming known as the Taj Mahal of Tenpins.
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 2000 the Weber Cup, named after Dick Weber was established as 10-pin bowling's equivalent to golf's Ryder Cup, with Team USA playing Team Europe in a 3-day match.
In the 21st century
On 31 March 2004 Missy Bellinder (1981-) (later Parkin) became the first woman member of the PBA.
In 2004 the Brunswick Euro Challenge was founded for amateur and pro 10-pin bowling players from Europe, Asia, and the U.S.
On 24 January 2010 Kelly Kulick (1977-) became the first woman to win the PBA Tournament of Champions and the first woman 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.
In 2013 the PBA League was founded, composed of permanent 5-person teams, with an annual draft.
Bowling games can be distinguished into two general classes:
Five main variations are found in North America, varying especially in New England and parts of 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.
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.
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.
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.
In 1982 American expressionist painter LeRoy Neiman produced a famous painting of PBA star Earl Anthony's million dollar strike.