A ten-pin bowler releases the ball.

Bowling (1375–1425; late Middle English bowle, variant of boule < Middle French < Latin bulla bubble, knob; compare boil1 , bola +ing)[1][2]is a sport in which players attempt to score points by rolling a bowling ball along a flat surface, usually a wooden or synthetic surface, either into pins or to get close to a target ball.[3] The most common types include ten-pin, nine-pin, candlepin, duckpin and five-pin bowling, as well as multiple outdoor variations.



There are many forms of bowling: with one of the most recent being ten-pin bowling also known as the norm. The earliest most primitive forms of bowling can be dated back to Ancient Egypt[4] and the Roman Empire. Indeed 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) [5].

The first standardized rules were established in New York City, on September 9, 1895.[6] Today, bowling is enjoyed by 95 million people in more than ninety countries worldwide[7] and continues to grow through entertainment media such as video games for home consoles and handheld devices.[8]

Bowling alleys development

Bowling alley construction was considered “an important facet” of property development in the western United States in the late 1950s and early 1960s, described by the Los Angeles Times as “small cities in themselves”, some of which cost tens of millions of dollars (in 1960s dollars). The Los Angeles Times described developer Louis Lesser as “the most active in this field” of bowling alley developments.

In 1960, Lesser developed a bowling alley in Indio, California, at a cost of $750,000 (5,445,364 when adjusted for inflation).[9] In 1959, he built the $2 million (15,069,874 when adjusted for inflation) “Beach City” Santa Monica Civic Lanes in Santa Monica, California,[10] also designed to house the Santa Monica Civic Club, and Samoa Lanes at 5th and Broadway in Santa Monica, both with 24 lanes “equipped with automated pinsetters, a billiard room, children’s playroom, coffee shop, and cocktail lounge”.[11][12]

By 1962, Lesser had developed nine bowling alleys. The biggest was Parkway Lanes in El Cajon, California, developed at a cost of $1 million with 60 alleys.[13] It featured five acres for parking. The facility had “varied entertainment rivaling the best in night clubs”, according to the Los Angeles Times, with headliners such as Louis Prima, Lili St. Cyr, Johnny Ray, Frankie Lane, and Roberta Linn who appeared at Parkway, developed by Lesser with Irvin Kahn and George Hirsch.

Lesser and Ted Bentley developed Legion Lanes into a 44-lane bowling alley from the Hollywood American Legion Stadium boxing arena, at El Centro and Hollywood Blvd., for $2 million ($14,520,971 when adjusted for inflation). The facility included a playroom for children, cocktail bar, billiard room, and snack bar. NBC provided its lot for temporary parking during construction, and Milt Enright became manager of the facility.

Also in 1962, Lesser planned development of bowling alleys in Australia, New Zealand, and Japan as bowling competed with cricket, soccer, and rugby as national pastimes in these countries.

Health benefits

Bowlers in San Antonio, Texas

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 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.[14]

Bowling safety

Like any other physical activity, warming up helps to prevent injuries. Bowling balls are heavy with varying weight ranges; to avoid back and wrist injury, they should be picked up with both hands. When picking a ball, make sure the finger holes are not too big and not too small. You also need a ball that is not too light, but heavy enough you can still throw it with ease. If the ball is too light, you will probably throw it with bad accuracy. It’s also recommended to bend one’s knees while picking up bowling balls to avoid back injuries. The bowling ball return mechanism has a driven wheel, and bowlers should keep their hands clear of it. Bowlers should also warm up their fingers before inserting them into a bowling ball, to ensure that their fingers do not get stuck in the ball.[15][16]


The most common bowling is ten pin bowling. In ten pin bowling, matches consist of each player bowling a "game." Each game is divided into ten "frames." A frame allows a bowler two chances to knock down all ten pins. The number of pins felled in each frame is recorded, a running total is made as each frame progresses, and the player with the highest score in his game wins the match. Scores can be greater than the actual number of pins felled if strikes or spares are bowled. A "strike" is scored when a player knocks down all pins on the first roll in the frame. Rather than a score of 10 for the frame, the player's score will be 10 plus the total pins knocked down on the next two rolls in the next frame(s). A "spare" is scored when all pins are knocked down using both rolls in the frame. The player's score for that frame will be 10 plus the number of pins knocked down on the first roll in the next frame. A player who rolls a spare or strike in the last frame is given one or two more rolls to score additional points, respectively.

Two consecutive strikes is known as a "double". Three consecutive strikes is known as a "turkey." Four consecutive strikes is known as a "hambone" or "four bagger". Five consecutive strikes is known as a "five bagger" or "dropping the nickel". Six consecutive strikes is known as a "six-pack". A perfect game consists of 12 consecutive strikes, one for every frame and two more on the extra rolls in the 10th, and results in a score of 300.

A variation is nine pin tap (also called no-tap), a form of bowling where nine pins knocked down counts as a strike.

Ball release techniques and delivery styles

Ball Release

There are typically two different ways to roll a ball down the lane.

  • Straight
Beginners commonly just bowl the ball straight down the lane, hoping to hit the 1 and 2 pocket or the 1 and 3 pocket. When bowling straight like this, people often hold the ball with their hand in a "W" shaped form. What you need to do is actually bowl with the fingers pointing vertically rather than horizontally.
  • Hook/Curve
The hook or curve ball is commonly used by more advanced players. As the bowler releases the ball, the ball starts out straight and then "hooks" because of the rotation the bowler puts on the ball during release. When curving, most people use three fingers while some people use two. Three fingered curvers are more common and say that they have better accuracy.[citation needed]

Delivery Styles

There are three different types of styles used when releasing the ball onto the lane. The three styles are the stroker, cranker and tweener styles.

  • Stroker
People who use the stroker style usually keep their feet square to the foul line. Stroking lessens the ball's spin rate and therefore decreases its hook/curve potential and hitting power. Strokers use finesse and accuracy.
  • Cranker
Crankers try to create as much spin as possible by using a cupped wrist. Bowlers that use the cranking method often cup their wrist, but open the wrist at the top of the swing. Crankers often use late timing, meaning the foot reaches the foul line before the ball does; this is called "plant and pull", hardly using any slide on their last step and pulling the ball upwards for leverage. Crankers rely on speed and power.
  • Tweener
Tweeners are bowlers that release the ball in a way that falls somewhere in between stroking and cranking. Tweeners often release the ball with a higher backswing than is normally used by a stroker or a less powerful wrist position than a cranker.

Types of pins

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

  • ten-pin bowling: largest and heaviest pins, bowled with a large ball with 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: tallest pins, thin with matching ends, and bowled with a handheld ball
  • duckpin: 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



Bowling balls vary, depending on the type of bowling game. Ten-pin balls are large, up to 27 inches in circumference (approximately 8.59 inches diameter), and have as many as five holes for gripping purposes. The balls come in various weights as high as 16lbs, with the size and spacing of the finger holes often smaller on lighter balls to accommodate smaller hands. Different kinds of balls are available for different styles of bowling. There are balls for curving and balls for bowling straight. Balls for other games vary, e.g., candlepin balls which fit in the palm of the hand need no holes. Unlike most sports, the ball can be different weights based upon the player.


Bowling shoes possess an intermediate style between regular dress shoes and the athletic type. The sole of the non sliding foot is generally made of rubber similar to that of a basketball sneaker to create stability, while the sliding foot is made of a much softer material that allows a bowler to slide into his release. These shoes can be bought, but most casual players rent the shoes each visit to a facility. Be very careful while wearing them that they do not get wet on the soft material. If you do get them wet, they will not slide on the ground.[17]


A bowling glove is a glove with a metal wrist support and a textured face that offers support in order to enhance grip. There are different glove styles, including those with a full metal finger design and ones with an uncovered portion for the middle and ring fingers. There are also wristguards. They allow a bowler to keep their wrist locked into place to generate revolutions on a ball.[18]

Outdoor variations

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:


Four-lane candlepin bowling alley in Windsor, Vermont, USA, about 1910

Major tournaments

Multi-sport events

In popular culture


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

In films

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

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

In shorts

On television

  • In The Flintstones (which imitated and spoofed The Honeymooners and The Jackie Gleason Show)[19][20], "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 doubles, 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 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 Brooklyn Water Buffalo Lodge and regularly bowled on its team, "The Hurricanes", at the Acme Bowling Alley.
  • 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. (Citation:

In gaming

See also


  1. ^ Random House Webster's college dictionary, Random House, New York, 1990, page 163
  2. ^ bowl. Unabridged. Random House, Inc. (accessed: September 03, 2011).
  3. ^ United States Bowling Conference
  4. ^ Help with Bowling: The History and Origins of Bowling
  5. ^ Bowling in ancient Rome
  6. ^ Springdale USBC Site
  7. ^ Fit4FunKids site
  8. ^ AMF Bowling Pinbusters! for Nokia N-Gage
  9. ^ "Indio Bowling Alley Rising", Los Angeles Times, 3 January 1960.
  10. ^ "$2 Million Program Set for Santa Monica", Los Angeles Times, 25 January 1959.
  11. ^ "Noted Boxing Arena Now Bowling Center", Los Angeles Times, 28 August 1960.
  12. ^ "Bowling Right Up Developers Alley", Los Angeles Times, 8 July 1962.
  13. ^ "Bowling Alley, Parkway Lanes", Los Angeles Times, 24 April 1960.
  14. ^ - How to Lose Weight by Bowling
  15. ^ BellaOnline - Personal Bowling Safety
  16. ^ Pinboy's Guide To Better Bowling
  17. ^ Using bowling shoes at Retrieved on 2010-02-15
  18. ^ Bowling Forum, 15 February 2010.
  19. ^ Stinnett, Chuck. "Rango is latest reminder that animated films are thriving". Evansville Courier & Press, March 8, 2011
  20. ^ "The Flintstones Frequently Asked Questions List". Retrieved 2010-07-20. 

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