Description of the game

What is Bowling (or ten pins)

Bowling, sometimes called tenpins, is an indoor game played on a polished wooden or synthetic floor by individuals or teams. Bowling is most popular in the US where more than 80 million people actively participate.

In the US game contestants roll balls, which have two or, commonly, three finger holes for gripping, toward ten 15-in. wooden pins. The pins are arranged in triangular formation, with the headpin 60 ft. from a foul line. The balls, made of a variety of materials are 8.5-in. in diameter and must not weigh more than 16 lb. The bowler, who rolls the ball underhand, has a runway at least 15 ft. long from which the ball may be released.

A bowling game is divided into 10 frames: the object of the game is to knock down all of the pins on the first or, if necessary, the second of the 2 rolls allowed in each frame. Each pin that is knocked down counts as 1 point. Knocking down all the pins with the first ball is called a strike and is scored as 10 points plus a bonus determined by the total points gained in the next 2 rolls. If a bowler should continue to roll only strikes throughout the game (a total of 12 attempts, because 2 bonus tries are allowed in the tenth frame), the result would be a rare prefect game 300. If 2 deliveries are needed to knock down all of the pins in a frame, the outcome is called a spare. A bowler is then awarded points plus a bonus of the score on the next roll. If a spare is made in the final frame, one extra roll is allowed and that is added to the score.

Objects used for a game similar to bowling, which date from 5200 BC, were found in the tomb of a young Egyptian boy. In the 3rd and 4th centuries, bowling in Europe was a religious ceremony, participants tried to hit the pin, or kegel (hence the word kegling for bowling) in order to be judged free of sin. The Italian version of bowling, Bocce, which is still played today, is somewhat similar to “Lawn Bowling”, an English game originating over 800 years ago. In Europe, it was played with 9 pins. Dutch colonists brought bowling to America in the 17th century. The game consisted of 9 pins set in a triangle. It was regularly played in an area of New York City still known as “Bowling Green”. The tenth pin was added according to popular legend, to circumvent a ruling in the 1840’s by the Connecticut Legislature, which outlawed nine-pins because of widespread gambling in the game. Bowling was an outdoor game for most of its history; indoor bowling became popular in the mid-19th century.


The American Bowling Congress (ABC), founded in 1895, is the governing body for tenpins. The ABC standardized rules and the scoring method, and it also organized the fast U.S. national bowling tournament, in 1901. Each year the ABC sponsors nationals in singles, doubles and five-man team competition for its members, whose numbers exceeds 5 million. The Women’s International Bowling Congress (WIBC) was founded in 1916 and has grown to 3.5 million members. The Professional Bowlers Association was organized in 1958 to promote exhibition and arrange major tournaments. Interest in bowling, particularly in the United Slates, had its major spurt after World War II.

The introduction of the first automatic pinsetter in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1952 was responsible for much of this growing popularity. Previously, pins were set by young boys, and Bowling Alleys, as the establishments were called, often had poor reputations. The modern game, however, promoted in part by competition on television, is a booming family sport. There is virtually no age limit for the active bowler.

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