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Type of bowling
Ball contacts the 1, 3, 5, and 9 pins (sequentially tinted red) to achieve a strike.
An approximately 15 feet (5 m) long approach area used by the bowler to impart speed and apply rotation to the ball ends in a foul line. The 41.5-inch-wide (105 cm), 60-foot-long (18 m) lane is bordered along its length by gutters (channels) that collect errant balls. The lane's long and narrow shape limits straight-line ball paths to angles that are smaller than optimum angles for achieving strikes; accordingly, many advanced bowlers impart side rotation to hook (curve) the ball into the pins.
Oil is applied to approximately the first two-thirds of the lane's length to allow a "skid" area for the ball before it encounters friction and hooks. The oil is applied in different patterns to add complexity and regulate challenge in the sport. Especially when coupled with technological developments in ball design since the early 1990s, easier oil patterns, commonly called house shots or typical house patterns (THPs), enable many league bowlers to achieve scores rivaling those of professional bowlers who must bowl on more difficult patterns--a development that has caused substantial controversy.
People approach bowling as either a demanding precision sport or as a simple recreational pastime. Following substantial declines since the 1980s in both professional tournament television ratings and amateur league participation, bowling centers have increasingly expanded to become diverse entertainment centers.
Ten-pin bowling is often simply referred to as bowling. Ten-pin, or less commonly Big-ball, are prepended to distinguish it from other bowling types such as lawn, candlepin, duckpin and five-pin.
Facilities and equipment
True scale diagram: In ten-pin bowling lanes, the nearest pin is 60 feet from the foul line--more than 17 times the lane's 41.5-inch width. Due to the optical illusion of foreshortening that a bowler experiences when standing on the approach, pins appear closer together and bowling ball angles of entry appear more dramatic than they are in fact.
Ten-pin bowling lanes are 60 feet (18.29 m) from the foul line to the center of the head pin (1-pin), with guide arrows (aiming targets) about 15 feet (4.57 m) from the foul line. The lane is 41.5 inches (1.05 m) wide and has 39 wooden boards, or is made of a synthetic material. The approach has two sets of dots, respectively 12 feet (3.66 m) and 15 feet (4.57 m) behind the foul line, to help with foot placement.
Simplified THS (typical house shot) oil pattern on a bowling lane, with greater oil concentrations being represented by darker blues. Relatively dry areas on the sides, and more heavily lubricated areas surrounding the centerline, help to guide the ball toward the pocket.(Horizontal scale is compressed.)
Simplified sport pattern of oil on a bowling lane, with greater oil concentrations being represented by darker blues. A "flatter" (more even) distribution of oil across the lane presents a greater challenge to hit the pocket.(Horizontal scale is compressed.)
Modern bowling lanes have oil patterns designed not only to shield the lanes from damage from bowling ball impacts, but to provide bowlers with different levels of challenge in achieving strikes. As illustrated, a typical house pattern (or THS, typical house shot) has drier outside portions that give bowling balls more friction to hook (curve) into the pocket, but heavier oil concentrations surrounding the centerline so that balls slide directly toward the pocket with less hooking. In the more challenging sport patterns used in tournaments and professional-level matches, a "flat" oil pattern--one with oil distributed more evenly from side to side--provides little assistance in guiding the ball toward the pocket, and is less forgiving with regard to off-target shots. The ratio of centerline oil concentration to side oil concentration (the oil ratio) can exceed 10-to-1 for THSs but is restricted to 3-to-1 or less for sport shots.
Lane oils, also called lane conditioners, are composed of about 98% mineral oil that, with numerous additives, are designed to minimize breakdown and carry-down that would change ball reaction after repeated ball rolls. Lane oils are characterized by different levels of viscosity, with oils of higher viscosity (thicker consistency) being more durable but causing balls to slow and hook earlier than lower-viscosity oils.
True scale diagram: A straight path, even one starting from the extreme outside corner of the lane, results in an angle of entry of at most 1.45°. Larger entry angles (shown in diagram) are achievable when hooking (curving) the ball. Larger entry angles have been shown to be generally more favorable for achieving strikes.
Rubber balls (introduced in 1905) were eventually supplanted by polyester ("plastic") balls (1959) and polyurethane ("urethane") balls (1980s). Coverstocks (surfaces) of bowling balls then evolved to increase the hook-enhancing friction between ball and lane: reactive resin balls arrived in the early 1990s, and particle-enhanced resin balls in the late 1990s. Meanwhile, the increasingly sophisticated technology of internal cores (also called weight blocks) has increased balls' dynamic imbalance, which, in conjunction with the coverstocks' increased friction, enhances hook (curving) potential to achieve the higher entry angles that have enabled dramatic increases in strike percentage and game scores.
Hook potential has increased so much that dry lane conditions or spare shooting scenarios sometimes compel use of plastic or urethane balls, to purposely avoid the larger hook provided by reactive technology.
The USBC regulates ball parameters including maximum diameter (8.595 inches (21.83 cm)), maximum circumference (27 inches (0.69 m)), and maximum weight (16 pounds (7.26 kg)).
Simplified representation of the skid, hook, and roll phases of bowling ball motion. Technological advances since the early 1990s in ball design have allowed dramatically increased hook potential and strike frequency, without requiring additional skill on the part of bowlers.(Horizontal scale is compressed.)
Because pin spacing is much larger than ball size, it is impossible for the ball to contact all pins. Therefore, a tactical shot is required, which would result in a chain reaction of pins hitting other pins (called pin scatter). In what is considered an ideal strike shot, the ball contacts only the 1, 3, 5 and 9 pins (right-handed deliveries).
Most new players roll the ball straight, while more experienced bowlers may roll a hook that involves making the ball start out straight but then curve toward a target, to increase likelihood of striking: USBC research has shown that shots most likely to strike enter the pocket at an angle of entry that is achievable only with a hook.
A complex interaction of a variety of factors influences ball motion and its effect on scoring results. Such factors may be categorized as:
Bowling ball design (see Effect of coverstock, core and layout on ball motion). A 2005-2008 USBC Ball Motion Study found that the ball design factors that most contributed to ball motion were the microscopic spikes and pores on the ball's surface (present in balls with reactive resincoverstock), the respective coefficients of friction between ball and lane in the oiled and dry parts of the lane, and the ball's oil absorption rate, followed in dominance by certain characteristics of the ball's core (mainly radius of gyration and total differential). Friction-related factors may be categorized as chemical friction (degree of "stickiness" designed by manufacturers into the resin coverstock) and physical friction (which can be modified by sanding or polishing, or by including additives that physically increase lubrication). "Weak" (pin down) versus "strong" (pin up) layouts of the finger and thumb holes with respect to core orientation affect skid lengths and hook angularity.
Front view: the ball impacts center pocket at "board 17.5"--found by a USBC pin-carry study to cause pin carry that maximizes strike probability. The ideal impact point is closer to the center of the head pin than many people believe.
(Diagrams assume right-hand delivery.)
Top view: Many wrongly believe that the ideal "pocket" is more "between" the 1 pin and 3 pin. Shown: 0°, 2°, 4°, 6° entry angles.
Bowling pins (with a maximum thickness of 4.766 inches (12 cm) at the waist) are "spotted" (placed) in four rows, forming an equilateral triangle with four pins on a side to form a tetractys. Neighboring pins are centered 12 inches (30 cm) apart, leaving a space of 7.234 inches (18 cm) between pins that can be bridged by a bowling ball of regulation diameter (8.5 inches (22 cm)).
Pin carry--essentially, the probability of achieving a strike assuming the ball impacts in or near the pocket--varies with several factors. Even before a 2008 USBC pin carry study, it was known that entry angle and ball weight increase strike percentages. The 2008 study concluded that an impact with the ball centered at "board 17.5" causes pin scatter that maximizes likelihood of striking. The material of the pin deck and "kickback" (side) plates was also found to materially affect pin carry.
Delivery style categories
Three widely recognized categories are stroker, cranker and tweener.
Strokers--using the most "classic" bowling form--tend to keep the shoulders square to the foul line and develop only a moderately high backswing, achieving modest ball rotation ("rev") rates and ball speeds, which thus limit hook potential and kinetic energy delivered to the pins. Strokers rely on accuracy and repeatability, and benefit from the high entry angles that reactive resin balls enable.
Crankers tend to open (rotate) the shoulders and use strong wrist and arm action in concert with a high backswing, achieving higher rev rates and ball speeds, thus maximizing hook potential and kinetic energy. Crankers rely on speed and power, but may leave splits rarely left by strokers.
Tweeners (derived from "in-between") have styles that fall between those of strokers and crankers, the term is considered by some to include power strokers.
Conventional delivery. Fingers positioned toward the side of the ball at release, induce side rotation causing the ball to hook (curve).
Two-handed delivery: Both hands retain contact with the ball until just before the release. Though it is often incorrectly called a two-handed release, the actual release involves one dominant hand for most bowlers.
Video: The two-handed delivery, first widely popularized by Jason Belmonte, increases potential rev rate. (shown: Zach Wilkins)
Modern delivery styles often involve a long follow-through and widely extended balance arm and leg (shown: Clara Guerrero)
So-called two-handed bowling, first popularized late in the 2000s by Australian Jason Belmonte, involves not inserting the thumb into any thumbhole, with the opposite hand supporting and guiding the ball throughout almost the entire forward swing. This delivery style, involving more athletic ability, is increasingly popular with younger bowlers and technically still involves a one-handed release. It allows the inserted fingers to generate higher revolution rates and thus attain greater hook potential than with a thumb-in-hole approach. In contrast, in what is literally a two-handed delivery and release, children or physically challenged players use both hands to deliver the ball forward from between the legs or from the chest.
No-thumb bowling involves only a single hand during the forward swing, without the thumb inserted.
The "UFO" or "helicopter" release: the thumb faces the body, while the middle and ring fingers face the pins.
The spinner style, which is mainly popular in parts of Asia, has a "helicopter" or "UFO" release that involves rotating the wrist to impart a high (vertical) axis of rotation that causes the bowling ball to spin like a top while traveling straight down the lane. Usually involving a lighter (10-12 pound) ball, the spinner style takes advantage of the ball deflection from the head pin to then "walk down" the other visible pins and cause domino effects diagonally through the pins.
In the backup (or reverse hook) release, the wrist rotates clockwise (for right hand releases) or counter-clockwise (for left hand releases), causing the ball to hook in a direction opposite to that of conventional releases.
A conventional grip, used on non-customized house balls and some custom-drilled balls, involves insertion of fingers to the second knuckle. A fingertip grip, involving insertion of fingers only to the first knuckle, enables greater revolution rates and resultant hook potential. A thumbless grip, often used by so-called "two-handed" bowlers, maximizes ball rotational speed ("rev rate").
Though the second bowler's scratch score 183 is higher than the first bowler's scratch score 181, the first bowler's higher handicap (58 vs. 53) causes his total 239 to exceed the second bowler's total 236.
In traditional scoring, one point is scored for each pin that is knocked over, and when less than all ten pins are knocked down in two rolls in a frame (an open frame), the frame is scored with the total number of pins knocked down. However, when all ten pins are knocked down with either the first or second rolls of a frame (a mark), bonus pins are awarded as follows.
Strike: When all ten pins are knocked down on the first roll (marked "X" on the scorescreen), the frame receives ten pins plus a bonus of pinfall on the next two rolls (not necessarily the next two frames). A strike in the tenth (final) frame receives two extra rolls for bonus pins.
Spare: When a second roll of a frame is needed to knock down all ten pins (marked "/" on the scorescreen), the frame receives ten pins plus a bonus of pinfall in the next roll (not necessarily the next frame). A spare in the first two rolls in the tenth (final) frame receives a third roll for bonus pins.
World Bowling scoring
The World Bowling scoring system--described as "current frame scoring"--awards pins as follows:
A strike is 30 pins, regardless of ensuing rolls' results.
A spare is 10 pins, plus the pinfall on first roll of the current frame.
An open frame is the total pinfall of the current frame.
The maximum score is 300, achieved with ten consecutive strikes (as opposed to twelve), but with no bonus pins received in the tenth frame.
World Bowling scoring is thought to make bowling easier to follow than with traditional scoring, increase television viewership, and help bowling to become an Olympic sport.
Variant of World Bowling scoring
Another variant of scoring, a 12-frame system introduced at the November 2014 World Bowling Tour (WBT) finals, resembles golf's match play scoring in counting the greater number of frames won rather than measuring accumulated pinfall score. A frame may be won immediately by a higher pincount on the first roll of the frame, and a match may be won when one player is ahead by more frames than remain of the possible 12 frames. This variant reduces match length and scoring complexity for two-player matches.
For a more comprehensive history of other forms of bowling that pre-date ten-pin bowling, see Bowling § History.
An early (1820) newspaper ad features a "Ball and Ten Pin Alley" to attract customers to a "Baking and Confectionary Business".
An 1829 newspaper editorial describes those who frequent bowling alleys and taverns: "the young, the frivolous, the headstrong, ... men of coarser passions and appetites, and fond of more riotous pleasures"--reflecting the often negative image bowling had.
An 1838 Indiana newspaper describes how ten-pin bowling alleys were constructed to evade a Baltimore statute prohibiting nine-pin bowling.
An 1839 liquor license ordinance prohibited gambling in "any ball, nine or ten pin alley"--a inference of the association of bowling with gambling and other games having a "demoralizing tendency".
Modern American ten-pin bowling derives mainly from the German Kegelspiel, or kegeling, which used nine pins set in a diamond formation. Some sources refer to an 1841 Connecticut law that banned ninepin bowling because of its perceived association with gambling and crime, and people were said to circumvent the prohibition by adding a tenth pin; other sources call this story a mere fable while earlier sources (e.g., 1838, re Baltimore and 1842, Charles Dickens re New York) explicitly confirm the strategy. Even earlier, an 1834 Washington, D.C. ordinance had limited the time (before 8 p.m. and not on Sundays) and place (more than 100 yards from inhabited houses) of "nine pin and ten pins" or "any game in the likeness or imitation thereof ... played with any number of pins whatsoever". In any event, newspapers referred to "ten pin alleys" at least as early as 1820
(also later in the 1820s
and in the 1830s).
A painting thought to date from around 1810 shows British bowlers playing outdoors with a triangular formation of ten pins, which would predate the sport's asserted appearance in the United States.[better source needed] In any event, the enjoyment of kegeling by German peasants contrasted with the lawn bowling that was reserved for the upper classes, thus beginning bowling's enduring reputation as a common man's sport.
In the mid 1800s, various alternatives to free-standing pins received U.S. patents to solve perceived problems in pinsetting and ball return, aiming to avoid the need for human pinsetters to perform these functions. One scheme (1851) involved pins with spherical bases that when hit by a ball merely fell over, in place, to be rotated back to a vertical position. A second arrangement (1853) involved resetting the pins via cords descending from respective pin bottoms to weights beneath the pin deck. Another design (1869) involved suspending the pins with overhead cords.
An 1895 advertisement for bowling lockers (price: $6.00 each section) suggests the attire and facilities used by bowlers of the era.
Bowling alley at the Pleasant Beach Hotel, Bainbridge Island, Washington (c. 1898)
Human pinsetters (Pittsburgh, c. 1908) preceded automated mechanical pinsetters.
In 1884, the Brunswick Corporation became the first American bowling ball manufacturer, and by 1909 introduced the Mineralite (hard rubber) ball that was considered so revolutionary that it was displayed at the Century of Progress Exposition in 1934. In 1886, Joe Thum--who would become known as the "father of bowling"--began opening bowling alleys and over decades strove to elevate the sport's image to compete with upper-class diversions such as theaters and opera houses.
From 1920 to 1929, the number of ABC-sanctioned alleys grew from 450 to about 2,000, with Prohibition leading to the growth of family-appropriate "dry" alleys. The 1933 repeal of Prohibition allowed breweries to sponsor teams and bowlers, adding to bowling's reputation as a working class sport. Though at the turn of the twentieth century most bowling alleys were small establishments, post-Prohibition bowling lanes shifted from side entertainment at fancy Victorian venues or seedier saloons to independent establishments that embraced the Art Deco style and fit the era's perceived "need for speed".
1940s to early 1960s
Actual text from one of Gottfried Schmidt's patents, this one from an application filed in 1936 and describing how his "bowling pin setting apparatus" can pick up and replace pins even if they were off their proper spots.
Gottfried Schmidt invented the first mechanical pinsetter in his garage in 1936, one implementation of which was publicly exhibited in 1946 before AMF placed a production model into service in 1952.
The 1940s through the 1970s became known as the "golden age of bowling", with ABC membership growing from 700,000 (1940), to 1.1 million (1947), to 2.3 million (1958), to 4.5 million (1963), Women's International Bowling Congress membership growing from 82,000 (1940) to 866,000 (1958), American Junior Bowling Congress membership growing from 8,000 (1940) to 175,000 (1958), and sanctioned individual lanes growing from 44,500 (1947) to 159,000 (1963).
Bowling's growth was fueled by deployment of automatic mechanical pinsetters by AMF (1952) and Brunswick (1955), television broadcasts (said to be "ubiquitous" in the 1950s), modernization and stylization of establishments with amenities to attract broader clientele, and formation of bowling leagues. Though President Truman had installed a bowling alley in the White House in 1947, a report of the American Society of Planning Officials in 1958 characterized bowling alleys as the "poor man's country club".
ABC bylaws had included a "white-males-only" clause since its inception in the 1890s, but numerous lobbying efforts and legal actions after World War II by civil rights and labor organizations led to a reversal of this policy in 1950.
In the 1930s and 1940s, professional bowling was dominated by "beer leagues" with many of the best bowlers sponsored by beer companies, but by 1965 the PBA tour was televised nationally on ABC Sports with sponsors such as Coca-Cola and Ford.
In parallel with professional bowling was "action bowling" or "pot bowling"--bowling matches based on monetary bets--historically associated with the New York underworld from the 1940s to the 1970s.
The first ten-pin lanes in Europe had been installed in Sweden in 1909, but attempts to popularize the sport in Europe were unsuccessful over the next several decades, though hundreds of lanes were installed on U.S. military bases in the U.K. during World War II. Various countries developed the sport to some extent, and the Fédération Internationale des Quilleurs (FIQ; now World Bowling) was formed in 1952 to coordinate international amateur competition.
A firmer establishment of the sport began in the U.K. in 1960 in London (Stamford Hill) in January 1960, and the British Tenpin Bowling Association was formed the following year. Various other countries, including Australia, Mexico and Japan, adopted the trend over the ensuing decade. After initial faddish growth in the U.K., however, the sport did not thrive as it did in the U.S., and by the 1970s many British bowling alleys were converted to serve competing pastimes, such as bingo.
The "Lane Master" automatic lane cleaning and conditioning machine was first deployed in the 1960s.
In the 1960s and early 1970s, top bowling professionals made twice as much money as NFL football stars, received million-dollar endorsement contracts, and were treated as international celebrities. The $100,000 Firestone Tournament of Champions launched in 1965, in a decade that saw ABC membership peak at almost 4.6 million male bowlers. The number of sanctioned bowling alleys peaked at about 12,000 in the mid-1960s, mostly in blue-collar urban areas, and Women's International Bowling Congress (WIBC) membership peaked at 4.2 million members in 1979.
In the late 1960s, the participation sport of bowling found itself competing with spectator sports and outdoor recreational activities. The number of certified bowling centers was to eventually decline from its 1960s high of 12,000 to 6,542 in 1998 and 3,976 in 2013. The decline was noted acutely in waning league participation over the intervening decades.
1980 to 2000
A bowling alley in Berlin (1981) with early electronic displays
Outside elite and professional bowling, participation in leagues--traditionally the more profitable end of the business--declined from a 1980 peak (8 million), compelling alleys to further diversify into entertainment amenities. While league bowling decreased by 40 percent between 1980 and 1993, the total number of bowlers actually increased by 10 percent during that period, with nearly 80 million Americans going bowling at least once during 1993. In 1995, the National Bowling Stadium (Reno, Nevada) was constructed at a cost of $47.5 million, but the PBA Pro Bowlers Tour TV program was canceled in 1997 after a 35-year run.
In 1991, equipment manufacturer DBA Products released "The Lane Walker"--the first computer-driven lane cleaning and oiling machine, programmable to clean up to 50 lanes.
The early 1990s brought development of reactive resin ("reactive") balls with chemically "tacky" surfaces that enhance traction to dramatically enhance hook and substantially increase the likelihood of striking, raising average scores even for less experienced bowlers.
The Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA) reported 1997 bowling product sales of $215 million, the SGMA president attributed an increase in popularity to bowling alley remodeling, technological innovations in balls and lanes, computerized scoring, and promotion by bowling organizations.
2000 to present
Example of a modern bowling alley (2010).
From 1998 to 2013, the number of American bowling centers fell by one quarter. Similarly, in the two decades following 1997, the number of USBC-certified lanes--also indicative of business viability--declined by one-third. This business decline is often attributed to waning league participation: USBC membership--indicative of league participation that was the main source of revenue--declined by two-thirds in those two decades, and the portion of alley revenue attributable to leagues is estimated to have dropped from 70% to 40%. Political scientist Robert D. Putnam's book Bowling Alone (2000) asserts, with some controversy, that the retreat from league bowling epitomizes a broader societal decline in social, civic and community engagement in the U.S.
As an indication of the decline, AMF Bowling, the largest operator of bowling centers in the world at the time, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2001, and again in 2012. By 2013, AMF Bowling had merged with New York-based Bowlmor, the company becoming known as Bowlmor AMF.
In 2000, three former tech industry executives bought a debt-laden PBA--which saw its 36-year television contract with ABC Sports end in 1997--and turned it from a non-profit league into a for-profit organization, and invested heavily in marketing. The January 2005 merger of four U.S. bowling organizations to form the USBC formed a "central brand" aiming to grow the sport. Beginning late in the decade of the 2000s, the two-handed approach became popularized, first by Australian Jason Belmonte, with some hoping that the controversial delivery style would boost popularity of the sport. In January 2013, the eight-team PBA League began competition, the strategy being that basing teams in specific geographic localities would generate viewer enthusiasm and corporate sponsorship in the same manner as teams in other professional sports. Still, continuing the reversal of bowling's peak popularity in the 1960s, in the 2012-2013 season the average yearly winnings of the ten highest-earning PBA competitors was less than US$155,000, and the average for the remaining 250 competitors was $6,500--all much less than a rookie NFL football player's minimum base salary of $375,000.
To attract a broader range of patrons, many bowling centers offer "cosmic bowling" (shown) and host other special events.
Estimates of the number of total (league and non-league) bowlers in the U.S. have varied, from 82 million (1997, International Bowling Museum) to 51.6 million (2007, research firm White Hutchinson) to 71 million (2009, USBC), the USBC stating in 2019 that bowling is still the #1 participation sport in the U.S. More broadly, the International Bowling Museum stated in 2016 that bowling is played by 95 million people in more than 90 countries. In an era of continual decline in league participation, bowling centers promoted "party bowling" and black-light-and-disco-ball "cosmic bowling" and experienced a shift from blue-collar participants to open-play (non-league) family-oriented clientele in combined bowling and entertainment centers.
In contrast to the U.S., the 2000s and 2010s brought a bowling renaissance in the U.K., achieved by accommodating sophisticated modern tastes by providing (for example) retro style bowling alleys outfitted with 1950s Americana, "boutique bowling", "VIP lanes", and cameras for instant replays, and by rejuvenating bowling "alleys" into diverse-entertainment bowling "centres". The population of ten-pin bowling centres grew from a low of barely 50 (in the 1980s) to over 200 (2006), with almost a third of Britons going bowling in 2016 and league participation growing over 20% over two years (2015-2017).
Though ten-pin bowling was a demonstration sport in the 1988 Summer Olympics (Seoul) and has been included in the Pan American Games since 1991, after making the short list for inclusion in the 2020 Summer Olympics (Tokyo), it was cut. One commentator noted that the sport's limited geographic popularity (the U.S., Australia and a few European and South American countries), and aging demographic of those who follow the sport, make it difficult to convince an Olympic Committee that wants to appeal to youth.
World Bowling (WB) was formed in 2014 from component organizations of the Fédération Internationale des Quilleurs (FIQ, International Federation of Bowlers), which in 1952 developed from the International Bowling Association (IBA) which began operations in 1926. Since 1979 the International Olympic Committee has recognized the FIQ, and later, WB, as the sport's world governing body. WB establishes rules for the uniform practice of bowling throughout the world, and promotes bowling as an Olympic sport. The World Tenpin Bowling Association "membership discipline" (component organization) of WB serves the amateur sport of ten-pin bowling worldwide, adopting uniform playing rules and equipment specifications.
The British Tenpin Bowling Association (BTBA, formed in 1961) is the official governing body recognized by World Bowling as the official sanctioning body in England, and as such "is responsible for the protection, integrity and development of the sport". Its stated vision is "to ensure that all people, irrespective of their age, disability, ethnic origin, marital status, sexual orientation or social status have a genuine and equal opportunity to participate in the sport at all levels and in all roles".
Poster for the first national bowling competition sanctioned by the American Bowling Congress. Highest per-game average scores: individual competition (216), doubles (200), five-man teams (181). A protest was filed against the highest-scoring doubles team, alleging use of a ball that was a quarter-inch larger in circumference than permitted.
the Young American Bowling Alliance (YABA, 1982), which itself was formed from combining the American Junior Bowling Congress (AJBC, 1946), Youth Bowling Association (YBA, 1963-64), and ABC/WIBC Collegiate division (mid-1970s), and
As the national governing body for bowling, its stated mission is to provide services, resources and the standards for the sport, its stated goals including growing the sport and promoting values of "credibility, dedication, excellence, heritage, inclusiveness, integrity, philanthropy and sportsmanship".
Though ten-pin bowling has not progressed beyond a demonstration sport at the Olympic Games, international games modeled after the Olympics (awarding medals) do include the sport, including the World Games (governed by the International World Games Association), the Asian Games (governed by the Olympic Council of Asia, OCA) and the Pan American Games (governed by the Pan American Sports Organization, PASO). The Maccabiah Games (governed by the Israeli Bowling Federation, IBF, with events played according to WTBA-ETBF rules) host ten-pin tournaments as medal events.
USBC membership has declined, indicating waning league participation in the U.S.
Same data, normalized to 1997 values to show relative change in lanes, centers and membership.
The average number of lanes per bowling center has trended upward slightly during this time period.
In about 2015, U.S. bowling center employment reversed a long decline, which some attribute to their diversification into more broad-based entertainment centers. The COVID-19 pandemic caused the precipitous decline in 2020.
Bowling leagues vary in format, including
demographic specialization (male, female, mixed, senior, youth),
number of bowlers per team (usually 3-5),
number of games per series (usually 3),
day and time of scheduled sessions,
starting dates and duration of league seasons,
scoring (scratch versus handicap), and
systems for bestowing awards and prizes.
Usually, each team is scheduled to oppose each of the other teams over the course of a season.Position rounds--in which the first place team opposes the second place team, third place opposes fourth place, and so on--are often inserted into the season schedule.
Customarily, team position standings are computed after each series, awarding a first number of points for each game won and a second number of points for achieving the higher team score for that series, the particular numbers being specified in each league's rules. Further, in leagues having "match point" scoring, individual bowlers on one team are matched against respective members of the opposing team, the winners receiving points that supplement their team's game and series points.
The number of league bowlers in the U.S. peaked at 8 million in 1980, declining to approximately 1.3 million in the ensuing 40 years.
Oldest to win a PBA Tour major tournament: Pete Weber (2013 Barbasol Tournament of Champions at age 50 years, 222 days)
Perfect (300) game history
A USBC "300 game" gold ring
Ernest Fosberg (East Rockford, Ill.) bowled the first recognized 300 in 1902, before awards were given out. In 1908, A.C. Jellison and Homer Sanders (both of St. Louis) each bowled 300 games in the same season, the ABC awarding the gold medal for the highest score of the year to Jellison after a three-game tie-breaker match, without regard to the chronological order of their accomplishments.
On January 7, 2006, Elliot John Crosby became the youngest British bowler to bowl a BTBA-sanctioned 300 game at the age of 12 years, 2 months and 10 days, breaking the 1994 record of Rhys Parfitt (age 13 years, 4 months).
On November 17, 2013, Hannah Diem (Seminole, Florida) became the youngest American bowler to bowl a USBC-certified 300 game at the age of 9 years, 6 months and 19 days, breaking the 2006 record of Chaz Dennis (age 10) and the 2006 female record of Brandie Reamy (age 12).
Jeremy Sonnenfeld (Sioux Falls, S.D.) rolled the first certified 900 series in 1997. A well-publicized court-contested 900 series by Glenn Allison in 1982, considered by many to be the first-ever 900 series, was denied certification due to non-conforming lane conditions.
"Score inflation" controversy
The 905 perfect games that were rolled during the 1968-69 season increased 38-fold to 34,470 in the 1998-99 season. Likewise, the number of perfect-game league bowlers increased from about one of 3150 (1900-1980) to about one of 27 (2007), a greater-than-hundredfold increase that many thought threatened to jeopardize the integrity of the sport. Specifically, the USBC Technical Director wrote that the "USBC is concerned that technology has overtaken player skill in determining success in the sport of bowling," announcing in 2007 the completion of a ball motion study undertaken "to strike a better balance between player skill and
Automatic lane oiling machines can be programmed to lay down oil patterns of different levels of difficulty.
Separately, a USBC pin carry study completed in about 2008 found that dramatically increased entry angles improve pin carry to result in higher scores--regardless of whether the bowlers supplied additional effort or improved their skill. Among the factors allowing higher scores were technological advances in coverstock and core design combined with improved lane surfaces and accommodative oil patterns.
Specifically, the reactive resin balls and particle balls that came out in the 1990s increased frictional engagement with the lane to provide greater hook potential that made high entry angles easier to achieve. Moreover, changes in lane surface technology, as well as the introduction of voids into pins to make them lighter and more top-heavy, helped to raise average scores as early as the 1970s. Expanded choices in oil viscosity and electronically controlled lane oiling machines permitted alley owners to customize house oil patterns to optimize the advantages of the new ball technologies. Technological progress allowed some 1990s league scores to surpass those of professionals in the 1950s.
Responding to such concerns, the USBC initiated "sport bowling" leagues and tournaments that provide "sport", "challenge" and "PBA Experience" oil patterns that are more challenging than the accommodative patterns of typical house shots. Still, the USBC has encountered enduring issues concerning how to maintain "average integrity" (fair handicapping) across leagues using oil patterns of differing difficulty.
As a result of various USBC studies, including a bowling technology study published in February 2018, the USBC Equipment and Specifications Committee established new specifications focusing mainly on balls. The overall result of the new specifications was said to slightly limit hook potential, more specifically eliminating balance holes and setting a new specification for oil absorption. The USBC stated that the new specifications will slow oil pattern transition, cause bowlers to move less, and keep the same scoring pace with lower oil volume.
The decline in bowling event coverage has been attributed to a variety of factors, including time demands burdening the schedules of two-income households, small purses (winnings) for professional tournaments, declining participation in league bowling, the perceived demographic of bowlers (old, or of low social class), waning popularity with the public, lack of corporate sponsorship, lack of an inspiring bowling star (2004), and an aging audience for TV bowling. A 2006 PBA article describing the PBA bowlers in the documentary A League of Ordinary Gentlemen called the professional athletes "the Rodney Dangerfields of professional sports".
The decline in coverage has also been attributed to the perception that bowling is less an athletic sport (not being in the Olympic Games) than a recreational pastime (such as for children's birthday parties). This perception is reinforced by the easy lane conditions provided to bowling leagues that enable league bowlers to achieve scores rivaling those of professionals who must bowl under more challenging lane conditions.
Said to be "near bankruptcy" in 2000, the PBA changed ownership to one that emphasized marketing.ESPN featured bowling from 2000 to 2018 on Sunday afternoons, with CBS Sports Network also airing a smaller number of bowling tournaments.
In 2019, the PBA entered an agreement, expected to last four years, in which Fox Sports would sell advertising and sponsorships for the sport to establish the sport's presence on broadcast television, also providing cable, streaming, and social media programming.
In the Coen Brothers' The Big Lebowski (1998), "the Dude" (Jeff Bridges), a "slacker's slacker," hangs out with his buddies at a bowling alley, in which John Goodman pulls a gun out to threaten a competitor who stepped over the foul line.
The inventor of this 1870 patent claims to have "invented a new and useful adaptation of the old and favorite Game of Ten-Pins ... rendered available for parlor or indoor use".
What is believed to be the first bowling video game was released in the 1977, a built-in provided with the RCA Studio II console. A pseudo-3D game was released in 1982 for the Emerson Arcadia 2001 console, and a multi-player game was released by SNK in 1991, almost a decade before convincing 3D graphics arrived. The Wii Sports game pack, released in 2006, includes a bowling game for the 3D-motion-controlled console, and mobile-device bowling games have since become increasingly popular. Several organizations--including the PBA and entertainment franchises such as Animaniacs,The Simpsons,Monsters, Inc., and The Flintstones--have granted licenses to use their names for video games.
Benner, Donald; Mours, Nicole; Ridenour, Paul; USBC, Equipment Specifications and Certifications Division (2009). "Pin Carry Study: Bowl Expo 2009"(Slide show presentation). bowl.com. Archived(PDF) from the original on December 7, 2010.
^Schmidt, Gottfried J. (July 23, 1940). "Bowling Pin Setting Apparatus"(PDF). patentimages.storage.googleapis.com. United States Patent and Trademark Office. Archived(PDF) from the original on January 28, 2019.