What is Bowling?


The game of bowling consists of bowlers, whose goal is to roll a large, heavy ball down a lane, often made of wood, in order to knock down a set of white pins. Bowling dates back many centuries, and the sport has gone through countless iterations during its existence. Many people enjoy the sport on a casual level, yet bowling maintains a strong competitive and professional presence as well.


Bowling History

While bowling dates all the way back to ancient times, modern bowling originated about 1700 years ago in Germany. Originally a religious game played to repent sin, bowling soon evolved throughout the 17th century to include a wooden plank with pins located at the end. In the states, bowling, then known as "tenpins," was briefly banned for its gambling aspect. Over time, the sport became regulated, and evolved into the traditional 10 pin game we know and love today.

Playing Surface

Bowling Lane

The game of bowling takes place on a flat wooden lane, often slicked with special oil, which measures approximately 63 feet in length and four feet in width. At the end of the lane, 10 plastic-coated wooden bowling pins are arranged in a triangular pattern, with each pin weighing around three and a half pounds. Near the edge of the wooden lane, a foul line marks the area in which bowlers may not cross. The sides of each line have either raised fences or gutters, which can change depending on the level you wish to play at.


bowling equipment list

To participate in bowling, one first must decide to invest in a few pieces of equipment. Thankfully, bowling is quite a minimalist's sport, as only a few types of equipment are actually required for play. Here are a few of the items bowlers must have in order to play the sport. Pins and lanes are not required pieces of equipment, as bowling alleys will provide these for bowlers.

  • Bowling Ball
  • Bowling Shoes
  • Bowling Ball Carrying Bag
  • Bowling Glove
  • Bowling Uniform


Bowling Gameplay

Simply put, a bowler's objective is to roll a bowling ball down the 60 or so feet of lane, in order to knock down all of the ten pins. If they fail to knock down every pin (referred to as a strike) on their first roll, another roll is allowed to attempt to knock down the remaining pins. Each attempt or set of attempts to knock down the pins is referred to as a frame, and a typical bowling match consists of 10 to 11 frames.

Bowling requires a high degree of accuracy, and players are punished heavily for failing to keep the ball on target. If a bowler were to roll the ball into one of the two gutters, for example, that attempt will result in none of the pins falling. The goal of any round is to score the most points possible, accomplished by consistently knocking down all the pins.

Position Roles and Responsibilities

Bowling Positions

There is only one position available to play in the sport of bowling: the bowler themselves. Of course, bowling teams may compete against other teams, however every bowler performs the same task with the same objective in mind.

Rules and Regulations

Bowling Rules and Regulations

The game of bowling is fairly straightforward, and does not consist of many rules. However, understanding the basics of what is referred to as "lane etiquette" can certainly help bowlers avoid infractions during competitive play. Rule and etiquette information can be found at the Public Bowling Association and the U.S. Bowling Congress websites.

Foul: Given when a bowler crosses the foul line while attempting a roll. Machines and/or officials check to make sure you are not fouling while bowling.

Shoes: Bowlers may never wear street shoes, and must always wear proper bowling attire.

Delivery: Never deliver your ball down the lane at the same time as another bowler in another lane.

Courtesy: Bowlers should stay a good distance behind their fellow bowler, as well as bowl within their own lane.

Swearing: During, before, or after play, bowlers should remain respectful and refrain from swearing or using disrespectful language.

Referees and Officials

Bowling Referees and Officials

While they are not always required, bowling referees or umpires may appear in competitive play at the request of a bowling league or association. These officials ensure fair play, and will monitor the playing field to ensure that all of the proper parameters are met. These parameters include good sportsmanship and proper lane and pin dimensions, among others.

Lingo and Terminology

bowling lingo and terminology

Bowling uses many unique terms to describe play. Of course, without proper knowledge of these terms, it can be difficult for new players to understand what is happening during a match. The following are a few common and important terms to familiarize yourself with before hitting the lanes.

Strike: Knocking down every pin in one attempt

Spare: Knocking down every pin during a single frame, during your second attempt.

Turkey: Obtaining three consecutive strikes

Frame: One of the 10-11 segments in which a bowler has two attempts to knock down every pin

Head Pin: The first pin in a set of pins

Split: A gap between pins, usually resulting in a difficult spare shot

Perfect Game: A score of 300 across 12 frames (a strike every frame)

Skills and Techniques

bowling skills and techniques

Bowling consists of a few simple mechanics that are surprisingly difficult to master. Proper technique begins with how one holds the ball. Each ball consists of three dimples, in which one can place their fingers in order to help grip the ball. Placing the middle and ring fingers into the two parallel holes often yields the strongest and most controlled grip, with the thumb or palm supporting the ball's weight.

To properly roll the ball, it is important to know where one is aiming, step forward as they bring the ball back with their dominant hand, and forcefully release the ball down the lane, making sure to follow through. Over time, many different styles of gripping and rolling have been discovered and used in competitive play.

Coaches and Coaching

bowling coaches and coaching

There have been a number of successful bowling coaches throughout history. The mark of any great coach comes from their willingness and dedication to mold great athletes, as well as from a deep understanding of the fundamentals and history of the game. Below are a few notable bowling coaches.

Gordon VadakinChris Barnes, David Garber, Rick Steelsmith, Kassy Hyman, Anita Manns, Pat Healey, and Sean Rash
Jeri EdwardsChris and Lynda Barnes, Rhino Page and Diandra Asbat
Bill SpignerMark Williams


bowling strategy

There have been a great number of bowling strategies used by both casual and top bowlers. While tweaks to one's form are greatly important for long term improvements, one of the most common strategies for bowling strikes consistently involves aiming towards the pocket. This strategy involves spinning the ball upon release, in order to angle the ball in between the head pin and either the two or three pin (depending on which hand is the dominant hand). If done correctly, the possibility of bowling a strike will greatly increase.


Bowling Drills

There are a myriad of bowling drills a bowler can practice in order to improve their consistency, form, and other important aspects of their game. Improvements come from practice, and the sport of bowling requires ample practice to master. Below are a few handy drills for any bowler at any stage to practice in order to improve their skills.

Spare Drill: Perhaps the simplest of drills, the spare drill is great for practicing obscure or difficult spare scenarios. Set up different types of spares (splits, etc) and practice knocking down pins.

Kneel Drill: Kneel with the knee opposite of your bowling hand and bowl. This drill helps to not only work on your arm strength, but will help to develop consistency with your swinging motion.

Foul Drill: Intentionally hold yourself very close to the foul line upon releasing the ball. This will help gauge how close you are getting near the foul, as well as understand how much room you have between the lines.

Spin Drill: Drill focusing on enhancing your spin control and ability. Frequently bowl, emphasizing and exaggerating your spin. This will help you to understand your abilities and learn to better control your spinning.

Players and Athletes

Bowling Athletes

Many have played the sport of bowling throughout history, and a few have risen to the very top of the game. To make it to such a level, great players find ways to distinguish themselves from the rest. Whether it's a unique playstyle, an intuitive knack for the game, or simply a tremendous work ethic, the following players have no doubt cemented themselves into bowling history.

Lisa Wagner32 PWBA Titles, 1980's Bowler of The Decade
Pete Weber37 PBA Titles, 10 Major Titles
Walter Ray Williams Jr.47 PBA Titles, 7 Player of The Year Honors
Norm Duke38 PBA Titles, Youngest Tour Title Winner (Age 18)


Bowling leagues serve to give players of the sport opportunities to join teams and test their skills against other players. Most Leagues are greenlit by the USBC, and anyone looking to start their own league can do so by registering through the USBC. Below is a list of popular bowling leagues.

The Men's Bowling League USPro/Recreational
The Women's Bowling League USPro/Recreational
The Mixed Team Bowling League USPro/Recreational
The Youth Bowling League USPro/Recreational


Bowling Brands

The major bowling brands serve to facilitate much of the bowling that happens in the U.S. Oftentimes, brands work simultaneously as bowling clubs, which help host tournaments across the country. Some brands also own bowling alleys, and even manufacture bowling equipment. Below are some of the most recognizable bowling brands in the country.

Youth Organizations

Bowling Youth Organizations

There are quite a few options for younger bowlers to get involved with the sport. For many, joining a youth bowling league is the way to go, however there are a few other ways for younger bowlers to practice competitive bowling. It is important to check your local bowling club's websites for information regarding youth leagues and tournaments. Here are some resources:


Bowling Tournaments

For those bowlers interested in testing their skills in competitive play, there are ample bowling tournaments available. Typically hosted by a club, bowling tournaments allow players to compete against one another in a highly competitive, structured setting. Many large tournaments hosted across the nation are affiliated with the USBC and require a USBC membership, although smaller tournaments are constantly happening at bowling clubs all across the country. Listed in the table below are many tournaments held annually across the US.

Open ChampionshipAll skill levels
Women's ChampionshipAll skill levels
USBC MastersMajor Tournament, part of PBA Tour
USBC QueensMajor Tournament, part of PWBA Tour
US OpenMajor Tournament, part of PBA Tour
US Women's OpenMajor Tournament, part of PWBA Tour
Junior Gold ChampionshipsYouth Tournament
Youth OpenYouth Tournament

Books About Bowling

Bowling Books

For anyone looking to improve their game, books offer detailed and often personal takes on the sport in question. Bowling is no exception. With a plethora of highly regarded works on the subject, bowling books serve as a great resource for any player attempting to better their game. Below are considered to be some of the greatest bowling texts, according to reviews, sales, and utility, among other factors.

Bowling Beyond: The BasicsJames Freeman and Ron Hatfield
10 Secrets of BowlingDon Carter
Bowling Fundamentals (2nd Edition)Michelle Mullen
Bowling PsychologyDean Hinitz
Bowling: Steps to Success (2nd Edition)Douglas Wiedman
Bare Bones BowlingBrian Voss


Bowling Websites

In the internet age, the best resources are oftentimes found online. Make no mistake, bowling resources are plentiful on the internet. Clubs, alleys, leagues, organizations, manufacturers and tournaments often find ways to promote themselves, or simply educate about events and products, on their websites. Below are a few helpful bowling resources found online.


What is bowling?

Bowling is a sport in which players bowl a large ball, called a bowling ball, down a wooden lane coated with slick protective lubrication to knock down as many pins at the end of the lane as possible. In standard Bowling, there are ten pins at the end of the lane, called a bowling alley. The game of Bowling is played in segments called frames, made up of two halves.

How much does bowling cost?

Depending on a range of factors, including type and amount of equipment, differing hourly/round rates at bowling alleys, and training costs, it can be difficult to judge the true cost of becoming a bowler. A good rule is to always check your local bowling alley's cost for one round of bowling. In the US, one hour, or one game depending on how your lane charges, costs around $10 to $25. Alleys will provide balls, but additional balls can cost anywhere from $20 to into the $100s, depending on the type.

Why is bowling called bowling?

While modern bowling goes by many other names, such as tenpins, the name of "bowling" evolved from many previous iterations of the sport. To "bowl" means to roll something along the ground. Thus, the action performed in the sport is the reason for the name.

Who invented bowling?

According to anthropologist Flinders Petrie's discoveries, bowling traces back to ancient times. However, Germany is cited for inventing the sport, in its closest resemblance to modern bowling, around 300 AD.

What is a bowling game called?

While a bowling game is simply referred to as a round or match, each round is divided into sections called "frames." Each round has a minimum of 10 frames, and a maximum of 12 frames. During a frame, a bowler has two attempts to knock down every pin, before they are reset for the next player.

Today, Bowling is played by over 100 million people and in over 70 countries. Bowling is covered worldwide online and television programs.