The wide, lane is bordered along its length by "gutters”—semicircular channels designed to collect errant balls which also pose an obstacle to advanced bowlers, because a straight ball cannot be rolled on a regulation lane at the angle required to consistently carry (knock down) all ten pins for a strike. Most skillful bowlers will roll a more difficult-to-control hook ball to overcome this. There is a foul line at the end of the lane nearest to the bowler: if any part of a bowler’s body touches the lane side of this line after the ball is delivered (rolled), it is called a foul and no pins knocked over by that delivery are scored. (The bowler is allowed a shot at a new rack of ten pins if he fouled on the first roll of a frame.) Behind the foul line is an “approach” approximately long used to gain speed and leverage on the ball before delivering it. from the foul line, where the lane terminates, it is joined to a roughly , wide surface of durable and impact-resistant material called the “pin deck” where each rack of pins is set.
The bowler is allowed ten frames in which to knock down pins, with each frame being composed of up to two rolls. The tenth frame may be composed of up to three rolls: the bonus roll(s) following a strike or spare in the tenth (sometimes referred to as the eleventh and twelfth frames) are fill ball used only to calculate the score of the mark rolled in the tenth. Bowling has a unique scoring system (see below) that is notoriously confusing to newcomers who attempt to score a game with multiple marks (strikes and spares). Bowling scores tend to be unintuitive: if a bowler was to knock down 9 pins with his first shot but miss his spare every frame, he would have a score of 90; if the same bowler were to make all of his spares and knock down 9 with the bonus ball, he would have a score of 190. If he were to carry all ten pins with each shot and strike with each of his bonus balls in the tenth frame, he would have shot a perfect game of 300.
Since being brought to the United States from Europe, ten-pin bowling (thought to be descended from the game of skittles) has risen in popularity as its technology has improved. The sport is most popular in the United Kingdom and the United States. Both nations maintain national regulatory organizations that govern the sport’s rules and conduct and many of those countries’ best players participate in tournaments on both the national and international stage. Because of the rise in popularity, many companies are now making bowling balls and apparel for professionals as well as for recreational bowlers. Bowling has also become more prevalent in the media in recent years, with the continued popularity of bowling publications and the appearance of films centred around the culture of the sport. However, the sport continues to face challenges in garnering mainstream coverage of the athletic aspects of the game.
Ninepin bowling was introduced to America from Europe during the colonial era, similar to the game of skittles. It became very popular and was called “Bowl on the Green.” The Dutch, English, and Germans all brought their own versions of the game to the new world, where it enjoyed continued popularity, although not without some controversy. In 1841 a law in Connecticut banned ninepin bowling lanes due to associated gambling and crime, and people were said to circumvent the letter of the prohibition by adding an extra pin, resulting in the game of ten-pin bowling.
A painting that which dates from around 1810, and has been on display at the International Bowling Hall of Fame and Museum in St. Louis, Missouri, however, shows British bowlers playing the sport outdoors, with a triangular formation of ten pins, chronologically before it appeared in the United States-a photograph of this painting appeared the pages of the US-based "Bowler's Journal" magazine in 1988.
Modern American ten-pin bowling is most closely related to the German nine pin game Kegelspiel. Germans were instrumental in fostering the game’s popularity as they formed their own bowling clubs both before and after the American Civil War. The first indoor bowling alley was Knickerbockers of New York City, built in 1840. The Brunswick Corporation’s addition of bowling equipment to their product line also served to increase the sport’s popularity. In 1914 Brunswick replaced their line of wooden bowling balls, mostly made with lignum vitae, with hard rubber Mineralite bowling ball. The change was met with great approval.
Bowling has long been seen as a sport of the working classes. Accordingly, most bowling alleys at the turn of the century were small, private establishments, mainly frequented by men. This began to change as the sport became increasingly regulated and generally gained in prestige. Although it has not shed its working class image entirely, today bowling is no longer only a unisex sport, and is enjoyed by people the world over. In 1895 the American Bowling Congress was started in New York City. This was soon joined by similar organizations geared toward female bowlers. These groups began creating the standard rules for bowling that have survived to the modern day. At the same time, the sport’s image among the upper classes was enhanced by the opening of more luxurious and elegant alleys like The White Elephant in New York City, opened by restaurateur Joe Thum, whom many consider to be the father of bowling, along with Dick Weber. Thum created the first bowling organization in the United States on September 9, 1895, when he pulled together representatives of various regional bowling clubs into an overarching organization, the American Bowling Congress (ABC). This spurred greater interest in the game, with the number of officially sanctioned alleys rising from 450 in 1920 to 2,000 in 1929.
This era also saw a great increase in bowling technology. Pins had previously been set by human pinsetters or “pin boys”, but with the invention of the semi-automatic pinsetter in 1936, the process became much easier. In 1946 AMF Bowling launched the first commercial fully automatic pinsetter to replace the earlier Brunswick semi-automatic and fully manual bowling establishments. Brunswick itself introduced its own automatic pinsetter design to bowling centers in 1955. The television age of the 1950s also helped to increase the popularity of ten-pin bowling, as images of the sport began to enter the homes of millions across the United States. Eddie Elias founded the Professional Bowlers Association in 1958, and its Pro Bowlers Tour became a permanent part of ABC’s sports lineup.
Until the mid 1980s there was little, if any, new investment in the sport with the decline in interest being attributed to the complex scoring system, especially as it was a manual process then. However, this all changed with the introduction of computers and automated electronic scoring systems. This meant that the general public only had to enter their names into the computers and everything else was done automatically. This changed the face of bowling and was largely responsible for the newfound interest in the sport.
AMF carried this revitalization of the sport by embarking on a major refurbishment programme. This re-investment led to the construction of many bright, modern and attractive sites and began the second golden age of bowling. During the late 1980s and early 1990s the number of ten-pin bowling alleys across the country rose to over two hundred. This was higher than it had ever been in the sixties, then the peak of the sport’s popularity.
Today, over 100 million bowlers play in over 90 different countries. More men and women worldwide bowl than play any other sport, with the possible exception of football (soccer in the USA and Canada). Bowling has far more registered dues-paying participants than any other sport. The bowling industry spends significantly more money each year than any other sport on airlines, restaurants, hotels and rental cars. There is an active movement to make bowling an Olympic sport, especially by the Fédération Internationale des Quilleurs, the world governing organization for nine and ten-pin bowling. The most elite players regularly play in televised tournaments, and new bowlers continue to delight in learning the game. In addition, modern bowling alleys have changed greatly. As people have become exposed to a wider range of entertainment options, the trend has shifted to building large entertainment centers that allow people to enjoy many different activities. These developments often include multi-screen cinemas, restaurants and night clubs. This has had a great impact on the image of the sport among families.
The ten pins are usually automatically set by machine into four rows which form an equilateral triangle where there are four pins on a side (Pythagorean Tetractys). There are four pins in the back row, then three, then two, and finally one in the front at the center of the lane. The pins are numbered one through ten, starting with one in front, and ending with ten in the back to the right. This serves to ease communication; one could say that the 4 and 7 pins were left standing. Neighboring pins are set up apart, measured from center to center. Due to the spacing of the pins and the size of the ball (about in diameter), it is impossible for the ball to contact every pin. Therefore, a tactical shot is required, which would result in a chain reaction of pin hitting pin. In an ideal shot, for a right-hander, the ball will contact only the 1, 3, 5 and 9 pins. (For a left-hander, the 1, 2, 5 and 8 pins).
In order to count, a pin must be knocked over entirely. Even if a pin wobbles, unless it is knocked over completely, it is not scored. If the pin is wobbling as the automatic pin machine picks it up (or the machine itself knocks over the pin while it is wobbling), it is still considered standing and is not scored. Also, if a pin is moved, it does not change its designation. For example, if the 10 pin was still standing and the 7 pin slid into the 8 pin position, converting this spare would still be considered and given a 7-10 split award (if performed in sanctioned play).
There are generally two primary styles of rolling the ball down the lane. Most newer players play by rolling the ball straight, hopefully into the 1-3 pocket for right-handed bowlers or the 1-2 pocket for left-handed bowlers. More experienced bowlers usually roll a hook, which means that they make the ball start out straight and then curve towards the pocket. To produce a hook the player needs to let go of the ball with his or her thumb first, then the middle and ring finger release almost simultaneously. This gives the bowling ball its spin needed for the hook. If the player is right-handed, an ideal position of the thumb after letting go of the ball is “10 o’clock”, meaning that the thumb has gone from 12 to 10, as looking at a clock. The corresponding position for left-handed players is 2 o’clock. Of course there are innumerable variations in style and technique and the position of the thumb can vary from person to person. Lab research has shown that the ideal shot will enter the pocket at an angle of 6 degrees with respect to the lane boards, which means that a straight ball should be thrown from the side of the lane, near the gutter.
The conventional bowling styles use either a four or five step approach beginning 8 to 16 feet (2.4 to 4.8 metres) behind the foul line. Some extremely young or physically challenged players may use both hands to swing the ball forward from in between their legs. This kind of style has the bowler start close to the foul line, and is called “Granny style.” Another method for novice bowlers is the “bounce pass” technique which is performed by thrusting the ball from your chest with two hands towards the pins. This technique is easily picked up by weaker players but is seldom used because it is frowned upon by the bowling community due to the potential to damage the lanes and/or ball.
There are systematic ways of using the lane arrow marks and approach dots to make it easier to hit the pocket to get strikes, and for making spares. Focusing on these targeting guides helps eliminate fear of the gutters.
The regulations listed here are generally based around regulations set by the United States Bowling Congress and the British Tenpin Bowling Association. These rules are followed by all sanctioned leagues and events, such as tournaments.
This information is clarified by the World Tenpin Bowling Association in its “Statutes & Playing Rules”
USBC rules specify that a pin must be tall and about wide at its widest point, where a rolling ball would make contact. There are additional measurements which delineate the shape. The weight of a single pin must be at least 3 pounds, 6 ounces (1.47 kg) and no more than 3 pounds, 10 ounces (1.64 kg). Within a set of ten pins, the individual weights may vary by no more than 4 ounces (113.4 g), if made from wood or plastic coated, or just 2 ounces (56.7 g) if synthetic. The top of the pin shall have a uniform arc with a radius of 1.273 inches, ± 1/32 inch (31.5 – 33 mm).
The USBC also has regulations governing the weight distribution of the pin from top-to-bottom. Pins are allowed one or two “voids” (holes) in the belly area (which can be viewed if the pin is cut in half from top-to-bottom). The voids are needed to balance the narrower top half of the pin with the wider bottom half. Without them, the pins would be too bottom-heavy to fall properly when struck.
The pins must show the name and mark of the maker, either “USBC Approved” or “BTBA Approved” and appear uniform.
The head pin or 1 pin stands on board 20 of the lane.
For much of the history of bowling, bowling balls were made using a three piece construction method. Starting in the mid 1990s, however, most manufacturers switched to a two-piece method. In response to these innovative ball designs, the American Bowling Congress placed further restrictions on the technical characteristics of the ball such as the radius of gyration and hooking potential.
In the event that all ten pins are knocked over by a player in a single frame, bonuses are awarded.
Two consecutive strikes are referred to as a “double.” (image unavailable)
A double's pinfall is:
Three strikes bowled consecutively are known as a “turkey” or “triple.” (image unavailable)
A triple's pinfall is:
Any longer string of strikes is referred to by a number attached to the word “bagger,” as in “four-bagger” or “five-bagger” for four or five consecutive strikes. Recently, the event of bowling four consecutive strikes has also been called a “sombrero” or “ham bone.” This terminology is used most often when a bowler is “off the strikes.” (i.e. has previously bowled a string of several strikes but failed to strike on his most recent ball.) When a player is “on the strikes,” a string is often referenced by affixing “in a row” to the number of strikes bowled consecutively. Six strikes in a row are sometimes referred to as a “six pack.”6 strikes and 9 strikes in a row can also be referred to “Wild Turkeys” and “Golden Turkeys” respectively. Any string of strikes starting in the first frame or ending “off the sheet” (where all of a bowler’s shots from a certain frame to the end of the game strike) are often referred to as the “front” or “back” strikes, respectively (e.g. the “front nine” for strikes in frames 1-9, or the “back six” for strikes in frames 7, 8, and 9 with a turkey in the tenth). A “Perfect Game” or 12 strikes in a row is also colloquially referred to as the “Thanksgiving Turkey.”
A player who bowls a spare in the tenth (final) frame is awarded one extra ball to allow for the bonus points.
Correctly calculating bonus points can be difficult, especially when combinations of strikes and spares come in successive frames. In modern times, however, this has been overcome with automated scoring systems, linked to the machines that set and clear the pins between frames. A computer automatically counts pins that remain standing, and fills in a virtual score sheet (usually displayed on monitors above each lane). However, even the automated system is not fool-proof, as the computer can miscount the number of pins that remain standing.
The maximum score in a game of ten-pin is 300. On Feb. 2, 1997, University of Nebraska sophomore Jeremy Sonnenfeld became the first person ever to roll three perfect games of 300 in a three-game series (as approved by the American Bowling Congress). This has only been achieved a handful of times since.
In Britain, the youngest bowler ever to achieve a perfect single game score of 300 (12 consecutive strikes), in a sanctioned competition was old Elliot John Crosby, at AMF Purley in South London, England in the Surrey County trials on January 7 2006. Crosby beat the previous British 300 shooter record holder Rhys Parfitt by more than a year. Parfitt was 13 years, 4 months when he achieved a 300 point game at the London international tenpin bowling tournament in 1994. In the United States, the youngest ever bowler to achieve this in a sanctioned competition is two-handed bowler Chaz Dennis of Columbus, Ohio. He achieved this competing in the Hillcrest Preps-Juniors league at Hillcrest Lanes in Columbus, Ohio on December 16, 2006 at old. Dennis was 20 days younger than the previous record-holder, Michael Tang of San Francisco, California, who set his record when he was old competing in the Daly City All Stars Scratch Trios League at the Sea Bowl in Pacifica, California.
All of the three world major bowling tours above are televised on Sky Sports by Matchroom Sport who have established a tried and tested formula to highlight televised bowling at its best. All three events are also presented by broadcaster and journalists, Nick Halling and Cass Edwards.
Among the leading world tournaments is the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) Tour. The PBA Tour takes place in North America, except for one stop in Japan (Dydo Japan Cup) that is considered a PBA event. This tour has 20 or more events per year (running from October to April), and includes four major championship events: the PBA U.S. Open, USBC Masters (known as the ABC Masters prior to 2005), the H&R Block Tournament of Champions and the Denny's World Championship. Although PBA headquarters are based in the USA, the PBA has members from all over the world whom also compete in all of its events. The PBA tour is televised in America and certain parts of the world by ESPN and ABC.
Along with increased coverage in recent years, these tours have become more profitable for bowlers. Earl Anthony, who bowled left-handed, became the first bowler to earn more than $100,000 (U.S.) in a single season when he finished the 1975 PBA Tour schedule with $107,585. He broke the $1 million mark in career earnings in 1982. The PBA now has some single tournaments that pay $100,000 to the winner. Norm Duke is the youngest person to win a PBA Tour tournament. He won the 1983 Cleveland Open at age 18 years, 345 days. The youngest person to bowl a PBA event is 15-year-old Jack Perry of Ontario, Canada, who rolled in the 2004 PBA World Championship. The oldest player to win a regular PBA Tour title is John Handegard, who won the 1995 Northwest Classic at age 57 years, 139 days. Walter Ray Williams Jr. is the all-time leader in PBA titles with 44.
There is also the Commonwealth Tenpin Bowling Championships.
In most leagues, teams of individuals bowl three games (called a “series”) each. A typical league will schedule two teams to compete against one another each week. Usually the winner of each game is decided by adding up the scores of all teammates. Leagues typically decide standings by awarding a certain number of points for each team game win. Additionally, points are usually awarded for total pincount for each team over the course of all three games (commonly referred to as “total wood”). Throughout the course of a season, each team will usually face all of the other teams in competition.
Leagues can have various formats. While most leagues are mixed leagues, containing both men and women, men’s and women’s leagues are still common, along with junior leagues for young bowlers. There are also different types of competition. Scratch leagues are those in which the actual pin count determines the winner. Most leagues are not scratch, but handicap leagues. In handicap leagues, the scores are a combination of the actual pins knocked down, plus addition of a handicap value, to give teams with lower averages a chance to compete against teams that have higher averaged bowlers. The handicap system provides a means to compare scores across the whole league. The best leagues set up their rules, so that every team has benefit of handicap for every game bowled, every league session, for their whole schedule. Every league determines its own basis for the handicap. It can select a team average basis or an individual average basis. The basis is set at a percentage, nominally in the 80-100% range, of a value higher than the highest average in the league, including an allowance for average improvement over the league’s schedule. (Note: Some leagues use an inferior handicap system, that only allows comparison of scores between two teams that are scheduled to compete against each other, on one particular date. Instead of using the same basis value for every team, that system uses the average difference between just those two teams. The resultant handicap is given to the lower average team, while the higher average team opponent receives no handicap. The inferior system only covers points won for game or series. As there is no common basis, it does not allow comparison of scores across the whole league and therefore is counter-productive for all teams in the league.) The ability to compete for “league high score honors” would normally help to keep all teams involved in all of the competition aspects, points won and league high scores. A properly organized league can provide many opportunities for recognition of both personal and team accomplishments.
Currently, over three million people compete in bowling leagues. At its peak in the late 1970s, over nine million men and women competed in leagues throughout the United States.
Pin characteristics, the bowling ball, and the lane surface are regulated by the USBC, BTBA and others. Technological changes throughout the history of the sport have often required new regulations. This continues today, often with great debate. The controversies usually involve “scoreability” related to greater strike carry on less-than-perfect shots. The increasing frequency and degree of higher scoring irks many bowling purists, who say that it is damaging the integrity of the sport.
Up until the early 1970s, the ABC/WIBC honor awards were genuine treasures because they were so rarely won. In response to the view that advanced equipment is spoiling the integrity of the sport, the USBC introduced in 2000 the “Sport Bowling” program which offers a different optional league certification and the USBC provides a separate set of honor awards. In Sport Bowling, lane conditions are more highly regulated and controlled than in traditional leagues, and the oiling patterns used are generally more even with regards to volume and ratios of oil across the surface of the lane. Sport Bowling conditions are similar to those used at some major championships of professional bowling, particularly the U.S. Open. In more recent years, “PBA Experience” leagues have been introduced that allow bowlers to compete on the five main lane conditions currently used on the PBA Tour.
Not everyone has embraced the Sport Bowling concept. PBA Hall of Famer Johnny Petraglia argues that Sport Bowling combats changes in bowling balls simply by making it tougher to roll a shot into the “pocket” (the 1-3 pins for a right-hander, 1-2 pins for a left-hander). According to Petraglia, Sport Bowling is merely an attempt to “create the scores that were shot 30 years ago. The problem is, 30 years ago the game wasn’t tougher. You could hit the pocket as easily as you do now, but you couldn’t knock over the same [number] of pins with a rubber bowling ball. Sport bowling is, for the first time, intentionally trying to make the lanes tough.” Petraglia’s suggestion to combat high-tech bowling balls is to use heavier pins that are single-voided on the bottom (versus double-voided), making them less top-heavy.
Bowling alley proprietors and lane maintenance personnel have also argued that changes in ball technology have made it more difficult to lay out fair and credible conditions for participants. This is because advanced players using high-tech balls need more oil to score high, and might complain about the radical behavior of their balls on “dry” lanes. At the same time, less aggressive players with older equipment might complain when they can’t get their balls to hook on ever-increasing amounts of oil. Such complaints about lane conditions have actually been part of the game throughout bowling history, and will likely continue.
At the end of 2007, the USBC completed a two-year study on bowling ball motion and how advanced, high-tech equipment may influence lane conditions and scoring. Establishing a Bowling Ball Specifications Task Force -- comprising research engineers and volunteers from ball manufacturing companies -- the USBC sought to better understand the motion of bowling balls using scientific research and data analysis. Test equipment included, but was not limited to, a robotic ball-thrower, a Computer Aided Tracking System (“Super C.A.T.S.”), 59 reactive resin and particle bowling balls from various manufacturers, and eight lanes in a climate-controlled facility.
The driving force behind the study was summed up by USBC Technical Director Neil Stremmel: “USBC is concerned that technology has overtaken player skill [as the primary factor] in determining success in the sport of bowling.”
The USBC completed data analysis and released a lengthy report on its website (www.bowl.com) to the public in the spring of 2008. To date, no specific bowling ball specification changes have been announced as a result of the study.
Other manufacturers and suppliers include Lane#1, Track, Roto-Grip, Hammer, Circle Athletic, Columbia 300, Dyno-Thane, Fun Balls, Legends, MoRich, Robby, and Via Bowling. Specially designed shoe design and manufacture is also a significant enterprise that many companies have gotten involved in next to ball production. Some of the major shoe designers are Circle, Dexter, Etonic, and Linds.
Individual stores that sell the merchandise made by these companies specifically for ten-pin bowlers are called Pro Bowl stores or Pro Shops.
In the USA, Bowling equipment sales totaled 215 million US dollars in 1997 which is around the same figure as in 1996 when the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA) released their reports. In Britain “Mintel International Group Ltd” produced a “Market Research Report” in July 2004 which gave the UK’s Tenpin bowling sales and market by sector from 1999-2003 and also the type of customer.
The British Tenpin Bowling Association (BTBA) produces the magazine Go Tenpin. However, it is not specific to the United Kingdom and is highly respected around the globe in ten-pin bowling circles. The United States Bowling Congress (USBC) publishes a magazine for its entire membership called U.S. Bowler.
Other widely acclaimed ten-pin magazines and news services are the international and world-renowned Bowling Digital News, the international Bowlers Journal Online and the International Bowling Industry. Specific American magazines of note are the Bowling This Month magazine and the Bowling Digest.
Additionally, other than books written by bowling instructors on the coaching and training of the sport, books on the humorous and historical side of ten-pin bowling have become extremely popular. Some of these include A Funnier Approach, The Funniest Approach, Bowled Over, The New Bowling Trivia Book, Two For Stew and The Tour Would Be Great.
Ten-pin bowling has been referenced in many fictional works. One of the most notable recent examples is Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling. Although it and its sequels establish that the magical characters featured know nothing about the non-magical (i.e. “real”) world, Philosopher’s Stone reveals that one major character, Professor Albus Dumbledore is a fan of ten-pin bowling.[
Sporting documentaries such as the widely acclaimed “A League of Ordinary Gentlemen”, comedic movie sketches such as “Life in the Bowling Lane!”, and major Hollywood productions like “Dreamer”, “The Big Lebowski”, and “Kingpin” have all become popular in recent years.
Major ten-pin Bowling coaching/training DVDs have also been released world-wide under great demand. Some notable examples are those produced by world-renowned bowling coaches Fred Borden and Ken Yokobosky known as “Bowling Fun And Fundamentals For Boys And Girls”, “Essential Keys To Better Bowling”, “Advanced Bowling Techniques, Tips And Tactics” and “Walter Ray Williams Jr's Secrets to Better Bowling.”
More recently, Bowling appeared as one of the games featured in Wii Sports for Nintendo’s Wii. To throw the ball, the player swings the Wii Remote in a motion similar to throwing a real bowling ball. “High Velocity Bowling,” released for Playstation 3 in December 2007, likewise mimics the arm movement using the motion sensors of the “SixAxis” controller.
Ten-pin bowling is also featured as one of the various minigames in Grand Theft Auto IV that the character can play.
However, while the prevalence of bowling media has greatly increased in recent years, many mainstream media outlets continue to lack adequate coverage of the sport. Reasons for this discrepancy may include bowling’s blue collar demographic, its lack of corporate sponsorship, and the lack of any one bowling star to follow.
It has also been suggested that the perpetuation of negative stereotypes about bowling pushes away the elite members of the journalism community. This includes the bowling atmosphere, as well as the personality and physical condition of the average bowler. These ideas may stem from the notion of bowling as only being a recreational activity. Professional bowlers have disputed this idea by offering demonstrations of the complex technique required to bowl successfully. However, the debate over whether bowling should be considered a “sport” or a “game” continues.
A comprehensive distribution table for scores with regards to ten pin bowling may be found at http://www.balmoralsoftware.com/bowling/bowling.htm.. It clearly displays that there are just under 6 billion billion possible methods to obtain a score, ranging from 1 method of getting zero (20 gutterballs in a row) to 1 method of getting 300 (12 strikes in a row). The data also makes point of the 11-ball game (9 strikes followed by an open frame) which always results in a score higher than 240.
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