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A Form Of Bowling Existed Long Ago

Bowling pathway
The Brunswick Mineralite bowling ball, introduced in 1914 and made until around 1980. One of the most durable consumer goods ever manufactured, it sold in the millions with a lifetime warranty, yet only a handful were ever returned as defective. By replacing the easily deformed lignum vitae ball, it helped make bowling America's most popular participant sport.

An explosion of white pins, cheering players in matching shirts, and plastic cups of beer - that's what usually comes to mind when one thinks of bowling. Thoughts of sin and redemption? Not so much. How far bowling has come from its origins!

Articles found in the tomb of an Egyptian child buried about 3200 B.C. included nine pieces of stone, to be set up as pins, toward which a stone "ball" was rolled. Bowling has gone through many transformations, but the sport has been around a long time. In Britain, lawn bowling is a popular sport. Dutch explorers under Henry Hudson may have brought pin bowling to America.

Bowling became a popular sport during colonial times. In early games, the ball was often rolled down a wooden plank. Author Washington Irving, in his short story "Rip Van Winkle," referred to bowling in the U.S. as early as 1819-1820. However, the sport lacked rules and equipment standards. At the end of the 19th century, things quickly changed.

In 1895, bowlers in New York City organized the American Bowling Congress (ABC) and set down rules. In 1901 they started national tournaments. The Women's International Bowling Congress (WIBC) formed in 1916. Technological advances such as the introduction of the hard rubber ball in 1905 and the development of the automatic pin-setting machine in the early 1950s made bowling more popular than ever.

While artifacts discovered in an Egyptian tomb suggest that a form of bowling existed as long ago as 5200 BC, modern pin bowling most likely originated from a religious ritual in Germany. According to German historian William Pehle, around the third or fourth century AD, German pastors instructed worshippers to place a "kegel" - a wooden club carried for protection - at the end of a lane, and to throw a large stone at it.

The kegel symbolized a "heide" (heathen), and if the parishioner knocked the heide over with the stone, their sins were forgiven. People enjoyed this sin-cleansing ritual so much, that it became an activity that spread throughout the country, then Western Europe, delighting churchgoers and non-churchgoers alike.

Over the years, wooden balls replaced the stone and the number of kegels used increased, ranging from three to 17. Theologian Martin Luther, who was an avid bowler, is said to have declared that nine pins was the ideal number. Whether it was due to Luther's pronouncement or not, nine became the standard number of pins used for centuries, and the game became known as "ninepins."

By the Middle Ages, bowling had shrugged off any religious connotations and become a fiercely competitive sport. Enthusiastic participants wagered chicken, oxen and even their homes on the outcome of a game. The high stakes and raucous behavior of the competitors led priests, ironically, to denounce bowling as a form of gambling. In 1541, Henry VIII, himself a keen bowler, became disgusted with the unruliness surrounding the game and outlawed bowling for all lowborn citizens and required the wealthy to obtain a license to play. Nevertheless, passion for the sport continued to swell.

Bowling is believed to have arrived in the New World with Dutch colonists in the mid-1600s. They most likely played a form of ninepins, where the pins were arranged in a diamond-shape and the bowler had to knock down all the pins with as few throws as possible. The game was regularly played in Manhattan in an area still called "Bowling Green".

10 Pin Player
The New York Atlas carried this illustration, entitled The Ten-Pin Player, in 1842.
Women Bowling
Bowling became very popular among women in the late 19th century, as shown by this illustration from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Weekly of Dec 9, 1882.

Ninepins flourished in the United States throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. In time, a wooden lane was added to the game and balls were rolled instead of thrown. But, once again, the sport became plagued with gambling and disorderliness. In the 1830s, several states passed legislation banning the game of ninepins. To circumvent these prohibitions, a 10th pin was added to the game and the pins were arranged in the shape of an equilateral triangle. Thus a "new", legal game was created - tenpins. (There is evidence, however, that tenpins lanes existed in Holland and England before this period.)

Inexplicably, tenpins had an aura of respectability that ninepins did not. The game spread westward across the US, particularly in cities with large German populations. Various inter-city bowling clubs were formed, but a lack of standardized rules and equipment prevented these clubs from having regulated competitions. After several attempts by bowling organizations to standardize the rules for tenpin bowling, in 1895, the newly-formed American Bowling Congress established a set of rules and standards that were adhered to throughout the country. These have remained virtually unchanged ever since.

Today, there are approximately 70 million tenpin bowlers in the US and 100 million worldwide. Although sins are no longer forgiven for rolling a strike, for many, the game is still a religion. Bowling dates back more than 5,000 years, and with people in more than 90 countries throwing the ball at the pins, it is said to be the largest participatory sport in the world.

The mantra of the competitive bowler is "strike for show, spare for dough". Perfect games are wonderful to experience. However, just about anyone who has missed the cut in a tournament or been barely beaten in match play can blame a blown spare. Effective mental and physical game strategy for shooting spares adds a great deal of confidence to any bowler. There are many ways to convert spares. The important thing is to gain every bit of knowledge you can about spare shooting and then don't hesitate to use any or all of that knowledge. Remember, the problem is not leaving something after the first ball. It's leaving something after the second.

The truly committed bowler walks the fine line between disciplined training and burnout. Burnout is an overtraining virus that can result in boredom with the game, fatigue, irritability, and stale performance. Bowling burnout is far easier to prevent than it is to cure. If you are an ambitious competitor, excited about bowling, and bent on taking the game as far as you can, make sure to protect yourself from overrunning your mental, emotional, and physical engines. Set high goals and standards, but not unrealistic ones. Maintain physical conditioning, a healthy diet, and rest. Find a safe coach, counselor, or friend to debrief the daily battles of life and bowling. With these prevention arrows in the quiver, life on the lanes can remain refreshing and fun.

  1. Ten-pin bowling
  2. Five-pin bowling, played in Canada
  3. Nine-pin skittles
  4. Candlepin bowling, played in eastern Canada and New England, is a variation of ten-pin bowling, where the player gets to roll a small ball three times per frame instead of two, and the fallen pins are not removed between throws.
  5. Duckpin bowling, commonly found in central Connecticut, and in eastern Canada, is another variation of ten-pin bowling, where the player rolls three times per frame toward small, squat pins.

There are two distinctly different groups of bowling. The first is played along an "alley", most commonly made of synthetic material imitating a wood surface. Historically, bowling lanes were made of wood, however most centers around the United States have upgraded to the synthetic playing surfaces. Several sports involve a ball rolling towards a target, in this case pins, here the players attempt to score points by knocking the targets down.

The second group of bowling is played outdoors, usually on a lawn. Here the players throw a ball, which is sometimes eccentrically weighted, in an attempt to put it closest to a designated point. This group includes games such as Lawn bowls, Bocce Ball, and P├ętanque.

Ten-Pin Bowling is a sport with a simple aim-knock down as many targets as possible by rolling a ball down a wooden pathway. The game is made more difficult by gutters which run along either side of this pathway (called the "lane"). If a ball falls into this gutter, no targets will be hit, and therefore no score will be acquired.

A game of Ten-Pin Bowling is divided into ten rounds (called "frames"). In a frame, each player is given two opportunities to knock down the skittle targets (called "pins", arranged in a Tetraktys). He or she rolls the first ball at the pins. Whatever pins are knocked down are counted and scored. Then the player rolls a second ball at any remaining targets. In the event that all ten pins were razed with the first ball (a "strike"), the player receives points and a bonus, and play passes to the next competitor. A player has no more than two balls to play in each frame (one exception applies, see below), so even if he or she fails to knock over any pins, after having taken two shots, play passes to the next competitor.

The ten pins are usually automatically set by machine into a triangle with four pins in the back row, then three, then two, and finally one in the front at the centre of the lane. Obviously, due to the spacing of the pins, it is impossible for the ball to strike every one, therefore a tactical shot is required, which would result in a chain reaction of pin hitting pin. In order to count, the pin must be knocked over entirely; in unlucky circumstances, a pin may wobble furiously, yet come to rest upright, thus not being scored.

President Harry S. Truman officially opened the first White House bowling alley in 1947. The two-lane bowling alley, situated in the West Wing, had been constructed earlier that year. Truman's favorite pastime was poker and although he had not bowled since he was a teenager, he gamely hoisted the first ball, knocking down 7 out of 10 pins.

Truman did not use the alley much himself, but supported a group of White House employees in forming a White House Bowling League in 1950. Teams included Secret Service agents, household staff, secretaries, switchboard operators and groundskeepers. The teams competed in tournaments across the country; many opponents were surprised to discover that the players were from the "real White House."

Eisenhower closed the alley in 1955 and turned it into a mimeograph room. Later, another alley was opened next door in the Old Executive Office Building (now the Eisenhower Building), which President Johnson and his wife Lady Bird used frequently. Nixon used that second bowling alley until he had an additional one-lane alley installed underground directly beneath the North Portico entrance of the White House. It is the most famous bowling lane in the country.

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