Unique Sports Advent Calendar – December 9: Bowling

This sport is actually quite popular, unlike some of the others we’ve talked about in this advent calendar.

It’s played by millions of people around the world – in fact, I played it myself just a few weeks ago. There have been multiple episodes about it on The Simpsons. The best-selling single platform video game of all time was about it. (Well, to be fair, it was also about tennis, baseball, golf, and boxing).

Ten-pin bowling.


The next little bit I’m about to tell you is only slightly related to the history of ten-pin bowling, but it’s still quite cool.

Sir Flinders Petrie, who, like Mr Beers from yesterday, also had an impressive beard, discovered primitive bowling balls and pins in the grave of an Egyptian boy from 3200 BCE. Now, Flinders Petrie had the full name of William Matthew Flinders Petrie…which very strongly suggest Matthew Flinders, the person who proposed the name Australia for the continent I live on, among other things. This is because Matthew Flinders was the grandfather of Flinders Petrie. Cool.

Another theory is that it originated in Germany in 300 AD, when people would roll stones at clubs or kegels in order to knock away their sins.

In the colonial era, Europeans introduced nine-pin bowling to the United States, where it became a hotbed of gambling and crime. The state of Connecticut banned nine-pin bowling in 1841, so the bowlers just added an extra pin. Since then, bowling has lived on as a minority sport.

How to Play

You can play this by yourself. You need a long wooden alley, ten pins, and a bowling ball. Set the pins up in a pyramid formation, and bowl from 60 feet away at the pins, seeing how many you can knock over in 10 frames. You get two bowls in each frame, except for the last, which is special.

Your score is how many pins you knock over. If you get a spare (knocking the pins all over in two bowls), then your next bowl is added to your score for the previous one, as well as being added to the score in the regular way. If you get a strike (knocking the pins all over in one bowl), you get the next two bowls added to your score.

Who’s On Top?

The big bowling tournament is the WTBA World Singles Championships, which is actually being held right now! Held in Doha, Qatar, you can see news about it here.

Another big tournament is the Weber Cub, which is the bowling equivalent of the Ryder Cup. Named after Dick Weber, a bowling legend, the 2016 edition was played in Greater Manchester, and won 19-11 by the Europeans.

Also, the Commonwealth Tenpin Bowling Federation held a tournament in Johannesburg earlier this year, but I’ve been unable to find any results. The previous tournament, in 2013, took place in Auckland, with Australia’s Sam Cooley winning the men’s singles, scoring 1,444 from his six games, and Kirsten Penny of England scoring 1,301 to win the women’s.


Australia is a strong competitor on the world stage, and we have a website for our national bowling federation here.


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