The History of Tenpin Bowling

The First Primitive Forms of Bowling

In 1930 the British anthropologist Sir Flinders Petrie and his team of archaeologists discovered all sorts of primitive bowling balls, bowling pins and other materials in the grave of an Egyptian boy from 3200 BC.  It appears that the ancient Egyptians played a primitive form of bowling and that bowling is more than 5200 years old.

The German historicist William Pehle claimed that in 200 BC an ancient form of bowling was played in his home country.  In Germany of that time a form of bowling was played during festivals, where stones were thrown at nine wooden sticks, which were called 'kegles'.  Due to this fact bowlers in Germany are also known as 'keglers'.

In England bowling first appeared around 1100.  Hard evidence of bowling was found in the year 1366.  In this year King Edward III forbid his troops to play bowling, so that they would spend more time on the practice of arching.  During the regime of King Henry VIII bowling became a popular sport amongst the British population.

In that same period a similar type of bowling was played in the Netherlands and it were the Dutch settlers who introduced the first forms of bowling, which was called 'Dutch pins', in America during the 16th century.  In Manhattan the place where the Dutch played this form of bowling is sometimes still referred by as the 'Bowling Green'.

Other alternative forms of bowling were also played in this period of time.  The most extreme form could be found in Scotland. Here the player threw a ball with no holes between his legs towards the pins and after he had released the ball the player would slide towards the pins on his belly.  Other related forms of bowling are 'Bocce' from Italy, 'Petanque' from France and 'Lawn Bowling' from England.

Australia's Tenpin Bowling History

Australian tenpin bowling began at the Washington Bowling Saloon in Ballarat, Victoria, in 1885, the records in Sydney's Mitchell Library show.

The game spread throughout Australia with manually operated centres in many areas.  With the advent of automatic pinsetting machinery the popularity of the game exploded.  The first fully automatic centre opened in Hurstville, Sydney in 1960.

Bowling has survived and grown into the world's second most played sport, with over 200 million participants annually.

Commonwealth Games

Tenpin bowling then made its first appearance in the 1998 Commonwealth Games, held in Malaysia.  18 Commonwealth countries contested tenpin bowling in a state of the art Centre, Pyramid Bowl, in Kuala Lumpur.

Medals were awarded in five events - Men's and Women's Doubles, Mixed Doubles and Men's and Women's Singles.

Australia's team of Frank Ryan, Michael Muir, Cara Honeychurch and Maxine Nable performed spectacularly, achieving the highest tenpin bowling medal tally in the Games with 3 Gold, 1 Silver and 1 Bronze.

Tenpin Bowling also featured at the 2004 Commonwealth Youth Games in Bendigo, Victoria.  Australia’s Matthew Kanafa won two gold medals in the Boys Masters and the Boys Doubles with partner Stephen Reynolds.  Bianca Flanagan and Louise Ingoe took Bronze in the Girls Doubles with Bianca winning another Bronze in the Mixed Doubles with Stephen Reynolds.

Commonwealth Tenpin Bowling Federation

The CTBF was established at Stirling, Scotland at the instigation of Dr. P.S. Nathan, Life President of the World Tenpin Bowling Association, in September 2002.
The object of the Federation, representing the interests of Federations from Commonwealth nations, is to develop, promote and support the sport of Tenpin Bowling throughout the Commonwealth.  Its prime focus is to successfully stage biennial Commonwealth Championships that will ultimately meld into the official Commonwealth Games program.  The CTBF is administered by the Executive Committee, headed by President, Julian Pace-Bonello. 

The formation of the CTBF coincided with the inaugural Commonwealth Tenpin Bowling Championships, held in Stirling, Scotland in 2002, which was enthusiastically attended by athletes and officials from 15 Commonwealth Nations.

Olympic Games

Although bowling is yet to be included as a full medal sport at the Olympic Games, it was a demonstration sport at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.  Then in 1992 and 1996, a modern bowling facility was installed in the Athletes' Village at Barcelona and Atlanta where champion bowlers conducted exhibitions, competed, and offered instructional sessions for the benefit of Olympic athletes.