Bowling, Or Bowls, an ancient athletic game, played with balls of different shapes rolled on a flat expanse of turf in the open air. The name is also sometimes applied to a modern American game more commonly called tenpins, which but slightly resembles the ancient sport, from which it is nevertheless undoubtedly derived. I. The ancient game of bowls, still a favorite pastime in Great Britain, requires, in order that it may be played with skill, the most careful preparation of the ground, called a bowling green, on which the turf must be closely shaved, watered, and rolled. It must be surrounded by a shallow trench. The balls (called bowls) which are used by the players are of hard wood, generally lignum vitaa, six or eight inches in diameter, but are not exactly spherical, having a bias to one side. A small white spherical ball, called the jack, is placed at one end of the green, and the players endeavor so to roll their bowls that they shall fall as near as possible to this conspicuous mark. The irregular shape of the bowl makes it very difficult for a novice to calculate its course, and renders necessary a peculiar motion in rolling it. The players are generally arranged in sides, every man of each side having two bowls.
The side which places its bowls nearest the jack counts one point in the game for each bowl so placed. The number making game is settled by the players before beginning. With unimportant variations, this method of playing bowls has been in use in Great Britain for centuries. The game has been the subject of several legislative enactments, having been prohibited altogether during the reign of Henry VIII., by a law repealed in 1845. Bowls was formerly a favorite game with the Dutch. The early inhabitants of New York city (in their time New Amsterdam) made it a common recreation, and the ground they used for play, at the lower end of Broadway, near the Battery, is now a small ornamental park, which still bears the name of the Bowling Green.
II. The modern game of tenpins or bowling is practised in saloons, on alleys of carefully fitted carpenter's work, from 50 to 65 ft. in length, and about 4 in width. The alley has a gutter, as it is termed, on each side, and is very slightly convex in the centre, regularly bevelled to the sides. At the further extremity are set up 10 pins, usually of ash wood, about a foot in height and 2 or 2|- lbs. in weight, arranged in the form of a pyramid, with the apex toward the bowler. The apex consists of a single pin, the 2d rank of 2, the 3d of 3, and the 4th of 4, the last occupying the whole width of the alley, and the first standing on the crown of it. All the pins are equidistant from each other. At these the bowler rolls wooden balls, perfectly spherical and usually of lignum vitas, from 4, 5, or 6 lbs., down to half a pound in weight, with the object of knocking down as many of the pins as possible at each roll. The pins, when set up, are called a frame; and at each frame the bowler rolls three balls, when' the number of pins down is counted to him, and the frame is set up again for the next bowler. A game ordinarily consists of 10 frames, or 30 balls.
If the bowler takes all the pins with his first ball, he counts 10; this is called a "ten-strike;" the frame is again set up for his second ball, when, if he again takes all, he counts 10 more, and the frame is again set up-for his third, when whatever number he scores with the three balls counts to him as if all had been made off one frame. If he takes all the 10 with his first two balls, he is entitled to a fresh frame for his third or last ball; this is called a spare. It is now everywhere customary to employ a somewhat complicated method of counting gains thus made. By this arrangement, when a player gets a ten-strike or spare, he does not immediately have the frame set up for him especially, and proceed to roll the remaining one or two of his three balls while the other players wait for him; but in order to save time and the labor of unnecessary resetting, he waits till his next regular turn comes, and then counts the first ball or first two balls of it doubly - i. e., both as additions to his former ten-strike or spare, and as new counts for himself.