Is bowling a sport?

This question has been a contentious issue over the years. Some consider bowling a trumped-up game. Others see it as a prime exhibition of athleticism and focus at their finest.

Just head over to your local bowling alley sometime and look around. There may be one lane with locals just laughing it up, throwing gutter balls while enjoying some fried foods. A couple of lanes over, a budding amateur or professional might be posting strike after strike while they test their hook shots on the house oil pattern.

You can see why there’s a few different schools of thought on bowling and its merits as a true sport. But, we’re here to clear up the age-old question with a definitive answer…

So, is bowling a sport, yes or no?

Let’s get this out of the way, shall we?

Yes, bowling is a sport! It’s the very definition of a sport!

Look to any dictionary for the meaning of “sport”, and then play a few games of bowling. You’ll find out why bowling is so much more than just a leisure activity.

From the top league bowlers to the best professional bowlers in the game, the physical and mental demands of ten-pin bowling and all sport bowling events go far beyond stereotype. Cult movies like the Big Lebowski and Kingpin may highlight the quirkier side of tenpin bowling. And to be honest, bowling alleys around the world are filled with some of the funniest and wildest characters — especially when beer is involved!

But, the real measure of a sport is the levels of physical exertion and skill necessary to play it at the highest level. Bowling balls aren’t easy to throw, to begin with. We’ve had enough dead arms to attest to that!

Try competing in bowling tournament after tournament, navigating tricky oil patterns, and monitoring pin action in hopes of bringing home big-money purses. Whether you’re a house bowler with league aspirations throwing house balls as a training mechanism, or a professional bowler eating right and maintaining a weight training regimen for added oomph, ninepin bowling and tenpin bowling (and other forms of bowling events and games) push people to the very limits of their physical conditioning.

Also, the hand-eye coordination required to be an efficacious hook ball bowler on a complex sport oil pattern is truly otherworldly. Watching a great like Pete Weber work on a bowling lane is akin to watching Michael Jordan or LeBron James dominate four quarters of a basketball game. In fact, PBA bowlers are among some of the most athletic and flexible athletes in the professional realm.

These aren’t the only reasons why bowling is considered a sport. Amateur tournaments offer the kind of sporting drama that bowling center proprietors can parlay into a major business. Bowling centers all over the United States and the world look to amateur bowling events to put them on the map. Sports are big business, and bowling is to0. From feeder events to bigger tournaments sanctioned by the United States Bowling Congress, to small tourneys played on a house condition set of lanes, these events generate massive interest and income.

Is bowling a hard sport?

While it’s true that anyone can pick up a house ball and play a bowling game at their local lanes, the physical exertion required to navigate even the least-known of amateur tournaments is something to admire. Everyone that can pick up a bowling ball and throw it can play at some level.

But, it takes an inordinate amount of skill and concentration to perform at a top level in sports bowling. The game is more than just a game. It’s a sport that pushes your physical conditioning, mental acumen, and your ability to read and react to pressure situations like a deteriorating lane condition.

Bowling is one tough sport if you really want to play it well. And the best bowlers in the world push each other to new heights, forcing advancements in everything from approach to equipment. That’s why there are always new bowling ball technologies out there attempting to usurp the last. The game is just getting tougher and tougher at its highest levels. To get an advantage, many bowlers spend thousands of dollars on everything from shoes to balls in hopes of upping their scores by a strike or two.

Ever get excited when you throw a 150 at your local lane? Imagine those bowlers that thrive in league condition, pushing 200 or so with their averages in high-pressure situations.

Then, look to the highest levels of PBA bowling and see those bowlers that have trained themselves to hit averages of 230 to 255 per game. It’s a different level of performance. It’s not easy to come to the line and be consistent with your throws, let alone repeat your shot for maximum results.

It’s an easy answer. Bowling is an extremely hard sport for those who want to do more than share a beer or two and knock down a few pins with friends. From team bowling to individual bowling at the highest levels, the game is much more than a leisure event. It’s a grind.

Is bowling a sport in the Olympics?

The 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics was the first time that bowling was highlighted at the Olympic Games. Although it maintained a demonstration status for the Games, the 12 male and 12 female bowlers from 21 nations that descended on Seoul Royal Bowling Center put on one heck of a show.

On the morning of the demonstration event, preliminary league play narrowed the male and female fields to three apiece. The 12 competitors on each side competed in an 11-game full league — a league play situation that provided plenty of drama!

During the afternoon, the top three bowlers on each side squared off in a ladder format showdown. The event placements for the women and men were as follows:


  • Gold — Kwon Jongryul (Republic of Korea)
  • Silver — Loke Chinto (Singapore)
  • Bronze — Tapani Peltola (Finland)


  • Gold — Arianne Cerdena (Philippines)
  • Silver — Asai Atsuko (Japan)
  • Bronze — Annikki Maattola (Finland)

On June 22, 2015, bowling was announced as one of eight potential new events for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan. However, bowling was ultimately left on the cutting room floor with squash and wushu. In hopes of reducing costs by eliminating the need to build new facilities, the 2020 Olympic Committee said no to bowling for the time being.

However, there’s still a chance that bowling could enter the Olympics soon!

Is bowling a recreational sport?

That’s the thing about bowling — it can be anything you want it to be. There are all kinds of different bowling activities for you to consider, both recreational and sport.

If you want to chill on the grass with your loved ones or a few friends, a spot of lawn bowling is not a bad way to go. It’s almost like an advertisement for your favorite adult beverage — idyllic, leisurely, and the pinnacle of relaxed recreation.

Those who live in the northeastern United States or Canada can find candlepin bowling and duckpin bowling centers for a different spin on the game. Some do take these bowling variations quite seriously, but they’re also quite fun just to try out!

Yes, bowling is a sport. If you take issue with that, just look at the athletes from all over the world that are pushing bowling into the future — forcing wilder oil patterns and technological advancements just to keep up with them.

However, bowling is also a recreational sport for anyone just wanting to chill out and get some exercise. It doesn’t have to be serious if you don’t want it to be. You can just knock down some pins and have a good time.

Bowling is a sport. It’s a game. It’s so many things.

But most of all, bowling is really fun.