What Is Road Bowling?

By Trevor Onions , last updated January 29, 2012

If you're ready for an intense athletic journey, look no further than Irish road bowling, an ancient sport from the emerald isle that is beginning to spark fun throughout the United States. Don't let its name fool you. Road bowling holds only a modest resemblance to the sport many folks are familiar with. However, road bowlers like to pick up the right gear and participate in league-like groups just as much as traditional ten-pin bowlers. Here's what you need to know about getting started with this unique and competitive past time.

About Road Bowling

Though no one quite knows where it started, road bowling is believed to have first taken root in Ireland several centuries ago. Today, road bowlers still like to throw their heavy balls down country lanes and urban alleys. The outdoor fun and challenge of road bowling has spread across Europe and the United States over the last couple decades, giving folks who enjoy traditional bowling a new challenge.

The rules of road bowling are fairly straightforward. To begin, you only need a heavy metal ball or “bullet” and a quiet stretch of road. Bowlers pick a painted line to stand behind, or create one with chalk, and then the first person throws the bullet down the road as far as they can thrust it. If it goes off the road or stops, this creates a second point, and the next bowler will use this as a mark to toss their ball from. Each marker that gets moved up after the ball stops is referred to as a “butt.”

Since there aren't any pins like in ten-pin bowling, the aim of Irish style road bowling is to have each person or team reach the finish line with the least amount of throws necessary. In this sense, scoring is much like golf, where players try to complete the course by striking the ball as little as possible.

On long or windy roads, it's not uncommon for bowlers to pick a finish line in advance, rather than carrying on an endless game. The beauty of road bowling is that you have a great deal of control over where the game ends, and how long it lasts.

Safety and Essentials for Bowling

Smart bowlers always ensure that their roads are free of pedestrians and personal property, such as vehicles. The bullet is a heavy piece of equipment. It should be treated safely, and many bowlers like to call out a warning right before they throw, just in case anyone mistakenly gets in the way.

Going into the game with the right gear is equally important. The bullet is made to mimic a small cannonball. Good bullets are approximately twenty eight ounces, and they mimic the size of a tennis ball. They have no holes or hollow insides like large, traditional bowling balls. Consider bringing a chalk stick or two along with the bullet to your games. This makes marking your progress easy.

With the ability to play on many different roads and the low cost, anyone can see why road bowling is catching on. This intriguing sport is sure to thrill lovers of golf and bowling alike, and you can take part on a casual or professional level.

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