Guide to Feather Bowling

Feather bowling balls with feather

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Guide to Feather Bowling

In Belgium, home of feather bowling, there are many popular games and sports yet feather bowling still holds its place. Feather bowling can be found in hundreds of small clubs in Belgium and areas with many Belgian immigrants in other countries.

Although it originated locally, the game has traveled internationally. One of the most popular spots where the original feather bowling is played is Cadieux Café in Detroit, a town in the United States of America with many Belgian immigrants. With a significant and dedicated following, the café prides itself on being the home of feather bowling in the US.

What is Feather Bowling?

Feather bowling is a non-contact game played by two teams with wooden rollers or balls on irregular lanes where each team rolls its balls as close to the feather as possible while preventing the opponent’s balls from getting close. This is an excellent pastime for many and a hobby thoroughly enjoyed by people of all ages.

Where Did Feather Bowling Originate?

You can trace feather bowling’s origins to western Flanders, a town in Belgium. Feather bowling is popularly known as Trabollen in Belgium. Although it is mostly seen in different parts of Belgium, the sport can also be found in some areas in other countries where Belgian immigrants are many.

Feather bowling was imported to the United States in the 1920s, and it found a home in Cadieux Café on the lower east side of the city of Detroit due to the huge number of Belgian immigrants. Cadieux Café still serves as the home of feather bowling in the United States, where the original feather bowling has been preserved and passed down through generations.

Feather bowlers play the yearly league championship at Cadieux Café, and the winner of the league championships for each year will have their portrait on the wall near the lanes, among other portraits of past league championship winners. 

Initially, feather bowling at the Cadieux café was only for members of the Cadieux feather bowling club. However, after getting a lot of public attraction from curious customers and observers, the owners of the café opened the game to other members of the public in the 1980s. 

How to Play Feather Bowling

Feather bowling is usually played by two teams, green and red. The number of players per team is determined by the total number of players available, usually between two to twelve players. The players are divided into two teams, with a minimum of one player per team and a maximum of 6.

Each team is given six balls, shared evenly among the members, and a coin flip is used to decide the team that starts first.

The first team usually throws the first three balls toward the feather, trying to get the balls as close to the feather as possible. They then throw the last three balls to form a defensive shield on the pathway to the feather, blocking the easiest path for the opponent to get their balls close to the feather.

When it is the second team’s turn, they are left with two options. They can bulldoze their way through the defensive line by throwing their balls directly at the opponent’s defensive balls to knock them away from the feather and get their balls close to the feather.

This method isn’t without risk because while trying to knock the opponent’s defensive balls far behind the feather, they might end up pushing it closer to the feather.

The other option is to throw their balls around the defensive balls in a curved pattern and make them land close to the feather. While this might sound like the more difficult option, the bowling lane’s concave structure and the ball’s round structure make this option the preferred option.

Although it requires great technique, good feather bowlers often use the curved structure of the lane to their advantage while trying to get the balls around their opponent’s defense and close to the feather.

The team whose ball is closest to the feather in each round is determined to have scored, and the number of points awarded is determined by the number of balls closer to the feather than the opponent’s closest ball.

What Equipment Is Required for Feather Bowling?

Although feather bowling is a simple game that does not require a lot of equipment, the uniqueness of some of its equipment makes it difficult to play the game anywhere but in a dedicated feather bowling area.

The equipment required for feather bowling includes bowling balls, a feather, a scoreboard, and a bowling lane. Feather bowling balls which look like cheese wheels are made of wood, and they are usually 9 inches in diameter and weigh up to five pounds.

The bowling lane has a concave structure that allows the bowling balls to move in an irregular pattern, maneuvering tight defensive lines formed by the opponent while getting close to the pigeon feather. The scoreboard is used to record the score of both teams.

What Are the Feather Bowling Rules?

In simple terms, feather bowling involves getting your ball close to a feather and blocking your opponent from getting as close as you did. Feather bowling has specific rules that determine how the game is played.

Depending on the venue of the game, you might also have house rules alongside the general rules, and breaking these rules might lead to disqualification.

1. Number of teams per game – There are two teams per game, the green team and the red team.

2. Number of players per team – The game is usually played by two to twelve players. At the beginning of the game, the total number of players available is divided into two teams, with a minimum of one player per team and a maximum of six.

3. Balls per team – Each team is given six balls, split evenly between the team members.

4. Coin Flip – A coin flip determines the team that rolls first.

5. Scoring – The team whose ball is closest to the feather in each round is determined to have scored. The number of balls the closest team has to the feather before reaching the opponent’s closest ball determines how many points a team has scored per round.

6. Maximum and Minimum Points per Round – For each ball closer to the feather than the opponent’s closest ball, one point is awarded. If the closest team has all six balls closer to the feather than the opponent’s closest ball, it is awarded six points for that round. The minimum point per round is 1, and the maximum is 6.

7. Landing Ball on Feather – No extra point is awarded for a team that lands one of its balls directly on the feather.

8. Switching Lanes – After the first round, the next round is played from the opposite side of the bowling alley, and the team that scored in the previous round starts first in the next round.

9. Game – The game ends when one of the teams accumulates ten points, and the first team to accumulate ten points is declared the winner of the game.

10. Scoreboard – A scoreboard is placed halfway down the bowling alley to record each team’s points.

11. Disqualification – When a ball touches the backdrop behind the lanes, it is disqualified and removed from the lane before the next ball is rolled.

12. Time – The game is not bound by time, but the average time spent per game is forty-five minutes.

What Is the Terminology in Feather Bowling?

These are some popular feather bowling terms:

1. Bowling ball – This is a wooden roller that looks like cheese wheels that you roll from one end of the bowling lane to a position close to the feather.

2. Feather – This is located at both ends of the bowling lane. The feather is usually a pigeon feather and is white in color.

3. Scoreboard – This is located halfway down the bowling alley for recording the scores.

4. Bowling lane – It is a concave-shaped solid ground on which the feather bowling game is played.

5. Point – This is awarded to the team with the closest ball to the feather.

What Is Mini Feather Bowling?

Mini feather bowling is very similar to original feather bowling and has the same rules. However, the difference is in the equipment used. While original feather bowling uses a concave bowling alley on solid ground, mini feather bowling uses a concave table.

While the shape of the table is similar to the lane, the length and width of the playing area are smaller in comparison. Also, the feather bowling balls in mini feather bowling are smaller in size compared to real feather bowling.

The mini feather bowling was unveiled at Splitsville, Orlando, in July 2020.

Feather Bowling is for Everyone

Although feather bowling isn’t a popular sport or hobby by context of the world, it has a devoted demographic that gets great enjoyment in participation. Feather bowling is a safe sport for participants of any background, and it closes the age gap as participants of most generations can play.

Recent variations to the feather bowling game, such as mini feather bowling, have opened the doors to new participants and allowed venues of all sizes to host these games. Perhaps not on the radar just yet in many countries, feather bowling is a unique and niche activity that could get the attention it deserves at any time.

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