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Ten-pin bowling in action.

Ten-pin bowling (more commonly just "bowling" in the United States) is a competitive sport in which a player (the “bowler”) rolls a bowling ball down a wooden or synthetic (polyurethane) lane with the objective of scoring points by knocking down as many pins as possible.



The 41.5-inch (105 cm) wide, 60-foot (18 m) lane is bordered along its length by "gutters” — semicylindrical channels designed to collect errant balls. The narrow lane prevents bowling a straight line at the angle required to consistently carry (knock down) all ten pins for a strike. Most skillful bowlers will roll a more difficult-to-control hook ball to overcome this. There is a foul line at the end of the lane nearest to the bowler: if any part of a bowler’s body touches the lane side of this line after the ball is delivered (rolled), it is called a foul and any pins knocked over by that delivery are scored as zero (0). (The bowler is allowed a shot at a new rack of ten pins if he fouled on the first roll of a frame.) Behind the foul line is an “approach” approximately 15 feet (5 m) long used to gain speed and leverage on the ball before delivering it. 60 feet (18 m) from the foul line, where the lane terminates, it is joined to a roughly 36-inch (91 cm) deep by 41.5-inch (105 cm) wide surface of durable and impact-resistant material called the "pin deck," where each rack of pins is set.


The bowler is allowed ten frames in which to knock down pins, with frames one (1) through nine (9) being composed of up to two rolls. The tenth frame may be composed of up to three rolls: the bonus roll(s) following a strike or spare in the tenth (sometimes referred to as the eleventh and twelfth frames) are fill ball(s) used only to calculate the score of the mark rolled in the tenth.

Bowling has a unique scoring system which keeps track not only of the current score but also strikes and spares, which give multiple marks. Effectively, there are three kinds of marks given in a score; a strike (all ten down in the first ball), a spare (all ten down by the second ball), and an open (missed pins still standing when the turn ends). A strike wins you ten points plus the points for the next two balls thrown (for example if you got a strike then followed with a 7 then 2 your value for the strike would be 10+7+2, or 19). A spare wins you ten points plus the points for the next ball thrown (again, if you get a spare then follow it with 7 pins down your value for the spare would be 10+7, or 17). Open frames are added normally (example: you knock down 5 on your first ball and 3 on your second your open frame would be worth 5+3, or 8 points). The maximum score in tenpin bowling is 300. This consists of getting 12 strikes in a row in one game, and is also known as a perfect game.


Pinsetter boys at a Pittsburgh bowling alley, circa 1908

In 1930, British anthropologist Sir Flinders Petrie, along with a team of archaeologists, discovered various primitive bowling balls, bowling pins and other materials in the grave of an Egyptian boy dating to 3200 BC, which was over 5200 years ago, very shortly before the reign of Narmer, one of the very first Egyptian pharaohs. Their discovery represents the earliest known historical trace of bowling.[1][2] Others claim that bowling originated in Germany in AD 300.[1][2] A site in Southampton, England claims to be the oldest lawn bowling site still in operation, with records showing the game has been played on the green there since 1299.[3] The first written reference to bowling dates to 1366, when King Edward III of England banned his troops from playing the game so that they would not be distracted from their archery practice.[4] It is believed that King Henry VIII bowled using cannon balls. Henry VIII also famously banned bowling for all but the upper classes, because so many working men and soldiers were neglecting their trades.[3]

In Germany the game of Kegal (Kegelspiel) expanded. The Kegal game grew in Germany and around other parts of Europe with Keglars rolling balls at nine pins, or skittles.[5][6] To this day, bowlers in the United States and United Kingdom are also referred to as "keglers."

Ninepin bowling was introduced to America from Europe during the colonial era, similar to the game of skittles.[7] It became very popular and was called “Bowl on the Green.” The Dutch, English, and Germans all brought their own versions of the game to the New World, where it enjoyed continued popularity, although not without some controversy. In 1841 a law in Connecticut banned ninepin bowling lanes due to associated gambling and crime, and people were said to circumvent the letter of the prohibition by adding an extra pin, resulting in the game of ten-pin bowling.[8]

A painting which dates from around 1810, and has been on display at the International Bowling Hall of Fame and Museum in St. Louis, Missouri, however, shows British bowlers playing the sport outdoors, with a triangular formation of ten pins, chronologically before it appeared in the United States. A photograph of this painting appeared in the pages of the US-based "Bowler's Journal" magazine in 1988.

The modern game

Modern American ten-pin bowling is most closely related to the German nine pin game Kegeln. Germans were instrumental in fostering the game’s popularity as they formed their own bowling clubs both before and after the American Civil War. The first indoor bowling alley was Knickerbockers of New York City, built in 1840. The Brunswick Corporation’s addition of bowling equipment to their product line also served to increase the sport’s popularity. In 1914 Brunswick replaced their line of wooden bowling balls, mostly made with lignum vitae, with hard rubber Mineralite bowling balls. The change was met with great approval.[9] Since being brought to the United States from Europe, ten-pin bowling (a modern version of the game of skittles) has risen in popularity as its technology has improved. The sport is most popular in the United Kingdom and the United States. Both nations maintain national regulatory organizations that govern the sport’s rules and conduct, and many of those countries’ best players participate in tournaments on both the national and international stage. Because of the rise in popularity, many companies are now making bowling balls and apparel for professionals as well as for recreational bowlers. Bowling has also become more prevalent in the media in recent years, with the continued popularity of bowling publications and the appearance of films centered around the culture of the sport. However, the sport continues to face challenges in garnering mainstream coverage of the athletic aspects of the game.

Organization and increased popularity

Inside a typical ten-pin bowling alley (Shropshire, UK).

The modern, indoor game of bowling has long been seen as a sport of the working classes.[3] Accordingly, most bowling alleys at the turn of the century were small, private establishments, mainly frequented by men. This began to change as the sport became increasingly regulated and generally gained in prestige. Although it has not shed its working class image entirely, today bowling is no longer only a unisex sport, and is enjoyed by people the world over. In 1895 the American Bowling Congress was started in New York City. This was soon joined by similar organizations geared toward female bowlers. These groups began creating the standard rules for bowling that have survived to the modern day. At the same time, the sport’s image among the upper classes was enhanced by the opening of more luxurious and elegant alleys like The White Elephant in New York City, opened by restaurateur Joe Thum, whom many consider to be the father of bowling, along with Dick Weber. Thum created the first bowling organization in the United States on September 9, 1895, when he pulled together representatives of various regional bowling clubs into an overarching organization, the American Bowling Congress (ABC). This spurred greater interest in the game, with the number of officially sanctioned alleys rising from 450 in 1920 to 2,000 in 1929. The standardization of rules, lanes and equipment also meant that scores from multiple bowling centers had some basis for comparison.[9]

1940 to 1960

The period from 1940 to 1960 is known as the golden age of bowling due to the sport’s great popularity increase and advances in its play. Indeed, by 1945, bowling was a billion-dollar industry in the United States. Promotion by the U.S. Armed Forces and its image as a sport for the common man made bowling an enticing choice of activity for Americans. For this reason, racial integration was perhaps inevitable. The American Bowling Congress had been a whites-only organization throughout its existence, but lobbying by numerous labor organizations and individuals after the war quickly led to a reversal of this policy.[10]

This era also saw a great increase in bowling technology. Pins had previously been set by human pinsetters or “pin boys”, but with the invention of the semi-automatic pinspotter in 1936, the process became much easier. In 1946 AMF Bowling launched the first commercial fully automatic pinspotter, the AMF Model 82-10, to replace the earlier Brunswick semi-automatic and fully manual bowling establishments. Brunswick itself introduced its own "Model A" automatic pinspotter design to bowling centers in 1955, and its successor (A2) is still in widespread use. The television age of the 1950s also helped to increase the popularity of ten-pin bowling, as images of the sport began to enter the homes of millions across the United States. Eddie Elias founded the Professional Bowlers Association in 1958, and its Pro Bowlers Tour became a permanent part of ABC’s sports lineup by the early 1960s.[6]

1960 to the present

Ten-pin bowling was introduced in the United Kingdom in 1960. This was driven by the opening of the Stamford Hill and Golders Green bowling alleys in London. Ten-pin bowling took the UK by storm, with alleys opening up one after the other. At its peak there were over 160 bowling alleys in the UK, but a lack of re-investment and waning interest left the fad in a sorry state. This led to a general deterioration of bowling alleys, with a commensurate decline in their image. In the 1970s a major chain operator pulled out of bowling and converted many of the more luxurious alleys into Bingo halls. The industry nearly collapsed, with two thirds of the existing alleys closing over the next few years.

The United States, meanwhile, saw league bowling soar in the 1960s and early 1970s—partially influenced by popular professional bowlers Don Carter, Dick Weber, Carmen Salvino and Earl Anthony. The numer of sanctioned bowling alleys in the U.S. peaked at about 12,000 in the mid-1960s.[3] The popularity of the sport in America was perhaps no more evident than when Don Carter became the first athlete of any kind to sign a $1 million (U.S.) endorsement contract, inking a multi-year deal with Ebonite International in 1964. By comparison, Arnold Palmer earned just $5,000 in 1961 endorsing Wilson golf equipment, and NFL quarterback Joe Namath made just $10,000 in 1968 to famously shave off his moustache with a Schick razor.[11]

Until the mid 1980s there was little, if any, new investment in the sport, with the decline in interest being partially attributed to the complex scoring system - especially as it was a manual process then. However, this all changed with the appearance of two unrelated phenomenon: the introduction of automated electronic scoring systems and a surprise boost from the otherwise unregarded 1982 film, Grease 2.[12] The first meant that the general public only had to enter their names into the computers and everything else was done automatically. The second event was spurred by what is regarded as the only redeeming musical number in the film, "Score Tonight." This segment touched off a huge wave of interest in the sport in young people.[13] Prior to the film, bowling was largely viewed as an older person's or "gentleman's" sport. In its artless way, Grease 2 ushered a new generation to the game. These two factors changed the face of bowling and are largely responsible for the new found interest in the sport.

Re-investment in the 1980s led to the construction of many bright, modern and attractive sites and began the second golden age of bowling. During the late 1980s and early 1990s the number of ten-pin bowling alleys across the UK rose to over two hundred. This was higher than it had ever been in the sixties, then the peak of the sport’s popularity.

Today, over 100 million bowlers play in over 90 different countries. More men and women worldwide bowl than play any other sport, with the possible exception of football (soccer in the USA and Canada). Bowling has far more registered dues-paying participants than any other sport. The United States Bowling Congress, for example, reported over 2.6 million members in 2008.[14] The bowling industry spends significantly more money each year than any other sport on airlines, restaurants, hotels and rental cars.[15] There is an active movement to make bowling an Olympic sport, especially by the Fédération Internationale des Quilleurs or FIQ, the world governing organization for nine and ten-pin bowling. The most elite players regularly play in televised tournaments, and new bowlers continue to delight in learning the game.[6] In addition, modern bowling alleys have changed greatly. As people have become exposed to a wider range of entertainment options, the trend has shifted to building large entertainment centers that allow people to enjoy many different activities. These developments often include game rooms, multi-screen cinemas, restaurants and night clubs. This has had a great impact on the image of the sport among families.[5]


A game of ten-pin bowling is divided into ten rounds (called “frames”). In a frame, each player is given two opportunities to knock down the skittle targets (called “pins”). The player rolls the first ball at the pins. If the first ball knocks down all ten pins, it is called a “strike” and the frame is completed. When pins are left standing after the first ball, those that are knocked down are counted and then removed. Then the player rolls a second ball and if all the remaining pins are knocked down, it is called a “spare.” There are bonuses for removing all the pins. If there is more than one player scheduled on a lane, play passes to the next player until all players have completed the frame. Then play continues with the next frame. The final or tenth frame of a game may involve three balls. See Scoring below.

The ten pins are usually automatically set by machine into four rows which form an equilateral triangle where there are four pins on a side (Pythagorean Tetractys). There are four pins in the back row, then three, then two, and finally one in the front at the center of the lane. The pins are numbered one through ten, starting with one in front, and ending with ten in the back to the right. This serves to ease communication; one could say that the 4 and 7 pins were left standing. Neighboring pins are set up 12 inches (30 cm) apart, measured from center to center. Due to the spacing of the pins and the size of the ball (about 8.6 inches (22 cm) in diameter), it is impossible for the ball to contact every pin. Therefore, a tactical shot is required, which would result in a chain reaction of pin hitting pin. In an ideal shot, for a right-hander, the ball will contact only the 1, 3, 5 and 9 pins; for a left-hander, the 1, 2, 5 and 8 pins. The term "Brooklyn" is used to describe when a bowler obtains a strike by throwing the ball into the opposite pocket, known as the Brooklyn pocket. For example, a Brooklyn would occur when a right-handed thrower obtains a strike by throwing a ball into the 1-2 pocket, and similarly a strike occurs for a left-handed bowler throwing a ball into the 1-3 pocket.

Tenpin bowling lanes at Boliche de Alta Tecnologia.

In order to count, a pin must be knocked over entirely. Even if a pin wobbles, unless it is knocked over completely, it is not scored. If the pin is wobbling as the automatic pin machine picks it up (or the machine itself knocks over the pin while it is wobbling), it is still considered standing and is not scored. Also, if a pin is moved, it does not change its designation. For example, if the 10 pin were still standing and the 7 pin slid into the 8 pin position, converting this spare would still be considered and given a 7-10 split award (if performed in sanctioned play).

A bowler prepares to release his ball toward the pins during a sanctioned bowling match.

There are generally two primary styles of rolling the ball down the lane. Most newer players play by rolling the ball straight, hopefully into the 1-3 pocket for right-handed bowlers or the 1-2 pocket for left-handed bowlers. More experienced bowlers usually roll a hook, which means that they make the ball start out straight and then curve towards the pocket. There are two ways to produce a hook. In the first, the player needs to let go of the ball with his thumb first, then the middle and ring finger release almost simultaneously. This gives the bowling ball its spin needed for the hook. If the player is right-handed, an ideal position of the thumb after letting go of the ball is “10 o’clock”, meaning that the thumb has gone from 12 to 10, as looking at a clock. The corresponding position for left-handed players is 2 o’clock. Of course there are innumerable variations in style and technique and the position of the thumb can vary from person to person. The second way is to hold the ball without the thumb in the thumb hole. This uses one or two fingers to produce the hook. Some bowlers will use none of their fingers. Lab research has shown that the ideal shot will enter the pocket at an angle of 6 degrees with respect to the lane boards, which means that a straight ball should be thrown from the side of the lane, near the gutter.

The conventional bowling styles use either a four or five step approach beginning 8 to 16 feet (2.4 to 4.8 meters) behind the foul line. Some extremely young or physically challenged players may use both hands to swing the ball forward from in between their legs. This kind of style has the bowler start close to the foul line, and is called “Granny style.” Another method for novice bowlers is the “bounce pass” technique which is performed by thrusting the ball from your chest with two hands towards the pins. This technique is easily picked up by weaker players but is seldom used because it is frowned upon by the bowling community due to the potential to damage the lanes and/or ball. More seldom, a player will use two hands where the fingers of one hand are placed in the holes as in a standard throw, while placing the other hand over the front of the ball and releasing the ball in the form of a "shovel-pitch" from the side.

There are systematic ways of using the lane arrow marks and approach dots to make it easier to hit the pocket to get strikes, and for making spares. Focusing on these targeting guides helps eliminate fear of the gutters.

Rules and regulations

Lanes in a ten-pin bowling center.

The regulations listed here are generally based around regulations set by the United States Bowling Congress[16] and the British Tenpin Bowling Association.[17] These rules are followed by all sanctioned leagues and events, such as tournaments.

This information is clarified by the World Tenpin Bowling Association in its “Statutes & Playing Rules”.[18]

Playing area

The sport of ten-pin bowling is performed on a straight, narrow surface known as a lane. This bowling lane is 60 feet (18.29 m) from the foul line to the head pin (1-pin). About 15 feet (4.57 m) from the foul line are a set of guide arrows. The lane is 41.5 inches (1.05 m) wide and normally consists of 39 wooden (commonly sugar maple) boards or a synthetic material. The bowling lane has two sets of approach dots; from the foul line back to the first set of approach dots is about 12 feet (3.66 m) and to the second set of approach dots is about 15 feet (4.57 m) (an additional 3 feet (0.91 m)). Although this figure varies, the lane is protected by about 18 ml of oil. The PBA events use about 30 ml of oil, and the PWBA events use 25 ml. The oil starts from about 4 inches from the foul line and is applied for about 38 feet (11.58 m) down the lane from that point.


Position of the ten pins from above.

USBC rules specify that a pin must be 15 inches (38 cm) tall and about 4.7 inches (12 cm) wide at its widest point, where a rolling ball would make contact. There are additional measurements which delineate the shape. The weight of a single pin must be at least 3 pounds, 6 ounces (1.53 kg) and no more than 3 pounds, 10 ounces (1.64 kg). Within a set of ten pins, the individual weights may vary by no more than 4 ounces (113.4 g), if made from wood or plastic coated, or just 2 ounces (56.7 g) if synthetic. The top of the pin shall have a uniform arc with a radius of 1.273 inches (32.3 mm), ± 1/32 inch (31.5 – 33 mm).

The USBC also has regulations governing the weight distribution of the pin from top-to-bottom. Pins are allowed one or two “voids” (holes) in the belly area (which can be viewed if the pin is cut in half from top-to-bottom). The voids are needed to balance the narrower top half of the pin with the wider bottom half. Without them, the pins would be too bottom-heavy to fall properly when struck.

The pins must show the name and mark of the maker, either “USBC Approved” or “BTBA Approved” and appear uniform.

The head pin or 1 pin stands on board 20 of the lane.

Bowling ball

The circumference of the ball must not be more than 2.25 feet (0.69 m), and the ball cannot weigh more than 16 pounds (7.26 kg). The ball must have a smooth surface over its entire circumference except for holes or indentations used for gripping the ball, holes or indentations made to bring the ball back into compliance with weight-distribution regulations, identification letters and numbers, and general wear from normal use.

For much of the history of bowling, bowling balls were made using a three piece construction method. Starting in the mid 1990s, however, most manufacturers switched to a two-piece method. In response to these innovative ball designs, the American Bowling Congress placed further restrictions on the technical characteristics of the ball such as the radius of gyration and hooking potential.[4]

Rules of play

A game of bowling consists of ten frames. In each frame, the bowler will have two chances to knock down as many pins as possible with his bowling ball. In games with more than one bowler, as is common, every bowler will take his frame in a predetermined order before the next frame begins. If a bowler is able to knock down all ten pins with the first ball, he is awarded a strike. If the bowler is able to knock down all 10 pins with the two balls of a frame, it is known as a spare. Bonus points are awarded for both of these, depending on what is scored in the next 2 balls (for a strike) or 1 ball (for a spare). If the bowler knocks down all 10 pins in the tenth frame, the bowler is allowed to throw 3 balls for that frame. This allows for a potential of 12 strikes in a single game, and a maximum score of 300 points, a perfect game.


In general, one point is scored for each pin that is knocked over. So if a player bowls over three pins with the first shot, then six with the second, the player would receive a total of nine points for that frame. If a player knocks down 9 pins with the first shot, but misses with the second, the player would also score nine. When a player fails to knock down all ten pins after their second ball it is known as an open frame.

In the event that all ten pins are knocked over by a player in a single frame, bonuses are awarded.

A ten-pin bowling scoresheet showing how a strike is scored.
  • strike: When all ten pins are knocked down with the first ball (called a strike and typically rendered as an “X” on a scoresheet), a player is awarded ten points, plus a bonus of whatever is scored with the next two balls. In this way, the points scored for the two balls after the strike are counted twice.
Frame 1, ball 1: 10 pins (strike)
Frame 2, ball 1: 3 pins
Frame 2, ball 2: 6 pins
The total score from these throws is:
  • Frame one: 10 + (3 + 6) = 19
  • Frame two: 3 + 6 = 9
TOTAL = 28

Two consecutive strikes are referred to as a “double.” (image unavailable)

A double's pinfall is:

Frame 1, ball 1: 10 pins (Strike)
Frame 2, ball 1: 10 pins (Strike)
Frame 3, ball 1: 9 pins
Frame 3, ball 2: 0 pins (recorded as a dash '-' on the scoresheet)
The total score from these throws is:
Frame one: 10 + (10 + 9) = 29
Frame two: 10 + (9 + 0) = 19
Frame three: 9 + 0 = 9
TOTAL = 57

Three strikes bowled consecutively are known as a “turkey” or “triple.” (image unavailable)

A triple's pinfall is:

Frame 1, ball 1: 10 pins (Strike)
Frame 2, ball 1: 10 pins (Strike)
Frame 3, ball 1: 10 pins (Strike)
Frame 4, ball 1: 0 pins (Gutterball)
Frame 4, ball 2: 9 pins
The total score from these throws is:
Frame one: 10 + (10 + 10) = 30
Frame two: 10 + (10 + 0) = 20
Frame three: 10 + (0 + 9) = 19
Frame four: 0 + 9 = 9
TOTAL = 78

Any longer string of strikes is referred to by a number attached to the word “bagger,” as in “five-bagger” for five consecutive strikes. Recently, the event of bowling four consecutive strikes has also been called a "ham bone.” This terminology is used most often when a bowler is “off the strikes.” (i.e. has previously bowled a string of several strikes but failed to strike on his most recent ball.) When a player is “on the strikes,” a string is often referenced by affixing “in a row” to the number of strikes bowled consecutively. Six strikes in a row are sometimes referred to as a “six pack.”[19][20] Six strikes and nine strikes in a row can also be referred to “Wild Turkeys” and “Golden Turkeys” respectively. Any string of strikes starting in the first frame or ending “off the sheet” (where all of a bowler’s shots from a certain frame to the end of the game strike) are often referred to as the “front” or “back” strikes, respectively (e.g. the “front nine” for strikes in frames 1-9, or the “back six” for strikes in frames 7, 8, and 9 with a turkey in the tenth). A “Perfect Game” or 12 strikes in a row is also colloquially referred to as the “Thanksgiving Turkey.”

A player who scores multiple strikes in succession would score like so:
Frame 1, ball 1: 10 pins (strike)
Frame 2, ball 1: 10 pins (strike)
Frame 3, ball 1: 4 pins
Frame 3, ball 2: 2 pins
The score from these throws are:
  • Frame one: 10 + (10 + 4) = 24
  • Frame two: 10 + (4 + 2) = 16
  • Frame three: 4 + 2 = 6
TOTAL = 46
The most points that can be scored in a single frame is 30 points (10 for the original strike, plus strikes in the two subsequent frames).
A player who bowls a strike in the tenth (final) frame is awarded two extra balls so as to allow the awarding of bonus points. If both these balls also result in strikes, a total of 30 points (10 + 10 + 10) is awarded for the frame. These bonus points do not count on their own, however. They only count as the bonus for the strike.
A ten-pin bowling scoresheet showing how a spare is scored.
  • spare: A “spare” is awarded when no pins are left standing after the second ball of a frame; i.e., a player uses both balls of a frame to clear all ten pins. A player achieving a spare is awarded ten points, plus a bonus of whatever is scored with the next ball (only the first ball is counted). It is typically rendered as a slash on scoresheets in place of the second pin count for a frame.
Frame 1, ball 1: 7 pins
Frame 1, ball 2: 3 pins (spare)
Frame 2, ball 1: 4 pins
Frame 2, ball 2: 2 pins
The total score from these throws is:
  • Frame one: 7 + 3 + 4 (bonus) = 14
  • Frame two: 4 + 2 = 6
TOTAL = 20

A player who bowls a spare in the tenth (final) frame is awarded one extra ball to allow for the bonus points.

Correctly calculating bonus points can be difficult, especially when combinations of strikes and spares come in successive frames. In modern times, however, this has been overcome with automated scoring systems, linked to the machines that set and clear the pins between frames. A computer automatically counts pins that remain standing, and fills in a virtual score sheet (usually displayed on monitors above each lane). However, even the automated system is not fool-proof, as the computer can miscount the number of pins that remain standing.

The maximum score in a game of ten-pin is 300. On Feb. 2, 1997, University of Nebraska sophomore Jeremy Sonnenfeld became the first person ever to roll three perfect games of 300 in a three-game series (as approved by the American Bowling Congress). This has only been achieved a handful of times since.

In Britain, the youngest bowler ever to achieve a perfect single game score of 300 (12 consecutive strikes), in a sanctioned competition was &0000000000000012.00000012 years, &0000000000000071.00000071 days old Elliot John Crosby, at AMF Purley in South London, England in the Surrey County trials on January 7, 2006.[21] Crosby beat the previous British 300 shooter record holder Rhys Parfitt by more than a year. Parfitt was 13 years, 4 months when he achieved a 300 point game at the London international tenpin bowling tournament in 1994. In the United States, the youngest ever bowler to achieve this in a sanctioned competition is two-handed bowler Chaz Dennis of Columbus, Ohio. He achieved this competing in the Hillcrest Preps-Juniors league at Hillcrest Lanes in Columbus, Ohio on December 16, 2006 at &0000000000000010.00000010 years, &0000000000000088.00000088 days old. Dennis was 20 days younger than the previous record-holder, Michael Tang of San Francisco, California, who set his record when he was &0000000000000010.00000010 years, &0000000000000108.000000108 days old competing in the Daly City All Stars Scratch Trios League at the Sea Bowl in Pacifica, California.[22]

Scoring: Alternative method

There does exist an alternative method for keeping score. It is used by scoreboards at some tournaments, and by some bowling software programs. It is exactly the same as the conventional scoring described above, except that the score is always current (i.e. what the player would have if s/he never knocks down another pin).

The basic rules are as follows:

  • Spare = Points scored for the next ball are doubled (2 points per pin knocked down);
  • Strike = Points scored for the next two balls are doubled (2 points per pin);
  • Two or more strikes in a row = Points scored for the next ball are tripled (3 points per pin). If this roll is not a strike then the next ball is counted with doubled points.
  • If all ten pins are not knocked down, no bonuses are scored on subsequent throws - only actual pinfall.

World tournaments

Major world tournaments

The “Weber Cup” is the ten-pin bowling equivalent of golf’s Ryder Cup. It is the world famous major world tournament of Team Europe vs. Team USA bowling championships that happens annually. Other major world-famous bowling tournaments include the World Tenpin Masters and the Qubica/AMF World Cup.

All of the three world major bowling tours above are televised on Sky Sports by Matchroom Sport who have established a tried and tested formula to highlight televised bowling at its best. All three events are also presented by broadcaster and journalists, Nick Halling and Cass Edwards.

There is also the influential European Tenpin Bowling Federation, which has the prestigious European Bowling Tour, and under that the PTBC Storm English Open.

Among the leading world tournaments is the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) Tour. The PBA Tour takes place in North America, except for one stop in Japan (Dydo Japan Cup) that is considered a PBA event. This tour has 20 or more events per year (running from October to April), and includes four major championship events: the PBA U.S. Open, USBC Masters (known as the ABC Masters prior to 2005), the Tournament of Champions and the PBA World Championship. Although PBA headquarters are based in the USA, the PBA has members from all over the world whom also compete in all of its events. The PBA tour is televised in America and certain parts of the world by ESPN and ABC.

Along with increased coverage in recent years, these tours have become more profitable for bowlers. Earl Anthony, who bowled left-handed, became the first bowler to earn more than $100,000 (U.S.) in a single season when he finished the 1975 PBA Tour schedule with $107,585. He broke the $1 million mark in career earnings in 1982. The PBA now has some single tournaments that pay $100,000 to the winner. Norm Duke is the youngest person to win a PBA Tour tournament. He won the 1983 Cleveland Open at age 18 years, 345 days. The youngest person to bowl a PBA event is 15-year-old Jack Perry of Ontario, Canada, who rolled in the 2004 PBA World Championship. The oldest player to win a regular PBA Tour title is John Handegard, who won the 1995 Northwest Classic at age 57 years, 139 days. Walter Ray Williams Jr. is the all-time leader in PBA titles with 47.

The USBC (United States Bowling Congress) has two major "open" championship events: the USBC Open Championships and the USBC Masters (known as the ABC Masters prior to 2005). For female bowlers, the USBC sanctions the U.S. Women's Open, USBC Queens (known as the WIBC Queens prior to 2005) and USBC Women's Championships.

There is also the Commonwealth Tenpin Bowling Championships.

World Ranking Masters

Ten-pin bowling has an international ranking system, as with professional tennis. This ten-pin equivalent is known as the World Ranking Masters and is made of three vast tours: the European, Americas and Asian bowling tours.

Minor world tournaments

Other minor tournaments, although major in their respective countries, include Britain’s prestigious BTBA Nationals (BTBA National Championships), the Brunswick Ballmaster Open, Brunswick Euro Challenge in Greece, ETBF European Youth Championships and the European Gold Cup. The world’s premier amateur event is the FIQ World Championships (Fédération Internationale des Quilleurs) which is held once every two years.

League play

Traditionally, a major form of organized bowling has been through league competition. Leagues are typically groups of teams that compete with one another over the course of a 28 to 36 week season, generally starting in September and ending in the spring. Summer leagues are often offered with a much shorter schedule of 10 to 15 weeks, usually starting in May. Additionally, "short" (~12 week) season leagues are now offered in many bowling centers to entice bowlers who may not want to commit to a "long" season league. These "short" leagues generally start around September/October and January/February.

In most leagues, teams of individuals bowl three games (called a “series”) each. A typical league will schedule two teams to compete against one another each week. Usually the winner of each game is decided by adding up the scores of all teammates (plus a team "handicap" in most leagues). Leagues typically decide standings by awarding a certain number of points for each team game win. Additionally, points are usually awarded for total pincount for each team over the course of all three games (commonly referred to as “total wood”). Some common methods for calculating points in a given three-game match include:

  • 4-point system (one point per game, one point for total wood)
  • 7-point system (two points per game, one point for total wood)
  • 8-point system (two points per game, two points for total wood)

The 7- and 8-point systems are favored, because a tie game can result in each team getting one point. (In a 4-point system, half-points would be required for ties.) Throughout the course of a season, each team will usually face all of the other teams in scheduled competition. "Position Rounds" are often added at one or more points of the season, where 1st place bowls against 2nd place, 3rd place bowls against 4th place, and so on.

There are some leagues now that are organized as "match point" leagues. In these leagues, each bowler on a team bowls "head-to-head" against his opponent for points, and, along with the team game points and total wood, the point system can total 30 or more.

Leagues can have various formats. While most leagues are mixed leagues, containing both men and women, men’s and women’s leagues are still common, along with junior leagues for young bowlers. There are also different types of competition. Scratch leagues are those in which the actual pin count determines the winner. Most leagues are not scratch, but handicap leagues.

In handicap leagues, the scores are a combination of the actual pins knocked down, plus addition of a handicap value, to give teams with lower averages a chance to compete against teams that have higher averaged bowlers. The handicap system provides a means to compare scores across the whole league. When computing averages, however, resultant totals that have a decimal component (numbers to the right of the decimal point) discard all numbers to the right of the decimal point, leaving only a whole number, as rounding any decimal number equal or higher than 0.500, "up" to the next highest whole number when calculating averages is prohibited by USBC rules on scoring in tenpins.

Currently, over three million people compete in bowling leagues. At its peak in the late 1970s, over nine million men and women competed in leagues throughout the United States.

Fun Play ("Open" Bowling)

While League bowling and tournaments are very important in the bowling world, there is also another side to the game which must not be forgotten. Fun games give players a break from normal bowling, and can often be played competitively. Some give bowlers a chance to practice picking up odd pins—some of which they might not come across very often in a normal game. Others give youngsters a chance when bowling against more experienced bowlers.

No-Tap Game

In this game the bowler does not need to knock down all ten pins to score a strike. A no-tap value is assigned to each bowler, which states the number of pins each must knock down to score a strike, and can be from 3 to 9, meaning with a no-tap of 9, if 9 pins are knocked down, it is scored as a strike. As each bowler can have his own no-tap value, novices and experienced bowlers can compete together.

Monte Carlo Game

This is a game of chance which uses colored pins in the pin deck. When the colored pins are set in a designated position and the bowler records a strike, spare or split, he is awarded a prize from the bowling center.

Colored Red Pin Game

This is similar to Monte Carlo although it is played with only one colored pin in the pin deck, and the bowler only receives a prize if they score a strike when the colored pin is the head pin (1).

Odd/Even Game

In this game there is only 1 ball thrown per frame. If the pinfall is an even number, the frame is scored as a strike. If the pinfall is an odd number, the frame is scored as a spare where the first score of the frame is the pinfall number.

Best Frame Game

This is a team game with 2-5 bowlers per team. All bowlers bowl as usual, and the best score out of all bowlers in the team is used to score the “team game.”

Low Ball Game

In Low Ball the lowest possible score wins. The bowler MUST knock down at least one pin for every ball thrown. Gutter balls and misses are counted as 10 points. The lowest possible score is 20. This game is very competitive and great for practicing picking up the sometimes elusive 7 or 10 pins.


This incorporates the card game where the best hand wins. The game is played in the traditional way, but for every strike, or spare, a card is dealt. The game is also played in another way in which you are dealt a card for a strike or split. At the end of the game, the best five-card stud poker hand wins the game. Each lane uses a standard 52-card deck. Some rules designate that no more than five cards can be dealt to each player. Others allow an additional card to be drawn each time a bowler gets a spare/strike after reaching five spares/strikes in a game. The additional card can be exchanged with one in the bowler's original 5-card hand, while a card from the hand is discarded.

Bumper bowling

A variation of the game for beginners or children, in which barriers known as bumpers are placed at the edges of the lane, keeping errant balls in play and out of the gutter. Modern bowling alleys often have retractable bumpers which are automatically raised or lowered depending on whose turn it is to bowl. Originally, the first "bumpers" consisted of inflated, sausage-like devices meant to occupy the gutters from the foul line to a distance not very far forward of the pins, and these were soon replaced with hinged, fold-out railings that covered the gutters, of a similar length to the older inflated units, likewise preventing errant balls from going in the gutters.


Also known as the "Johnny Petraglia" scoring system, it was actually used in a 2009 PBA women's event. In this system a player rolls as many balls as it takes for all ten pins to be cleared from the deck. Each roll counts 1 point and the winner is the player with the fewest throws. There are no bonus balls in the 10th frame, and a "perfect" score would be 10.

Governing bodies

In ten-pin bowling there are two major world organisations which govern the sport and have predominant influence over its rules. These two central bodies are based in the United Kingdom and the United States, but their influence and ascendant ruling are highly respected globally and are projected worldwide. Additionally, there is the World Tenpin Bowling Association (WTBA), a part of the FIQ organization, who governs the sport of tenpin bowling throughout the world of which is divided in three zones; the American Zone, Asian Zone and European Zone.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, ten-pin bowling is sanctioned and governed by the BTBA (British Tenpin Bowling Association). The BTBA is devoted to the interest of the game itself and like the US equivalent it ensures the integrity and protection of the future of the sport, providing programs and services and enhancing the bowling experience, including a coaching education and qualification system. The NAYBC (National Association of Youth Bowling Clubs) is responsible to the BTBA for organizing ten-pin bowling for the under 18 year olds. There is also the Tenpin Bowling Proprietors Association (TBPA), the trade association for ten-pin bowling of Britain. For BTBA qualified Instructors and Coaches the British Tenpin Bowling Coaching Association has been set up to help with the exchange of information and ideas between members. In addition, affiliated to the BTBA is the Young Adults Club (YAC).[23][24] University & College tenpin bowling was administered jointly by the UCTBA (Universities & Colleges Tenpin Bowling Association) and the Tenpin Bowling Sport Management Group of BUCS (British Universities & Colleges Sport) until the Summer of 2007. Since then, the two organizations have combined under the BUSA name.

  • The home of UK bowling - is the original home of UK bowling on the web. Featuring all of the news and stories from leagues and tournaments, interactive community of members plus online pro shop.
  • Talk Tenpin - UK based tenpin ezine, featuring all the very latest news, entry forms and results from around the world, and interviews with top UK and World bowling stars.

United States

In the United States of America, the governing body of ten-pin bowling is the USBC (United States Bowling Congress). The USBC became the “administering organization” on January 1, 2005, after following separate groups merged: the American Bowling Congress (ABC), which was the earliest founded (in 1895) of the USBC’s constituent organizations, and the first codifier of ten pin bowling rules and equipment specifications; the Women’s International Bowling Congress (WIBC), founded in 1927 as the women’s equivalent of the then “male-only” ABC; the Young America Bowling Alliance (YABA), formerly known as the American Junior Bowling Congress (AJBC); and College and USA Bowling. The USBC's main function is to ensure the integrity and protect the future of the sport, while providing programs and services to enhance the bowling experience. These names have since changed in 2005 to USBC Men, Woman, Or Youth and no longer use ABC, WIBC, or YABA. The International Bowling Hall of Fame in St. Louis, Missouri includes separate wings for honorees of the American Bowling Congress (ABC), Professional Bowlers’ Association (PBA), and Women’s International Bowling Congress (WIBC). The museum does not include the new Ladies Pro Bowlers Tour Hall of Fame, which is located in Las Vegas, Nevada.

In 2008, the USBC moved its headquarters from Greendale, Wisconsin to Arlington, Texas.[25] They have announced that the Bowling Hall of Fame will also be moving from St. Louis to the Arlington location, and that the move should be completed by 2010.

Drug testing authorities

In the United Kingdom, UK Sport, the official sports body that governs drugs testing on ten-pin bowlers and other athletes in the UK on a regular basis and is conducted by a Doping Control Officer (DCO), is Britain’s “National Anti-Doping Organisation” (NADO). It is a subsection of the internationally recognized and authoritative World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). WADA is recognised by the Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games of which ten-pin bowling plays a part.[26]


In December 2005, at the Premier Tenpin Bowling Club Tour (PTBC), hosted by Airport Bowl, two of Britain’s BTBA Nationals Team England were banned for testing positive for chemicals produced from the consumption of cocaine. UK Sport was responsible for the testing and reported their findings to the BTBA governing body. The individuals were subsequently banned for two years, which is standard WADA recommendation. They are due to be re-instated into the official bowling tournament community in early 2008 but this will be subject to WADA and BTBA review. This story was first reported on in Go Tenpin magazine.[27]

Technology changes and controversy

For the machine that sets bowling pins, see pinsetter.
For the ball that is used to knock down the pins, see bowling ball.

Pin characteristics, the bowling ball, and the lane surface are regulated by the USBC, BTBA and others. Technological changes throughout the history of the sport have often required new regulations. This continues today, often with great debate. The controversies usually involve “scoreability” related to greater strike carry on less-than-perfect shots. The increasing frequency and degree of higher scoring irks many bowling purists, who say that it is damaging the integrity of the sport.

History of technological changes

Before 1970, nearly all bowling balls had a hard rubber surface. As the coatings applied to wood lanes changed from softer lacquer to a harder urethane in the early 1970s, the first plastic balls became widely available. Subsequent changes since the early 1980s — particularly urethane surfaced and later “reactive” resin or composite (“particle”) surfaced bowling balls—have been altering the physics of how the ball rolls and strikes the pins. Coupled with synthetic lane surfaces and advanced oiling machines presenting the opportunity to lay out lane oil patterns that make targeting easier, there have been numerous concerns. Honor scores (for 300 games, 800 series, etc.) have increased by several thousand percent on a per-member basis in the time period from 1980 to the present. To many, this has cheapened the intrinsic value of honor scores and created other workarounds.

Up until the early 1970s, the ABC/WIBC honor awards were genuine treasures because they were so rarely won. In response to the view that advanced equipment is spoiling the integrity of the sport, the USBC introduced in 2000 the “Sport Bowling” program which offers a different optional league certification and the USBC provides a separate set of honor awards. In Sport Bowling, lane conditions are more highly regulated and controlled than in traditional leagues, and the oiling patterns used are generally more even with regards to volume and ratios of oil across the surface of the lane. Sport Bowling conditions are similar to those used at some major championships of professional bowling, particularly the U.S. Open. In more recent years, “PBA Experience” leagues have been introduced that allow bowlers to compete on the five main lane conditions currently used on the PBA Tour.

Not everyone has embraced the Sport Bowling concept. PBA Hall of Famer Johnny Petraglia argues that Sport Bowling combats changes in bowling balls simply by making it tougher to roll a shot into the “pocket” (the 1-3 pins for a right-hander, 1-2 pins for a left-hander). According to Petraglia, Sport Bowling is merely an attempt to “create the scores that were shot 30 years ago. The problem is, 30 years ago the game wasn’t tougher. You could hit the pocket as easily as you do now, but you couldn’t knock over the same [number] of pins with a rubber bowling ball. Sport bowling is, for the first time, intentionally trying to make the lanes tough.”[28] Petraglia’s suggestion to combat high-tech bowling balls is to use heavier pins that are single-voided on the bottom (versus double-voided), making them less top-heavy.

Bowling alley proprietors and lane maintenance personnel have also argued that changes in ball technology have made it more difficult to lay out fair and credible conditions for participants. This is because advanced players using high-tech balls need more oil to score high, and might complain about the radical behavior of their balls on “dry” lanes. At the same time, less aggressive players with older equipment might complain when they can’t get their balls to hook on ever-increasing amounts of oil. Such complaints about lane conditions have actually been part of the game throughout bowling history, and will likely continue.

USBC technology study

Among advanced players, there is little argument about whether technological changes have enabled higher scoring. The general consensus has been that they have. Yet there are those who have seen their scores decline, often due to not changing their technique or bowling balls appropriately. Some argue that such high technology unfairly affects competition, making high scores too dependent on how much money one spends on equipment. The USBC, for various reasons, has struggled to regulate these changes well enough to protect the integrity of their honor score award program.

The problem mostly stemmed from the feature of modern oil patterns, especially house patterns that help exhibit performance of modern bowling balls allegedly due to marketing reasons. Every such pattern provides better odds to bowlers with certain line of bowling, release, ball speed and certain type of bowling balls. If a bowler has a specific form of bowling suitable for a specific oil pattern, coupled with the right bowling ball, his margin of error is highly increased versus other bowlers. The result is that sometimes the bowler throwing the more accurate shot loses to the bowler who has created a larger "target area." Some advanced bowlers simplified this to: "To a large degree, the equipment and oil pattern determines the winner."

At the end of 2007, the USBC completed a two-year study on bowling ball motion and how advanced, high-tech equipment may influence lane conditions and scoring. Establishing a Bowling Ball Specifications Task Force—comprising research engineers and volunteers from ball manufacturing companies—the USBC sought to better understand the motion of bowling balls using scientific research and data analysis. Test equipment included, but was not limited to, a robotic ball-thrower, a Computer Aided Tracking System (“Super C.A.T.S.”), 59 reactive resin and particle bowling balls from various manufacturers, and eight lanes in a climate-controlled facility.

The driving force behind the study was summed up by USBC Technical Director Neil Stremmel: “USBC is concerned that technology has overtaken player skill [as the primary factor] in determining success in the sport of bowling.”[29]

The USBC completed data analysis and released a lengthy report on its website ( to the public in the spring of 2008. As of April 1, 2009, The USBC now regulates the chemical surface roughness of all bowling balls manufactured for certified ten-pin bowling. This specification is a direct result from the ball motion study, as the surface roughness of the coverstock of a bowling ball was the number one variable (out of 18) that affected the strength (how much a ball hooks) of a bowling ball. The radius of gyration specification has also been tightened and will go into effect in 2010. For up to date information on ball specifications, check the USBC Equipment Specifications website at


Today there are an exceptional number of major sports-related and non sports-related companies that focus specifically on designing, producing and or supporting the production of many items specifically designed for ten-pin bowling equipment. Such items include scoring systems, balls, bags, cleaning products, wrist supports, shirts, shoes, trousers, shorts and gloves, etc. Some of the major world famous equipment producers and supporters include AMF, Brunswick, Dacos, Ebonite, and Storm.

Other manufacturers and suppliers include Lane#1, Track, Roto-Grip, Hammer, Circle Athletic, Columbia 300, Dyno-Thane, Fun Balls, Legends, MoRich, Robby, and Via Bowling. Specially designed shoe design and manufacture is also a significant enterprise that many companies have gotten involved in next to ball production. Some of the major shoe designers are Circle, Dexter, Etonic, and Linds.

Individual stores that sell the merchandise made by these companies specifically for ten-pin bowlers are called Pro Bowl stores or Pro Shops.

In the USA, Bowling equipment sales totaled 215 million US dollars in 1997 which is around the same figure as in 1996 when the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA) released their reports.[30] In Britain “Mintel International Group Ltd” produced a “Market Research Report” in July 2004 which gave the UK’s Tenpin bowling sales and market by sector from 1999–2003 and also the type of customer.[31]

Bowling terms

  • Back-Up Ball: A ball thrown by a right-handed bowler that hooks left-to-right instead of right-to-left. If thrown by a left-hander, a back-up ball breaks right-to-left.
  • Back end: The last 15–20 feet of the lane, where the ball is supposed to develop the most friction (due to lack of oil) and hook into the pocket.
  • Bagger: Always preceded by a number from three to eleven, denoting a string of consecutive strikes. (e.g., "six-bagger")
  • Bedposts: The 7-10 split, considered one of the most difficult to convert. Also known as the fence posts or goal posts.
  • Beer frame: In team play, the only bowler on the team not to strike in a given frame must buy a beer for his teammates. Also known as coke frame when people not of drinking age are involved.
  • Big Four: A very hard split to convert, this leaves pins 4-6-7-10. If a BTBA member converts it in a BTBA Sanctioned League he can be awarded a badge. USBC members are awarded a patch for converting this split in league play. Also known as "Grandma's Teeth."
  • Bowling establishment: A facility where bowling is played. Other names include bowling house, and the more common bowling alley.
  • Brooklyn: A throw that results from the ball hitting the opposite "pocket" from the bowler’s normal handedness, i.e., a right-handed bowler rolls the ball but it crosses over and hits the 1 and 2 pins first, or a left-handed bowler crosses over to hit the 1-3. This may also be referred to as Jersey in the New York City area.
  • Carry: A condition where a good shot (or even a less-than-perfect shot) rolled into the pocket results in a strike.
  • Carry-down: A condition where oil from the front of the lane is transferred farther down the lane than desired, usually due to excessive ball traffic in the same area of the lane. This condition can cause the ball to "slide" in the area of the lane the bowler would desire it to hook.
  • Chop: An open frame where the front pin of a combination consisting of two or more adjacent pins is struck in the middle and neither the ball nor front pin takes out any other pins of the spare. (Example: The ball striking the middle of the 2-pin in a 2-4-7 combination, and leaving the 4-7 pins, is considered a chop.)
  • Channel: Located on either side of the lane to catch an errant throw. A ball that lands in the channel scores zero (0) points for that roll. This is the official term used in the rules of bowling, whereas gutter is more widely used by bowlers.
  • Clover: Refers to four strikes in a row, a reference to the 4-leaf clover.
  • Cock and Balls: Refers to when the bowler leaves the 1 - 5 - 8 - 9.
  • Conversion: Another word for a spare, often preceded by the number(s) of the pins left before shooting the spare. (Example: "3-6-10 conversion.")
  • Count: Refers to the number of pins knocked down on a given shot, particularly after a mark in the prior frame.
  • Cranker: A bowler known for rolling the ball with extreme revolutions, making it hook more.
  • Double: Two strikes in a row during a single bowling game.
  • Dead wood: Term used for a pin that lies on either the lane surface or in the channel, and is out of reach of the pin sweeping mechanism. The rules of ten-pin bowling requires all dead wood to be removed before the next ball is thrown.
  • Dirk: When a bowler releases his ball in such a way that it lands far down the lane; nearly to the marks.
  • Dutch 200: A game where the scoring consists of alternating strikes and spares, which will result in a score of exactly 200 points.
  • Fill Ball: The bonus ball(s) earned for marking in the tenth frame. So named because it "fills" all the tenth frame boxes on the scoresheet.
  • Flat 10: Leaving just the 10 pin after the first shot, while the 6 pin lays in the gutter instead of flying around the 10 pin (as with a Ringing 10). For a left-hander, the equivalent is the "Flat 7."
  • FLO: Any pre-game ritual that is religiously practiced before bowling such as eating in the same restaurant.
  • Foul: A shot where the bowler's foot crosses the "foul line" at the end of the approach (and start of the lane), which often results in a light and/or buzzer being triggered. A foul also occurs when any part of the bowler's body touches the lane beyond the foul line, whether or not the foul light or buzzer is triggered. A foul counts zero for the ball roll in which it occurs, regardless of how many pins are knocked down. Crossing the foul line only results in a foul if the bowler releases the ball. In "lowest-score-wins" fun-games, a foul results in a strike.
  • Foundation frame: The 9th frame. The 9th frame is thought to be the frame the 10th frame is built on, allowing the maximum scoring reward if one were to fill the 10th frame with three strikes.
  • Frame: A single turn for a bowler, constituting one or two rolls, depending on pinfall.
  • Front (#): Getting strikes in a given number of frames, starting with Frame 1. For example, a bowler striking in Frames 1-6 is said to have the Front 6.
  • Fry Frame: In team play, the only bowler on the team not to pick up a spare in a given frame must buy French fries or an appetizer platter for his teammates. Variant of the beer frame.
  • Full Murray: Refers to a bowler leaving the 5 - 7 - 10.
  • (Go) off the sheet: To end a game with many consecutive strikes. ("He can go off the sheet for a 259 game." See "Strike out" (below); comes from long ago when bowling was scored on paper.)
  • Greek church: The 4-6-7-8-10 or 4-6-7-9-10 split. Also known as a cathedral.
  • Gutter: Synonymous with channel.
  • Hambone: Officially, in junior bowling, it is the name of an award given by the United States Bowling Congress when the bowler rolls two strikes in a row during a single bowling game. Unofficially, it is a term made up by ESPN announcer Rob Stone to mean four strikes in a row in a single game. Not a bowler himself, he wondered why there was no name for four strikes in a row when there's one for three (turkey), and coined the term without knowing that it meant something else.
  • Harkrider: The type of delivery in which the bowler seems to bounce his ball at the foul line upon release, as in dribbling a basketball.
  • Head pin: The 1-pin. In a full setup, this is ideally the first pin that the ball will hit.
  • Heavy or High shot: A shot that hits more of the head pin than desired, often resulting in a split.
  • Hook: Rolling the ball with enough side-spin to make the ball curve as it rolls toward the pins.
  • Ice and Rug: A term used to describe the typical oil pattern on a bowling lane. The first 40–45 feet of the lane are oiled, providing the "ice" upon which the ball is supposed to spin and skid. The last 15–20 feet are the "rug" where the ball generates friction and hooks.
  • Light shot: A shot that rolls into the pocket, but is closer to the 3-pin (or 2-pin for a left-hander) than the head pin.
  • Lily: A nickname for the 5-7-10 split. (See "Full Murray.") Also known as a "sour apple."
  • Line: The path that a bowling ball takes down the lane. Also can be used to describe one game of bowling.
  • Mark: A spare or a strike.
  • Messenger: A pin that goes across the width of the pin deck and knocks down another pin or pins, resulting in a strike. Also known as a birddog, scout, shrapnel, or rogue pin.
  • Oil: The conditioner used in the front two-thirds of the lane, which allows the ball with side-spin to roll the necessary distance down the lane before it starts to generate friction and hook.
  • Open Frame: Any frame in which a strike or spare was not made.
  • Pins: The ten "targets" at the far end of the lane that a bowler attempts to knock down by rolling a ball at them.
  • Pocket: The ideal place for the ball to hit the pins in order to maximize strike potential. The pocket for a right-hander is between the 1 and 3 pins (1 and 2 pins for a left-hander).
  • Power stroker: A bowler who combines the high hooking power of a cranker with the smooth delivery and timing of a stroker. Power Stroking is a form of "tweening," meaning the form lies somewhere in between cranking and stroking.
  • Ringing 10: The situation where the result appears to be a strike, but a pin (usually the 6) flies around the 10 pin without knocking it over, leaving a pin-count of 9. For a left-hander, the equivalent is the "Ringing 7."
  • Series: A set of full bowling games, usually three, in league play.
  • Shut-out: In match play, a situation in which it becomes mathematically impossible for a bowler to match or exceed an opponent's score, even should (s)he throw all strikes and the opponent throw all gutterballs for the remainder of the game.
  • Sleeper: A hidden pin left in the second frame behind another. Such as the 2 and 8 or 3 and 9. This is also occasionally referred to as a "ninja pin", because the pin is hidden from sight, similar to the stealthy form of combat utilized by ninjas in fiction.
  • Sombrero: Term used in many Bowling Alleys in the Midwest to signify attaining four strikes in a row.
  • Spare: All ten pins down on two ball rolls of a frame.
  • Split: A spare leave where the head pin is knocked down and at least two non-adjacent pins are standing. (Example: the 8 and 10 pins left by themselves would be considered non-adjacent. The 6 and 10 pins are adjacent, and thus not considered a split.) Common jargon for certain splits include: "baby split" (most commonly 2-7 or 3-10), "big four" (4-6-7-10), "Greek church" (4-6-7-8-10 or 4-6-7-9-10) and "fit-in split" (most commonly 4-5 or 5-6).
  • Strike: All ten pins down on the first roll. This is the aim of all bowlers at the start of each frame.
  • Steener: When a bowler's ball misses the head pin but through pin action still gets a strike. The last few pins usually fall like toppled dominoes. May also be referred to as a "backwash strike."
  • Steener (variant): The same as a STEENER but the head pin is left standing.
  • Strike out: To roll three strikes in the 10th frame of a game (the maximum possible). Also used to denote a longer string of strikes to end a game. ("He struck out after that open in the 5th frame.") Also referred to as "going sheet" or "punching out."
  • Stroker: A bowler known for smooth timing and delivery with relatively low amount of hook on the ball.
  • Tap: A "true" tap is said to occur when a good shot hits the pocket properly and results in a standing 8 or 9 pin. This condition is often caused by the ball continuing to hook aggressively after contact with the pins. Many average bowlers tend to believe a tap occurs any time they leave a single pin (partially because it is how a "9 pin no-tap" game is played). This is not true, as all other single pins left are the result of poor pocket contact (high/light) or a bad angle of entry to the pocket. The most common is the 10-pin for right-handers (a 7-pin for lefties). This often occurs when the ball is played on too flat an angle.
  • Track: The pattern of oil left on a bowling ball after a shot. This indicates what parts of the ball have contacted the lane on its path.
  • Track flare: The migration of the ball track from the bowler’s initial axis (the axis upon release) to the final axis (the axis at the moment of impact with the pins). Track flare is used to expose fresh, dry ball surface to the lane surface. While on oil, this means little to the performance of the ball, but when the ball crosses from the oil to the dry, the dry ball surface bonds with the dry lane surface to increase friction which causes earlier hook and greater overall reaction.[32]
  • Turkey: Three strikes in a row during a single bowling game.
  • Turkey Sandwich: When a bowler gets a spare and then a turkey and then another spare.
  • Washout: A spare left where at least two non-adjacent pins are still standing, but the head pin is also standing.
  • Wood: The name for a pin standing directly behind another pin, making it hard to see, e.g. 8 behind 2, 5 behind 1 or 9 behind 3. Also known as a "sleeper", "phantom pin", "double wood", "ghost pin", or "mother-in-law." When a player hits one pin on his next throw and leaves the other standing, it can be referred to as "Chopping wood".

Ten-pin bowling in media

Ten-pin bowling in print

Ten-pin bowling is once again becoming a majorly-contending athletic sport that is becoming more and more visible. It now far outweighs its 1960s through 1970s high-point and subsequent 1980-1990s downfall. The sport has become much more popular, with television regularly broadcasting its major tournaments and written publications such as magazines becoming increasingly popular around the globe.

The British Tenpin Bowling Association (BTBA) produces the magazine Go Tenpin. However, it is not specific to the United Kingdom and is highly respected around the globe in ten-pin bowling circles. The United States Bowling Congress (USBC) publishes a magazine for its entire membership called U.S. Bowler.

Other widely acclaimed ten-pin magazines and news services are the international and world-renowned Bowling Digital News, the international Bowlers Journal Online and the International Bowling Industry. Specific American magazines of note are the Bowling This Month magazine and the Bowling Digest.

Additionally, other than books written by bowling instructors on the coaching and training of the sport, books on the humorous and historical side of ten-pin bowling have become extremely popular. Some of these include A Funnier Approach, The Funniest Approach, Bowled Over, The New Bowling Trivia Book, Two For Stew and The Tour Would Be Great.

Ten-pin bowling has been referenced in many fictional works. One of the most notable recent examples is Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling. Although it and its sequels establish that the magical characters featured know nothing about the non-magical (i.e. “real”) world, Philosopher’s Stone reveals that one major character, Professor Albus Dumbledore is a fan of ten-pin bowling.[33]

Ten-pin bowling video games

Since the electronic gaming industry began, ten-pin bowling has been seen in many formats on many big name gaming machines. JAMDAT Mobile (now known as EA Mobile), made the Jamdat Bowling series. Some of the many bowling games include PlayStation’s “Bowling Xciting”, “Black Market Bowling”, “Strike Force Bowling”, “Brunswick Circuit Pro Bowling”, “King of Bowling” and “Big Strike Bowling.” Some of those on the PC are “Fast Lanes Bowling”, “Flintstones: Bedrock Bowling”, “Arcade Bowling”, “Bowling Mania”, “10 Pin Bowling Fever” and "GutterBall 3D" amongst many others on other gaming units.

More recently, Bowling appeared as one of the games featured in Wii Sports for Nintendo’s Wii. To throw the ball, the player swings the Wii Remote in a motion similar to throwing a real bowling ball. “High Velocity Bowling,” released for PlayStation 3 in December 2007, likewise mimics the arm movement using the motion sensors of the “Six-Axis” controller.

Ten-pin bowling is also featured as one of the various minigames in Grand Theft Auto IV and Yakuza 3 that the character can play.

Mainstream media portrayal

ABC Sports's coverage of PBA events had been one of the network's second longest series of live sporting events, next only to their college football coverage. PBA events had also aired on NBC, CBS, and ESPN (where it is broadcast exclusively as of 2002). Amateur bowling competitions such as Bowling for Dollars and other programs built around near the same concept, where league and amateur bowlers competed for cash and prizes, were staples on local American television stations for many years up until the end of the 1980s.

However, while the prevalence of bowling media has greatly increased in recent years, many mainstream media outlets continue to lack adequate coverage of the sport. Reasons for this discrepancy may include bowling’s blue collar demographic, its lack of corporate sponsorship, and the lack of any one bowling star to follow.[34]

It has also been suggested that the perpetuation of negative stereotypes about bowling pushes away the elite members of the journalism community. This includes the bowling atmosphere, which is frequently associated with beer drinking, as well as the personality and physical condition of the average bowler. These ideas may stem from the notion of bowling as only being a recreational activity. Professional bowlers have disputed this idea by offering demonstrations of the complex technique required to bowl successfully and compete at higher levels.[35] However, the debate over whether bowling should be considered a “sport” or a “game” continues.

Mathematics of ten pin bowling

Statistical analysis of scoring

In “Quantitative Aspects of Five-Pin Bowling”, Wejun Chen and Tim Swartz [The American Statistician, Vol. 48, No. 2 (May, 1994), pp. 92–98] analyzed 2,100 five-pin bowling scores and show that the logarithms of bowling scores are approximately normally distributed. The game of five-pin bowling uses a very different scoring system however and this result will not translate to ten-pin bowling at the elite level.

A comprehensive distribution table for scores with regards to ten pin bowling may be found at It clearly displays that there are just under 6 billion billion possible methods to obtain a score, ranging from 1 method of getting zero (20 gutterballs in a row) to 1 method of getting 300 (12 strikes in a row). The data also makes point of the 11-ball game (9 strikes followed by an open frame) which always results in a score of at least 240.

Spare leave patterns

The likelihood of any one particular spare leave can be modeled as multivariate binary random variables whose correlation is quite complicated. A model for the first ball's roll implies a discrete probability distribution on all 1024 possible outcomes, but specifying each of these individually is problematic, especially where the ball's diameter will not fit through any cross-lane spacing, between any two cross-lane adjacent pins (4-pin and 5-pin as an example).

See also

Other styles


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Further reading

External links



Leading Ten-pin Bowling Magazines, Forums & News sites


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