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Objective: Players will bowl (roll) their balls down the lane, and try and knock down as many pins as they can.

Tenpin bowling is an activity which is popular for both fun and for sport.

A game last for ten frames, with up to two balls in each frame. When all frames have been played, the player with the highest score is the winner.


The balls are delivered (bowled, rolled) along a narrow lane, also called an alley. The lane is 1.07 metres (42 inches) wide, and 18.29 metres (60 feet) long, from the foul line to the head pin (the first pin in the triangular setup).

There is of course, an area for players to approach the lane. They must not step across the foul line.

See Equipment section for details.


The rules of bowling are fairly simple. What has been explained above is the essence of the entire game. But of course there is slightly more to it than that. The scoring system is one of those things.

There are, as the name suggests, ten pins to knock down. How many a player knocks down in a frame (with one or two balls) counts as the score for that frame.

For example, scoring 3 and 4 with two balls gives you a score of 7 for that frame.

What happens if someone knocks down all the pins with their first ball?

This is called a strike. When a strike is scored, 10 points are given for the ten pins scored, and then the points scored with the next two balls are added. Obviously, in this case you would roll only one ball for that frame.

What happens if someone knocks down all the pins with their second ball?

This is called a spare. When a spare is scored, 10 points are given for the ten pins scored, and then the points scored with the next ball is added. This applies whether the pins were all scored from two balls, or one ball.

When either a strike or a spare has been scored, the score cannot be calculated until the next ball(s) have been rolled, as the bonus scores are added due to pins scored in the next frame(s).

If a player makes a strike in the tenth (final) frame, they are allowed two more deliveries. If a player makes a spare in the tenth frame, they are allowed one more delivery.

Generally, the scorecards are marked with symbols to say what happened.

A strike is marked by X
A spare is marked by /
A miss (where no pins were scored from a ball) by a -
A foul is marked by F

A number states how many pins were scored. There are two boxes per frame for each ball, except the final frame, which has three boxes, to allow for a strike or spare in the final frame.

The score adds up throughout the ten frames to provide the finishing score.

Fouls and misconduct

All the pins which are scored count. No frames or pins can be waived or conceded. This applies mainly for league and tournament matches.

The ball is to be rolled underarm and along the lane. It is legally delivered when the bowler has let go of it, and it has crossed the foul line.

Every ball is considered a fair (live) ball unless it is declared dead, in which case the pins would be reset and the player would deliver it again, with no loss of points or frames.

The ball would be replayed if the following happened:

- If there are not all ten pins placed properly
- The pins are interfered with before the ball has reached them, or after they have been hit, but they have not finished moving
- A player bowls in the wrong lane
- A player bowls out of turn (when it is not their turn)
- A player is interfered with by any person or moving object as the ball is being delivered. The player then says whether they wish to leave the pins as they are, or replay the ball
- Pins fall down before the ball has reached them
- A played ball is contacted by any object which should not be in the lane (the only objects in the lane should be the pins at the end, and the ball itself as it is played)

The foul which is most likely to be committed is the stepping over of the foul line. If a player steps over this line before, during, or after the delivery the ball will not count, and neither will any pins scored. The pins would be reset for the next ball, if applicable.

Duckpin bowling

This is played with smaller pins, about 24 centimetres (9 and a half inches) high, and with a 12.5 centimetre (5 inch) diameter ball, with no holes in it. It is mainly popular along the east coast of the US, and in the New England area. There has been a Duck Pin Association in the United States since 1927.


When there are pins left, with more than a balls width between them. There are several different types.

- baby split - a split with the 2 and 7, or the 3 and 10 pins.

- bed posts - a split involving the 4 and 6, or the 7 and 10 pins.

- big four - a 4-6-7-10 split.

- bucket - when four pins are left in a group, like 1-2-3-5, or 2-4-5-8.

- clothes line / fence - a row of pins in a line, 1-2-4-7 or 1-3-6-10

- high hit / nose hit - when the ball hits the head pin, usually leaving a 4-6 or 4-6-7-10 split

- pocket - the 1-3 pins for a right-handed bowler, or the 1-2 pins for a left-handed

- washout - the 1-2-10 and 1-3-7 leaves are examples of this split

- woolworth - a 5-10 split


Lane / Alley

Each lane is made of thin strips of pine or maple wood, although some newer lanes are now made of laminated plastic. They are varnished, polished, and coated with a thin layer of oil known as the dressing. The oil only extends to 7.92 metres (26 feet) past the foul line. The ball slides across the oiled part, then starts to spin as it reaches the dry part.

This adds challenge as balls cannot simply be bowled straight, and makes curving the ball to get a difficult last pin possible.

The bowling lane / alley

Along side each lane is a gutter to catch balls which have gone off course. The gutter is about 10 centimetres (4 inches) deep and 23 centimetres (9 inches) wide. Any ball which goes into the gutter simply comes back to the player in the normal way (through the pinspotter, along the tubes, and back to the collection stand).

If a ball goes into the gutter but still knocks pins down, the ball is counted as one less ball to play for that frame, but the pins scored do not count.

The approach / run-up area will usually be a few metres (feet) long to allow a proper delivery, but exact distances can very.

The pinspotter is a machine which will reset the pins between each ball, whether any were scored or not. Balls cannot be played while the pins are being reset.

The bowling ball

The ball is made of very hard rubber or plastic, or a composite material.

The circumference (size around) a bowling ball is 68.58 centimetres (27 inches), and the weights vary, to be suitable for many people. The sizes usually run from 6.63 kilograms (8 pounds) up to 13.26 kilograms (16 pounds).

The ball has three holes in it. Some balls have five. These are for the fingers and thumbs. The holes are different sizes aswell to allow for different people.

The pins

The pins are often made of six strips of maple stuck together, shaped and coated in plastic, although they are sometimes made of completely synthetic materials. All ten must be the same size and weight. They are 38 centimetres (15 inches) high, and weigh between 1.53 and 1.64 kilograms (3 pounds 6 ounces to 3 pounds 10 ounces).

bowling pin
The pins are placed in a triangle with 91 centimetre (3 feet) sides, and are 30 centimetres (12 inches) apart from the centre of each pin. They do not have numbers, but are numbered by their position in the triangle.



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