Basics of Ten Pin Bowling

  • Ten bowling pins – Bowling pins are about 4.75 inches wide at the widest point and 15 inches tall. They weigh between 3 pounds 4 ounces and 3 pounds 10 ounces.
  • Bowling ball – bowling balls are made from a variety of materials, from rubber to plastic to reactive resin to a combination of these materials, as well as other materials. Most bowling balls used in ten pin bowling have 3 holes drilled into them, one each for the thumb, middle, and ring finger. Of course, there is no regulation stating that a bowling ball cannot have up to five holes drilled into it, one for each finger. Bowling balls cannot weigh more than 16 pounds.
  • Lane – In ten pin bowling, a bowling lane is 60 feet from the head pin to the foul line. The width of the lane is 3.5 feet.
  • Gutters – Once the ball is in the gutter, there is no chance you are going to be able to hit any pins down. The gutters allow the ball to roll safety to the end and then to begin its journey back on the ball return. Some bowling alleys have “bumpers” that can be blown up and placed in the gutters, making it impossible to get a gutter ball. These are great for children to learn with.

Other important terms in ten pin bowling:

  • Strike – A strike is what you are going for. It is called a strike when you hit all of the ten pins down on the very first ball (each player gets two turns to roll the ball down the lane and to knock over as many pins as possible). For a strike, a player gets 10 points, plus a bonus. Of course, the exact bonus depends on what that person scores with the next two balls (so, if the next two balls were gutter balls, no bonus).
  • Double – What it is called when a bowler gets two strikes in a row.
  • Turkey – Three consecutive strikes.
  • Four-bagger – Four consecutive strikes.
  • Spare – A player gets a spare when at the end of the second ball, all of the ten pins have been knocked down. A spare gives a bowler ten points plus a bonus of the points scored with the next ball.
  • Pinsetter – The machine that sets the pins up in their perfect triangular formation. Before there was the machine, there was a human pinsetter.

In the United States, we call ten pin bowling “bowling.” Elsewhere, like in the United Kingdom, persons refer to ten pin bowling as “ten pin bowling,” namely so that it does not get confused with five pin bowling (played in Canada), lawn bowling, and other types of bowling.