About Ten Pin Bowling


Ten-pin bowling (commonly just “bowling” in the United States and the United Kingdom) 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 39-inch-wide (99 cm) 60-foot-long (18 m) lane is bordered along its length by semi-cylindrical channels (commonly called “gutters”) which are 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 skilful bowlers will roll a side spinning (hook shape reaction) 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, it is called a foul and any pins knocked over by that delivery are scored as zero (0). (The bowler is allowed one shot at a new rack of ten pins if he fouled on the first roll of a frame, and if all ten pins are knocked down on this shot, it is scored as a spare.)

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 History of Bowling

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 B.C., 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.

Others claim that bowling originated in Germany around 300 A.D.,as part of a religious ritual in which people would roll stones at clubs (or “kegels”) to absolve themselves of sins.

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. 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.

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.

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

Ninepin bowling was introduced to the United States from Europe during the colonial era, similar to the game of skittles. 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.

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.

Modern Ten Pin Bowling

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 the introduction of automated electronic scoring systems. The general public only had to enter their names into the computers and everything else was done automatically.

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 United States, Canada, Australia and South Africa). 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.

The bowling industry spends significantly more money each year than any other sport on airlines, restaurants, hotels and rental cars. There is an active movement to make bowling an Olympic sport, especially by the Fédération Internationale des Quilleurs or FIQ, the world governing organisation for nine and ten-pin bowling, and in 1998 ten-pin bowling was included for the first time as a sport at the Commonwealth Games. The most elite players regularly play in televised tournaments, and new bowlers continue to delight in learning the game.

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 centres 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.

The Rules of Ten Pin Bowling

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.

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 centre 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.

Neighbouring pins are set up 12 inches (30 cm) apart, measured from centre to centre. 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.

In order to count, a pin must be knocked over entirely. 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).
There are generally 2 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 lets 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.

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.

A typical bowling ball is designed to roll vertically, and the core is naturally lop-sided so that the ball will hook naturally if the thumb and finger holes are drilled in the proper places. In parts of Asia, where oil conditions are more difficult and lanes maintenance is poor, hooking the ball makes bowling more difficult. The “spinner”, “helicopter” or “UFO” release is popular, especially among females.

Because of the horizontal spin, the ball will take an unconventional path through the pins at impact, creating a domino effect pin reaction not normally seen when using more conventional releases. The spin is generated by rotating the two fingers to the 12-o’clock position at the point of release.

The two fingers release first, while the thumb stays in the ball. The thumb alone is used to create the horizontal spin, by rotating the hand counter clockwise (right-handed) and then the thumb is released. This technique is not seen frequently in world-class competition where oil patterns are more standardised. Spinning is difficult to master (and can even cause injury) with a ball heavier than 12 lb. Using a lighter bowling ball causes results like a weak 5-pin more frequently. Use of the spinner technique is seen more frequently in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

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 the “Granny style” or the “Pee-Wee method”. In recent years, the new two-handed “shovel” style hook release is gaining more popularity, as it generates more revolutions and speed to knock down pins. Two well-known two-handed bowlers are Jason Belmonte (Australia) and Osku Palermaa (Finland).

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.
Ten Pin Bowling Competitions

The world champion is crowned at the WTBA World Championship held by the World Tenpin Bowling Association since 1954.

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.

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 U.S., the PBA has members from all over the world who 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 14-year-old Kamron Doyle of Brentwood, TN, who rolled (and cashed) in the 2012 U.S. Open. 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.