Ten-Pin Bowling – All You Need to Know

Whether you are looking for a professional sport to learn or a casual entertaining game to pass the time, ten-pin bowling is the perfect game for you. It is simple, easy to understand, and incredibly fun and exciting.

If you are new to the sport of ten-pin bowling, you might be wondering, what exactly is it, and why is it such a great game? Well, that is exactly what I am here to tell you.

In this article, I will talk in-depth about the game of bowling, its history, the rules and steps to play, and all the things you need to know to become a pro. I will also discuss the different world records made in the art of ten-pin bowling to let you know how popular and well-loved the game is. So, to learn about ten-pin bowling, sit back, relax, and read this article until the end.

How to play Ten-Pin Bowling

What is Ten-Pin Bowling?

Originated in its modern form in the country of United States of America, ten-pin bowling is a game sport in which a bowler rolls a bowling ball over an oiled wooden bowling lane to hit and knock down ten pins placed at the end of the lane in the shape of an equilateral triangle.

The game’s purpose is to score the most points by knocking the most pins in your given turns. Ten-pin bowling is also referred to as simple bowling or big ball, depending upon which geographical area it is being played in.

Ten-pin bowling started as a professional sport and slowly but surely became so recognized and loved that you are going to find bowling alleys all over the world for recreational games.

Ten-pin bowling is an incredibly important and significant sport, and there are a lot of major leagues and tournaments around the world, especially in the United States, where professional and proficient bowlers come and roll their balls to achieve victory and claim amazingly huge cash prizes.

Bowling is a sport that can be learned quite easily, and it does not require much from the player either. Unlike baseball, soccer, and other physically intense games, bowling does not require much stamina. What it does need, however, is skill and understanding of the game; that is exactly what you will get here.

History of Ten-Pin Bowling

Bowling seems to have been recently invented, but that is actually not true. The ten pin bowling history is much older and far more complex than it might seem.

Where did ten pin bowling originate?

In the 1930s, when excavation was at its peak in the region of Egypt, a British Anthropologist named Sir Flinders Petrie discovered a collection of objects which could be considered the closest form of bowling in 3200BC.

This shows that although ten-pin bowling was first played in 1820 in the United States, the art of bowling has been around for more than 5000 years, which is an incredibly long history.

Over the centuries, from the bowling lane to the material of the ball, the placement of the pins and much more have changed to bring ten-pin bowling to its modern form, which is now loved by everyone worldwide.

Bowling Lanes and Equipment

Before we get into how you can play ten-pin bowling or how to score and win against your opponents, you need to understand bowling, the equipment being used in it, and the mechanics of the bowling lane.

Let us look at each of these parts of bowling so we can develop a proper understanding of the game.

Bowling Balls

One of the most basic pieces of equipment in ten-pin bowling is the bowling ball. It is a large spherical ball that is to be rolled on the slippery lane to knock down all the pins at the end.

A typical question that I often get is, what kind of bowling balls are used in ten-pin bowling or what kind of material is used to make bowling balls? Well, that depends upon the era we are talking about.

  • The 1800s – Lignum Vitae
    When ten-pin bowling was more recent and was not known to many of the worlds, Lignum Vitae, a special kind of hardwood, was used to make bowling balls. These were heavy and not completely smooth, but they got the job done back in the 19th century quite well.
  • The early 1900s – Rubber Balls
    In the early 1900s, particularly around 1905, lignum vitae became obsolete in bowling ball production, and rubber took its place. Bowling balls were started to be manufactured with rubber. These balls were lighter, smoother, and rolled much better than their 19th-century counterparts.
  • The late 1900s – Polyurethane and Polyester
    In the 1970s, hard rubber balls became old and newer, and better materials were being discussed to make bowling balls. Professional bowling ball manufacturers started using polyester to make modern bowling balls.

    Nevertheless, this tradition faded away quickly since, in the 1980s, polyurethane bowling balls took the place of polyester bowling balls, and these balls became extremely popular and were used for quite a long time.
  • Today – Reactive Resin and Particle Balls
    In the 2000s, and still, the best version of the material being used for bowling ball production is reactive resin and particle. Both of these materials are excellent in terms of sliding on the oiled bowling surface and provide perfect rotation and curvature to the professionals due to their smoothness and sleek designs. I am sure these materials will be used for bowling balls for many future years to come.

Bowling Pins

The second most important part of ten-pin bowling is the ten bowling pins. They are made of wood or sometimes rock, then layered with plastic and painted according to the design choice of the players.

The bowling pins are given numbers from 1 to 10 and placed in an equilateral triangular shape, and they are 15 inches in length individually sitting at the end of the bowling lane, ready to be knocked over for a strike or a spare.

Bowling Lanes

The path where the bowling ball is to be rolled is known as the bowling lane. This can be made of wood or synthetic material and be oiled to make the floor slippery to reduce friction and increase the speed of the ball moving towards the ten pins.

The dimensions of the bowling lane are standard and fixed. It cannot be altered. That is why learning about bowling lanes is extremely necessary to become proficient at the sport. Let us look at the overall dimensions and parts of the bowling lane.

Dimensions and Parts of the Bowling Lane

The overall bowling lane is 60ft long and 42 inches wide after the foul line to the first pin, and on either side, there are gutters to collect missed bowling balls effectively. If you are curious, there are three significant parts of the bowling lane. The first part is the two dotted lines known as the approach area of the lane. This part is 3ft in length and is used by many professionals to adjust their posture and rolling angle.

The second part is the foul line. This line is situated 15ft away from the start, and the area between the approach dots and the foul line is approximately 12ft in length. Overstepping the foul line can lead to – you guessed it, a foul.

The third part is the aiming arrow. There are many aiming arrows placed 15ft from the foul line on the lane to help bowlers throw and hook their balls properly to get the best shot.

Once you learn your way around the bowling lane, no one can stop you from mastering the art of rolling the ball and getting impressive scores on the board to achieve victory.

How to Play Ten Pin Bowling

Now that you know how the equipment and mechanics of ten-pin bowling work, you must be incredibly curious to learn exactly how to play. Let us get to that right now.

The game of ten-pin bowling is divided into 10 frames. Each frame amounts to one player’s turn. There are two shots in every frame. At the end of the 10th frame, whoever has the most points, wins the game. Now there are three possible scoring scenarios.


A strike is when a player can knock all ten pins in the first shot of the frame. In such a case, the score of that particular frame will be held and will be written after being added to the next two shots.

If a player scores three straight strikes, the number of points in that particular frame would be 30. The maximum number of points you can score in a game of ten-pin bowling is 300, also known as the perfect game. In such a scenario, the player will score strikes in the first 9 frames and then 3 strikes in the tenth frame, leading to a perfect game.


A spare is when a player is not able to knock down all the pins in the first shot of the frame but knocks the remaining pins in the second shot. In such a case, the player’s total score of that frame will be taken in such a way that the score of the next shot will be added to 10 and then written.

Open Frame

If a player is not able to knock all the pins down in the first shot of the frame and is not able to knock down the remaining pins in the second shot either, then the total number of pins knocked will be taken as the score of the particular frame.

Another scenario of the open frame is where the player may roll the ball into the gutter in one or both shots. In that case, the score will still be considered in the open frame and will be taken accordingly.

Read more about open frame in this article: What is a Frame in Bowling?

World Records in the Art of Ten-Pin Bowling

As we know, bowling is a sport loved throughout the world. That is precisely why people from around the world have tried and created world records in different formats of the ten-pin bowling game. Let us take a look at the most fascinating world records in the art of ten-pin bowling.

Highest Pinfall in Ten-pin bowling in an hour

Adam Barta from Wickliffe, Ohio, United States of America, attempted and achieved the world record for the highest pinfall in ten-in bowling in an hour with a score of 2708 in the year 2015. The most incredible thing about this record is that out of 291 balls rolled, 163 were strikes, which seems humanly impossible, but the skillful Adam accomplished this feat.

Most Ten-Pin Bowling Strikes in one minute

In 2013, a youngster from Miami, Florida, in the United States of America, known as Michael Hamilton, secured the most ten-pin bowling strikes in a one-minute record. With over 11 strikes being rolled by the person, the record was definitely theirs to be taken without a shadow of a doubt.

Highest Backwards Bowling Score

Talking about humanly impossible feats, in the early period of 2014, a professional bowler in Rockford, Illinois, the USA, by the name of Andrew Cowen, took the record for the highest backward bowling score. The record set by him was 280 points in a single game where he scored 10 consecutive strikes, which is exceptional, in my opinion.

Maybe you can learn and try your own luck as well? Get your name in the Guinness world records, perhaps? All you need is a skill, luck, and a touch of positivity.


Ten-pin bowling is a world-famous sport with challenges and tournaments being held all around. Despite this, ten-pin bowling is not in the Olympics (yet).

Being one of the most liked and played games in the world, ten-pin bowling is a great option for people since it does not require physically strenuous activities like most of the other games. At the same time, bowling centers are one of the best entertainment options in today’s world.

With the knowledge you have gained about this sport, you are definitely going to be able to strike all the pins and become a pro at it. I hope you have a great time bowling with your friends and family.

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