Basics of ten-pin bowling

During a game, each player takes turns to roll bowling balls along a flat surface called a “lane” in order to knock down skittle-like objects called “pins” that stand at the end. Typically, players will take ten turns, called “frames”, rolling twice in each frame.

  • Balls have holes drilled in which fingers are inserted for gripping. Players usually insert their two middle fingers and thumb into the holes.
  • Because of the size of the ball and the spacing of the pins, it is impossible for the ball to strike every pin. Players must deflect the pins into one another to knock down more pins.
  • The lane is bordered on either side by “gutters”, lowered channels that collect wayward balls. If the ball enters a gutter, a player will score zero points for the roll. This is known as a “gutter ball”.
  • In non-competitive bowling, players can choose to have the gutters covered by bumpers, so that balls will be bounced back onto the lane.
  • Before the lane, there is a 5m “approach” in which players can take a run-up.
  • The approach is separated from the lane by the “foul line”, which players must not cross before, during or after they deliver the ball onto the lane.
  • If a player knocks down all ten pins on their first roll, they are awarded with a “strike” and the frame is completed.
  • If a player fails to knock down all the pins on their first roll, they then take a second roll. Only the pins that were not downed on the first go are left standing.
  • If the player knocks down all the remaining pins on their second roll, they are awarded a “spare”.
  • After the second roll, the frame is over, regardless of whether there are pins still standing, and the play passes to the next competitor.
  • Once every player has rolled, the frame is over, and the next begins.