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Bowling may seem like just a part of your childhood – a fun thing you did at some birthday parties or a boring league night with your parents every week – but bowling is actually a lot. , much older than you or your parents. It is believed that the original iterations of bowling existed as early as 3200 BC. At least, that’s around the age of a child’s grave that was unearthed that contained the first known balls and pins. If I feel like it’s been 3200 years ago you set foot in one of the giant, dimly lit alleys of your youth, you may not remember all the details. Do you know for sure what type of bowling you’ve signed up for? And do you remember those bowling rules? We’re here to walk you through the process, so you can walk around with the same excitement and determination you did on Megan’s 12th birthday night at Crossgate Lanes.

Over the centuries, bowling has of course evolved. In Germany, bowling was so popular among gambling at one time that the government passed laws regarding the amount of money you could bet on a garden game. (We imagine they did this to reduce how often bowling games led to fights.) Over time it evolved further and started to be completely different from the games played across Europe. . In fact, things took a decidedly arrogant turn when none other than Henry VIII banned lower-class bowling and imposed heavy taxes on private lanes. Of course, even Henry VIII’s game was very different from what we’re playing today, mainly because they were always playing away from home. And it wasn’t until 1511 that Martin Luther established a rule about the exact number of pins needed to play. As bowling evolved, different parts of the world began to polish the game.

Historians believe that the first indoor bowling alleys opened in New York City in the mid-1800s, and it wasn’t until then that bowling really began to resemble the game we play today. So while a night out at a bowling alley may now seem a little different from your childhood, good ‘old fashioned’ 10 pin bowling still plays out the same way it was played in previous years. many years. Read on for a quick (but comprehensive) reminder.

Types of bowling

Did you know that there are five different types of bowling? While most lanes specialize in the typical “10 pin” bowling game, there are a few other variations as well.

10 pins

This is the game of bowling that you probably grew up playing. You throw your ball and try to knock down the 10 curved pins.


Candlestick bowling is, well, stranger. The balls are even smaller and the pins are long and narrow like candles. You roll three times to try to knock over as many as you can. Fair warning: candlesticks are much harder to knock over than a standard pin.


This configuration is very similar to 10 pins – except, again, the pins have a different shape. These pins are curved, like in regular bowling, but much stockier. The balls are similar in size to the Candlepin balls.

Kegel / 9 pin

Kegel bowling is very different from 10 pin bowling. When you play 9 pin bowling, you are playing in teams that you all work on to land the same pins. Another twist? There is no reset of the pins between the bowlers.

5 pins

This version is prevalent in Canada, where they use smaller balls to knock down the five pins arranged in a V-shape. And to add to the confusion, each pin has a different point value.

Bowling rules

Since 10 pin bowling is the most popular and widely played, we’re going to focus on that. These are the most important rules that you should keep in mind when playing bowling. Of course, if you’re playing with friends, some people might not be as keen on playing the rules as others. Remember, this is a game, Big Lebowski, you are here to have fun.

1. Beware of the coarse line

When playing a casual game, people might not take it too seriously. However, the foul line is critical when playing in a league because it comes into play for two basic rules. First of all, you must drop your ball before the foul line, not beyond. Second, your body shouldn’t cross the foul line either. In serious bowling games, crossing the foul line with your foot or with your ball still in hand disqualifies any points you earn during that throw.

2. The balls that gutters do not count

You already know that if your ball ends up in the gutter, you lose that throw and get no points. But what if it rolls in the gutter and then bounces? Most leagues will tell you that your throw doesn’t count, as well as any pins your ball may have knocked down. They will adjust the score manually.

3. No change of ball in the middle of the game

Have you ever picked a ball, rolled a few images, and then decided to switch to something lighter or heavier? While it’s great when you’re just playing with the family, it’s not allowed in a league. The proper bowling rules state that you must use the same ball for your entire game. (You can switch between games, however.)

4. Maximum two throws per frame for the first 9 frames

A hit occurs when you throw the ball and knock down all 10 pins on the first pitch. You can’t throw the ball a second time then obviously. A spare is when you knock down a few pins on your first throw and knock down the rest on your second throw. If you leave pins after your second throw, you have an “open frame” and you don’t get that many points.

5.300 points is the pinnacle

The “two max throws” rule becomes more complicated during the 10th frame. If you score a strike every frame, you get a bonus throw in the last frame. If you get a strike or a tenth frame substitution, you get a “third ball” or a third throw and a chance of another strike. Getting all the shots for all those throws? This will give you a “perfect game” of 300 points.

6. Notice the bowler to your right

Is it your turn to go bowling? Many recreational bowlers don’t know this, but it’s out of courtesy to wait to bowling until the person in the lane to your right is done with their frame. Trying to throw your ball at the same time as someone else can be quite distracting.

7. Be prepared

Playing with a group? If you’re heading to the bathroom or the concession stand, be sure to time it to be back in time for your next frame. It is not only courteous to your own friends, but also to people who wait for a clear path on busy nights.

8. Wear the right shoes

Bowling floors are expensive and require a lot of work. That is why you should wear bowling shoes. It might put you off a bit, but come on, we’ve all done some grosser things. Also, refusing to wear bowling shoes can damage the floors in the bowling alley, so you might be asked to leave if you don’t play by the rules.

Bowling conditions

Every sport has its own jargon, and bowling is no exception – there are a ton of words people use when getting into professional bowling. For example, at a bowling night with friends, you probably won’t talk much about the “action” or how your ball turned. But if you go down the alley on league night, you’ll probably hear those tossed about bowling terms.

  • Arrows: Small triangles on the ground help you determine where to best align yourself when throwing your ball.
  • Back End: The end of the track, down by the pins.
  • Bagger: A series of strikes.
  • Ball Return: The sophisticated machine that brings your ball back to you after every throw.
  • Chop: When you go for a spare and only knock over one pin while leaving the other one standing next to it.
  • Clean play: when there are no “open frames” and all the frames were spares or strikes.
  • Foul Line: The line marking your approach zone to the playing area.
  • Open Frame: A frame where you don’t knock over all the pins (so you don’t get a strike or spare).
  • Spare: To knock down all the remaining pins on your second throw.
  • Strike: To knock down all the pins on the first throw.
  • Split: The space between the pins after you knock them over.
  • Turkey: three strikes in a row.

Man, that’s a lot; we know. What’s your best bet if you’ve just gotten back into the mix? Read these rules, catch a ball that feels most comfortable to you, put on those rented shoes, and wait for the memories to come back to you. We promise they will.

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