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How To Play Bowling - Everything You Need to Know

Updated: Feb 4

How To Play Bowling - Everything You Need to Know

Ready for some bowling action? Whether you're looking to have a good time with friends or engage in a competitive sport, bowling is the perfect choice. The best part is, it's incredibly easy to pick up.

In this guide, we'll walk you through everything you need to know about this iconic indoor activity. From understanding the rules and the elements of the bowling lane to mastering the proper techniques for throwing the bowling ball and gameplay strategies. We'll also touch upon essential bowling courtesy and phrases to ensure you have a fantastic time on the lanes and knock down those pins!

What are the rules of bowling?

Bowling involves more than just grabbing a ball and knocking down pins. Just like any other sport, it comes with its set of rules that you must familiarize yourself with before diving into the game.

How do the bowling scores work?

In traditional ten-pin bowling, each game consists of 10 frames. During each frame player gets to roll the ball down the lane and knock down pins. Each frame consists of two chances to knock down all ten pins. Every pin you knock down during a frame earns you a point. You can also earn additional points by achieving "strikes" or "spares". A strike occurs when you knock down all ten pins at your first attempt in a single frame. A strike, earns 10 points plus the total of the next two rolls. A strike is commonly indicated with an “X”. Knocking down all pins with both rolls in a frame is called a spare. Spare is not as good as strike, but it brings you additional points too. A spare earns 10 points plus the next roll's score. A spare is indicated with an "/". We've done an

What's on the bowling lane?

Now when you have a general understanding on how do the bowling scores work, let's go on the bowling lane. The bowling lane spans 60 feet (18.3 m) from the foul line to the head pin (the pin closest to bowling player), with gutters on each side of the lane. Drifting a bowling ball into the gutters means the ball is out of play. It's important to note that if a ball goes into the gutter and rebounds to hit the pins, it won't be counted as well.

The approach area is 15 feet (4.6 m) long, terminating at the foul line. Crossing the foul line of the bowling lane will result in a shot not counting.

The bowling lane is oiled with specific oil for a bowling ball to slide.

The arrangement of the ten pins at the end of the lane forms a triangle, with the head pin in the first row, followed by two, three, and four pins in subsequent rows. The pins are numbered from 1 to 10 according to their positions. The head pin is designated as pin 1, the second row has pins 2-3, the row further down has pins 4-6, while pins in the back row are labeled 7-10. Each pin hit earns the bowler one point, and the numbering is based on position, not value.

What is a "Lane Courtesy"?

Observing proper bowling etiquette is crucial for several reasons. Firstly, it enhances the overall enjoyment of the game for everyone Secondly, it contributes to the safety of both individuals and the surroundings. There are several key lane courtesy rules to follow when bowling:

  1. Wear bowling shoes. It's essential to wear bowling shoes while on the lanes. Keep the approach clean to allow proper sliding of bowling shoes. Wearing wet or dirty street shoes on the bowling lanes may lead to your friend or loved one slipping and falling on their face.

  2. Avoid being on the approach unless it's your turn to bowl. If it's not your turn, either move to the seating area behind you or step out of the way of other bowlers. This can be disruptive, especially if someone is in the midst of throwing their ball, and you walk in front of them.

  3. Don't cross the foul line. Crossing the foul line not only will result in a shot not counting, but may also lead to getting oil on the approach, posing a danger to anyone walking on it.

  4. Don't thow a bowling ball until the pin-setting machine completes its entire cycle and the sweep bar is fully lifted. Also, don't thow another bowling ball down the lane if one is stopped in the gutter. Call bowling operator for assistance.

How to throw a bowling ball?

Now that you are familiar with some fundamental rules of bowling and lane etiquette, it's time to step onto the lane, pick up a bowling ball, and aim for that first strike!

How to pick a bowlng ball?

A standard house bowling ball is equipped with three finger holes designed for easy gripping. Use your thumb, middle, and ring fingers to pick it up. It's common for beginners to mistakenly use their index finger instead of the ring finger, which can negatively impact aiming accuracy.

Throwing a ball straight

Pick your bowling ball by placing your thumb, middle, and ring fingers into the appropriate holes, using your free hand to support the ball. As you step onto the approach, swing the bowling ball a few times to ensure a secure grip. Maintain proper alignment by keeping your shoulders, hips, and wrist aimed straight toward the pins. Focus your gaze on the middle arrow on the lane, which serves as your target. Keep your eyes fixed on this target until your released bowling ball passes it. During the release, bend your knee and let the ball roll onto the lane, ensuring your hand remains straight and your palm faces upward throughout the entire motion.

Hooking a bowling ball

Hooking a bowling ball is better than throwing it straight. When a bowling ball hook and moves towards the pocket at a particular angular trajectory, it tends to bounce less after hitting the pins and maintain movement towards the middle of them. That also creates better pin movement. Therefore, hooking the bowling ball makes it easier to make a strike. To help you master an element of making a ball hook, we made a list of steps you need to take:

  1. Start near a foul line. This way, you will eliminate all the other steps in the approach, and it helps to focus primarily on the release.

  2. Now, make a swing and when your bowling ball approaches your ankle, slightly rotate your palm so it is on the side of the ball.

  3. If you do everything correctly, your thumb will exit the bowling ball first, and all the rotation will be created by your middle and ring fingers.

  4. Repeat the process several times, and observe the motion of a bowling ball.

What else do you need to know before playing bowling?

Before heading out for a round of bowling, there are several additional factors worth considering to ensure a more enjoyable and well-prepared experience. Let's delve into these additional aspects that warrant your attention before embarking on your bowling adventure.

How long does it take to play a bowling game?

One bowling player can complete the bowling game within approximately half an hour. However, if multiple people are taking turns on one lane, the duration of the game can significantly extend. In such cases, it might take an hour or even more than an hour to finish the game.

How much does it cost to play bowling?

The typical hourly cost for bowling ranges from 20 to 40 euros. The exact fees can vary based on the specific rules and pricing structure of the particular bowling venue. Various factors influencing the overall cost include the location of the bowling alley, its popularity, the time of year, and the day of the week.

Are there any bowling phrases you need to know?

Before you go bowling, it's essential to speak the language of bowling for effective communication with fellow bowlers and friends. Familiarize yourself with these common bowling terms to grasp the lingo:

  • Strike: Clearing all pins with the first throw.

  • Spare: Knocking down all remaining pins on the second throw.

  • Double: Achieving two consecutive strikes.

  • Turkey: Scoring three strikes in a row.

  • Badger: Following a turkey, the next accomplishment is a badger. A "four-badger" is four consecutive strikes, a "five-badger" ir five strikes, and so on.

  • Perfect Game: 12 consecutive strikes, totaling 300 points.

What if I want to become a professional bowler?

If you looking to take your bowling game to the next level you should consider consulting with a professional bowling coach to improve quicker. You should also consider purchasing propper bowling shoes and bowling balls for or short, medium, and long lane patterns.


How many bowling pins are there?

In bowling, there are ten pins arranged in a triangular formation at the end of the lane. Players aim to knock down as many pins as possible with a bowling ball in each throw. A strike occurs when all ten pins are knocked down with the first throw in a frame. If pins are left standing, players get a second throw to knock down the remaining pins.

How much does a bowling pin weigh?

A standard bowling pin weighs around 3 pounds and 6 ounces (1.53 kilograms).

What is a perfect score in bowling?

A perfect score in bowling is 300. This is achieved by knocking down all ten pins with a strike in each of the ten frames, totaling 12 strikes in a row.

What to wear while playing bowling?

When playing bowling, it's best to wear comfortable clothing. Many bowlers opt for casual wear such as jeans or athletic pants along with a comfortable shirt. It's important to remember to change your outdoor shoes to bowling shoes while on the lanes. You can check out our list of bowling shoes for beginners to find a pair that suits your style, enhances your performance and is in a convenient price range.

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