Questions about the sport of ten-pin bowling. **Note: This tag is not to be used for the act of bowling in cricket.**
Note: This tag is not to be used for the act of bowling in cricket. See the following meta discussion for more information: "Bowling" tag usage - any reason for dual definitions?
Ten-pin bowling, or simply "bowling" in the United States, is a precision sport in which competitors roll a weighted ball down a specially prepared wooden "lane" towards a triangular arrangement of ten wooden "pins", typically bottom-heavy but with a narrow base. The game descended from a variety of similar sports, possibly beginning with Bocce, a lawn sport involving tossing or rolling balls as close as possible to a "marker", which in turn gave rise to variants of the modern game such as nine-pin bowling (from which ten-pin is most directly descended).
Bowling is played on "lanes", consisting of a thickly-waxed hardwood or synthetic floor with a lowered rut or "gutter" along each side, and the pins arranged in a triangle at the end. The lane typically has markings to help players align with the lane for an accurate shot, and a front line beyond which players may not place their foot or any part of their body (a "foot foul", which results in a score of zero for the bowl). A ball that rolls into the gutter is extremely unlikely to roll back out and is virtually guaranteed not to hit any pins; this is called a "gutterball". Assuming a ball stays out of the gutter, the land and pins are arranged so that the ball will hit at least one pin out of a full set of ten.
The bowling ball used is typically between 8 and 16 pounds; a lighter ball is easier to roll down the lane accurately, but the lower mass means the ball will lose more energy and rebound more as it hits the pins. Skilled players typically use a 16-pound ball. The ball has three holes drilled into it in a triangular pattern, into which players insert two fingers and thumb to grip the ball. Modern balls are typically made of a metal core determining the overall weight, covered with one or two layers of a durable plastic or composite to provide the overall diameter and volume, and a smooth surface allowing the ball to "glide" along the lane.
A game consists of ten "frames"; in each frame, the player has two "bowls" with which to try to knock down all ten pins at the end of their lane. Between bowls in a frame, pins knocked down are removed from the lane while ones remaining upright are kept, and after two bowls or if all pins have been knocked down, all pins are reset to begin the next frame. This used to be done manually, but for safety, cost and to speed play, a mechanized system was developed in the mid-1900s that automated everything from pin setup and removal to ball return, thus removing the need to have attendants at the pin end of the lane. This system remains in place at virtually all bowling alleys today, with the relatively recent addition of a computerized scoring system.
A player's score for a frame is the total number of pins knocked down, with a bonus depending on how many bowls that took and the score of the next frames: A player who knocks down all ten pins on the first bowl of a frame scores a "strike"; the frame is over, and the score for that frame is 10 points plus the combined number of pins knocked down on the next two bowls, for a maximum of 30 points in that framne. A player who knocks down all ten pins using both bowls of the frame (regardless of how many pins were knocked down on either bowl) scores a "spare"; the score for the frame is ten points plus the number of pins knocked down on the next single bowl (for a maximum score of 20). The maximum (perfect) score for a full game is 300. To allow for a perfect game (and to fully score the final frame), the final frame allows for three bowls; a player scoring a strike receives two additional bowls while a player scoring a spare gets one additional bowl, providing the bonus points for each of those situations. A perfect game thus requires not ten, but twelve strikes. A player must score a strike or spare to receive the third bowl of the tenth frame, otherwise only the score of the two normal bowls counts.
The simplest technique for bowling is to swing the ball underhanded and release it at the very bottom of the swing, just above the ground so that it drops onto the lane and heads straight for the pins. However, the path and point of impact that gives the best chance for all the pins to fall is to hit the side of the triangle, directly between the lead pin and either of the next two pins. The lane is too narrow to send a ball along a straight line on this path, so skilled bowlers will impart a certain amount of "sidespin", by cupping the ball in their hand and letting it roll out of the inside of their hand as they place it on the lane. This is known as "casting", and is the dominant technique among professional bowlers.
Bowling is played at all age and skill levels, typically at specialized "bowling alleys". The overwhelming majority are casual players; bowling is a common recreational activity, often combined with food and drink. Junior bowling is played with smaller, lightweight balls and with special rails or bumpers along the side of the lane that prevent the ball going into the gutters. Competitive bowling is played individually, with players competing to win the best two out of three games, or in teams with all teammates' scores (including a handicap) summed to produce the team score. At the professional level, bowling is primarily played individually, in tournaments sanctioned by the Professional Bowling Association or PBA in the United States and by other professional associations including the World Tenpin Bowling Association. Ten-pin competitions are played at several international games including the Pan-American Games, but the sport is currently not played at the Olympic level.
Other variants of bowling include nine-pin bowling, which uses a smaller ball and pins shaped like milk bottles arranged in a diamond fashion, common in Germany and in Central Texas; candlepin-bowling, popular in New England and in eastern Canada, where the pins are roughly cylindrical and a similar small bowling ball is used; and duck-pin bowling, again using a smaller ball than ten-pin to hit a series of shorter, fatter pins that are more difficult to knock down.