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😣🤢🤨 Ready to hit the bowling alley? Bowling is a fun way to spend time with friends as well as a serious competitive sport; best of all, it’s super easy to learn. We’ll be going over everything you need to know about this iconic activity, from the rules and background to the proper techniques and gameplay. We’ll even cover some basic bowling etiquette, so you can have the best possible time while you’re playing. You’ve got this in the bag—or better yet, in the lane!
Part 1Part 1 of 5:Learning the Basics of Bowling
- 1Understand the bowling lane. Before you begin to bowl, you have to understand the function of the bowling lane. A bowling lane is 60 feet (18.3 m) long from the foul line, the line closest to the bowler, to the head pin, the pin closest to the bowler. There are gutters on either side of the bowling lane. If a ball veers off the lane, it goes into the gutters and is out of play.XResearch source
- The approach area is 15 feet (4.6 m) long and ends at the foul line. The bowler cannot overstep the foul line during their approach or their shot won't count.
- If a ball goes into the gutters and then bounces out and hits the pins, it won't count.
- 2Understand the bowling pins. Ten pins are arranged at the end of the bowling lane at the beginning of every frame. They are arranged in a triangle formation, with the point of the triangle facing the bowler. There is one pin in the first row, which is the head pin, two pins in the second row, three in the third, and four in the fourth.XResearch source
- The locations of the pins are assigned numbers 1-10. The pins in the back row have the numbers 7-10, the pins in the row above the back row are numbered 4-6, the pins in the second row are numbered 2-3, and the head pin is pin 1.
- All pins will earn the bowler one point if they are hit. The numbers are based on location, not value.
- 3Learn the lingo. Before you can call yourself a true bowler, you should be aware of a few different bowling terms. Knowing these terms will also make it much easier for you to understand the rules. Here they are:XResearch source
- A strike is when you knock down all the pins with the ball on your first try.
- A spare is when you knock down all the pins on your second try.
- A split is when the first ball of a frame knocks down the headpin (the pin closest to you) but leaves two or more pins that are non-adjacent. It's tough to hit a spare in this situation, especially if you have a 7-10 split, which is the hardest split to hit.
- A turkey is three strikes in a row.
- If any pins remain after the bowler's turn, it's called an "open frame."
- 4Understand how a game of bowling works. One bowling game consists of 10 frames. Each frame is equal to one turn for the bowler. The bowler's objective is to knock down as many pins as possible in a frame, ideally all of them.XResearch source
- A bowler can roll the ball twice in each frame, provided that they do not hit a strike.
- A bowler gets an extra turn on the tenth frame if they knock down all the pins on the first turn.
- 5Learn the scoring. If a bowler has an open frame, then they simply get credit for the number of pins they knocked down. If a bowler knocked down 6 pins after two turns, they simply get two turns. However, if a bowler hits a spare or a strike, the rules get slightly more complicated.XResearch source
- If a bowler hits a spare, then they should place a slash mark on their score sheet. After their next turn, they will receive 10 points plus the number of pins they knock down with that turn. So if they knock down 3 pins after their first turn, then they will get 13 points before their second turn. If they then knock down 2 pins in their second turn, they get a total of 15 points for that round.
- If a bowler hits a strike, they should record an X on their scoresheet. The strike will earn the bowler ten points plus the number of pins knocked down on the player's next two turns in the following round.
- The most a bowler can score in one game is 300 points. This represents 12 strikes in a row, or 120 pins that were knocked down in 12 frames. A perfect game has 12 strikes and not ten, because if the bowler gets a strike on the last frame, then they can take two more turns. If those two turns are also strikes, they will have 300 points.
- If a player rolls a spare in the last frame, then they can take one more turn.
Part 2Part 2 of 5:Preparing to Bowl
- 1Find a bowling alley. Go online to find a local bowling alley that suits your needs. Try to find a place that offers bowling lessons or has beginner bowling leagues.
- If you want to go bowling with friends, find a place that's rated for having a fun environment and maybe some food and snacks as well.
- 2Go to the bowling alley you've chosen. Talk to the fellow bowlers and staff, and see if you can even join a game. Alternately, you can go to an alley with a group of friends. If you ask a crowd if you can join their game, make sure it isn't too competitive. You may even make new friends at the alley.
- 3Get some bowling shoes. If you're a beginner, you can just rent shoes at the alley. If you want to kick up your game, you can buy a pair of your own shoes. Street shoes won't work for bowling because they'll either make you stick to the floor instead of sliding naturally, or they'll make you slip too much and injure yourself.XResearch source
- If you don't wear bowling shoes, you can also damage or leave scuff marks on the alley floor. Rent a pair of shoes unless you want to get in trouble before you even start bowling.
- Don't forget to wear socks or bring socks to the alley. Some alleys sell socks, but they will be expensive.
- 4Choose the right ball. Before you can begin to bowl, you need to find a ball that is the right weight for you and which is the right size for your fingers. The balls will be labeled based on their weight, so a ball with "8" written on it will weigh 8 pounds. Here's how to find a ball of the right size and weight:XResearch source
- Weight. A 14-16 lb ball would work for most adults with bigger hands, and a 10-14 lb ball would work for most adults with smaller hands. Generally, it's better to have a ball that is a little heavier because it will help you gain momentum. A general rule is that a ball should weigh 10% as much as your body, so if you weigh 140 pounds, you should bowl with a 14 lb ball.
- Size of the thumb hole. Your thumb should fit snugly into the single thumb hole. You should be able to take it out of the hole without it snagging or getting stuck, but the hole shouldn't be so large that you have to squeeze your thumb in the hole to hang on.
- Size of the middle finger holes. Once you've inserted your thumb, you should lay your middle and ring finger across the other two holes. If the span is correct, your two fingers should easily and comfortably lay over the two holes so the middle joint lines up with the side of the hole closest to your thumb. Curl your two fingers into the holes to make sure they fit snugly in the hole like your thumb.
- 5Find your bowling lane. Once you've signed up at the alley and put on your shoes, you will be directed to a bowling lane. If you get to choose your lane, pick a lane that is away from loud or noisy people. But it's your choice: you may be able to bowl better if you're surrounded by other bowlers.
Part 3Part 3 of 5:Starting Bowling
- 1Hold the ball correctly. First, pick up your ball and head to the right spot in front of the bowling lane. Place your middle and ring finger in the top 2 holes and place your thumb into the bottom hole.XResearch source
- Hold the ball slightly to your side with your bowling hand underneath the ball and your other hand resting on the bottom side of the ball for extra support.
- Keep your thumb on top of the ball at 10:00 position if you're right-handed. Use the 2:00 position if you're a lefty.
- 2Approach the foul line. The standard approach consists of standing with your back straight, your shoulders centered squarely towards your target, and your knees slightly bent. Your ball arm should hand straight down by your side. Your back should be tilted slightly forward.XResearch source
- Your feet should be slightly apart and your "slide foot" should be placed slightly in front of the other foot. Your slide foot will be the opposite of the hand you use to bowl (a right handed bowler will slide with their left foot).
- 3Work on aiming the ball. Your bowling lane should have a series of dots 7 feet (2.1 m) down the lane, and black arrows about fifteen feet down the lane. If you're a beginning bowler, you should aim to roll the ball in the center of these marks. Once you develop your bowling skills, you can aim to the left or the right of the marks when you hook the ball.
- Even if you aim your ball through the center of the marks, you may not be able to hit the pins because the ball can slow down or roll off toward the gutters. Just notice where the ball rolls when you do and don't bowl a solid frame and adjust your aim accordingly. You also want to hit in between the head pin and the pin right next to it. By doing this, you will hit most of the pins, creating more strikes. If you hit the head pin, you will likely create a spilt.
- Focus on aiming at the marks, not the pins.
- 4Release the ball. Maintain a straight forward, non-twisting approach of your body, as your ball and hand position should be held relatively the same -- underneath and behind the ball during the swing. Swing your ball arm smoothly back and then forward to release the ball. Release the ball when your arm has moved as far forward as it can go.
- When released properly, your thumb should come out first, followed by the fingers. This should help get rotation on the ball, which should help the ball hook and carry once it gets down the lane.
- Keep your eye on the target you're aiming towards as you release the ball. If you look down at your feet or the ball, you will lose balance and won't be able to aim your ball correctly.
- 5Wipe your hands after your turn is over. Make sure your hands are completely dry before you pick up the ball to start bowl each time. Use a cloth to wipe your hands, or at least wipe your hands on your pants if you don't have one. If your hands are still sweaty, the ball can slip out of your hands.
- You can also use rosin, which can be found in most pro bowling shops, to make your fingers and thumb slightly tacky and less slippery.
- 6Keep score throughout the game. Most bowling alleys will have a computer near the sitting area that allows you to keep score. If an alley doesn't have a computer, then you will be given a score sheet to record your scores. Either way, the process is the same. Here's how to keep score:
- The area in the upper left of each frame is to record the first ball, and the box to the left is for the second ball and if you have a strike. A strike is marked with a "X" and a spare with a "/".
- 7Finish close to the foul line. The distance between the delivery line and you should be of about 6 inches (15 cm) if you want to have an optimal release. This means that the ball is lofted a small distance over the foul line before it makes contact with the lane. Thus, the ball gets further down the lane and it preserves energy when hitting the pins. Finishing too far from the foul line means you’ll have to move closer to it when you start in the stance.XResearch source
- Remember that a strike is 10 plus the next two balls, whereas a spare is 10 plus the next ball. If you strike in the first ball in the 10th frame, you get two more balls to determine your final score. 300 is the highest score you can get.
Part 4Part 4 of 5:Improving Your Bowling Game
- 1Watch bowling on TV. Carefully observe the professionals and see what techniques they use. You can also watch video clips of expert bowlers online.
- Try to imitate the bowler's stances in your own home. Just remember that you're watching experts, and that your bowling technique will be much simpler than theirs.
- 2Ask for advice. If you want to really improve your game, seek out help from other, more advanced bowlers and from coaches. It will always help to have a critical eye watching you and you will gain new insight.
- 3Join a bowling league. This is a great way to keep up a regular practice and to make new friends.
Part 5Part 5 of 5:Bowling etiquette
Just like any other game, bowling is supposed to be fun! While browsing through the following rules of etiquette, keep in mind that they have been established to help the game run smoothly.
- 1Read carefully and follow all the specific rules that are posted at the alley.
- 2While on the lanes, wear only bowling shoes.
- 3Don’t start bowling until the pin-setting machine has finished its cycle.
- 4Allow the bowler in an adjacent lane to play first if you both approach the runway at the same time. Otherwise, the player who arrives first goes first.XResearch source
- 5Don’t step or go beyond the foul line, even in casual play. Bowling is a sport so play fair.XResearch source
- If you cross the foul line, you also risk slipping and other personal injury.
- 6The ball should be bowled down the lane. Avoid any throwing or tossing of the ball, as it may damage the lane.
- 7Don’t play your game on another lane, you should have enough space on your own.XResearch source
- 8Always ask for permission first when using someone else’s ball.
- 9Avoid distracting other players while they are bowling. Check your language and limit swearing as much as you can.
- 10Be ready when it's your turn to bowl.
- 11Try to keep the score accurate. Almost all alleys have now automated score keeping.
- QuestionHow do I teach my kids how to bowl?Community AnswerIf they're really young, use the ramp for the ball that most lanes have now. Also use the bumpers for very young kids.
- QuestionCan I concede a game halfway through if I am losing badly?Community AnswerNot on an automated system. Accept the loss if you think you're losing badly, and use the rest of the game as practice for the next game.
- QuestionWhy do I need a towel for bowling?Community AnswerTo keep your hands clean and to wipe the oil and dirt off the ball so it will hook consistently. Remember, if you're eating, never eat with the same hand that you bowl with.
- QuestionBowling is popular in my family. How do I get a turkey?Community AnswerYou bowl 3 strikes in a row. It's not very easy for a new player, so start practicing if you want to achieve it in front of your family or something.
- QuestionCould a child use these same techniques?Community AnswerYes, just make sure that the child has access to the lanes without gutters and uses smaller balls. The child needs to be strong enough to hold and roll the small balls.
- QuestionI have a bad thumb. Is there any way I can bowl without my thumb in the ball?Community AnswerYes, you can. Rest your thumb on the ball as best you can. You'll have to lift on your approach more.
- QuestionHow many players are on a team in bowling?Community AnswerThat depends on the format of the league, tournament or event. There are single events (one person), double events (two bowlers), or team events that could have 3 to 5 bowlers.
- QuestionMy friend isn't a great bowler, how can we work on his off spin?Community AnswerBowling is a very hard sport and not many people can do it well. You can watch videos of good bowlers, and get plenty of practice.
- QuestionHow many players can play in one lane?Community AnswerYou may have many people you want in a bowling lane. If you have a huge group of friends, you may want to pay for another lane.
- QuestionWhen bowling, what is a driver?Community AnswerA driver is a person who leads the scoreboard. Generally, having the most points scored on the scoreboard over the whole run makes you the driver.
- Stepping is a very important part in bowling. When you start your turn, have the ball at your waist in both hands with your left foot on the center marker. If you are right handed, step out with your right foot, and move the ball outward too. Then next step, you start tossing the ball backwards. Then your third step, the ball is behind you with a swinging motion in progress. Then your final, fourth step, should be your left leg, about three to eight inches away from the foul line, as you quickly swing the ball outward in front of you in however way you are aiming at the pins.
- Ideally, you want the ball to hook into the pocket (1-3 for right handers) to get the best carry for strike, and straighter is usually better for spares, especially single pin.
- Follow-through is important... for example, if you finish your swing with your hand turned like you are going to give a handshake, it will hook the ball.
- Keep your eye on your target as you are about to bowl.
- Bend your knees when you do your approach. This will help you get a straight ball or a little curvy.
- A ball that is drilled for you by a professional experienced driller will help you not strain yourself trying to hold onto the ball, as well as getting a clean release-which is key to consistently scoring well.
- To make your ball go left, turn your hand a little to the left, same with the right hand if you want it to go right.
- Continue your swing through after releasing the ball to help in preventing injury.
- Don't swing your shoulder too far back or it may get hurt.
- Don't lose your grip on the ball or it may go flying.
Things You'll Need
- Bowling ball
- Bowling shoes
- Baby Powder (for slip)
- Rosin (for grip)
- Rubbing Alcohol (for taking oil off your ball)
About This Article
Bowling is both an enjoyable pastime and a competitive sport where players try to score as many points as possible by knocking down pins with their bowling ball. A game of bowling has 10 rounds, called frames. During each frame, players have two chances to knock down as many pins as they can with their bowling ball. To knock down pins, players throw their ball down the bowling lane toward the pins at the end. If a player knocks down all 10 pins in one throw, they get a strike. If they knock down all 10 pins within 2 turns, they get a spare. If a player doesn’t knock down all 10 pins in a frame, they get 1 point for each pin they knocked down. For example, if a player knocks down 5 pins on their first throw and 3 more pins on their second throw, they would get 8 points for that frame. When players bowl a strike or a spare, they get 10 points (one for each pin they knocked down) plus bonus points. The bonus points for a strike are equal to whatever is scored with the player’s next two throws. For example, if a player bowls a strike and then in the next frame knocks down 4 pins on their first throw and 2 pins on their second throw, they would get 6 bonus points for their strike. Therefore, their strike would be worth 16 points. The bonus points for a spare are equal to whatever is scored with the player’s next throw. If a player bowls a spare and then knocks down 3 pins with their first throw on the next frame, 3 bonus points would be added to their spare, giving them a total of 13 points for the frame they bowled a spare in. If a player bowls a strike on the last frame, they get two extra throws so the bonus points for their strike can be calculated. Players get one extra throw if they bowl a spare on the last frame. Players take turns bowling each frame until all 10 frames have been completed. Whoever has the most points wins the game! 300 points is the highest possible score. To bowl a good frame as a beginner, first stand to the right of the center of the lane if you’re right handed or to the left of the center if you’re left handed. Focus on the arrows just right of center if you’re right handed or just left of center if you’re left handed to help you aim. Then, take four steps toward the foul line, bringing the bowling ball back behind you as you take your third step. On your last step, swing the ball down and release it when your arm is perpendicular to the floor. Make sure to not step over the foul line! Adjust your starting position based on where your ball goes until you find your sweet spot. For more tips, including how to master the strike, read on!