Sunday, December 2, 2007

Introduction to Ten Pin Bowling

If you have played bowling, especially in bowling centers, most probably you are playing the ten pin variant of bowling. True, bowling almost always refer to the ten pin but ten pin is only one of the many variations bowling is played. There are many variants, actually, like the nine pin, the five pin, candlepin but ten pin bowling is by far the widely played bowling variant.

As the name suggests, ten pin bowling is played using ten pins and knocking these down by the use of balls rolled along a lane. The object is to knock down as many pins possible with the least number of throws. Every bowler is allowed ten frames or turns, with each frame composed of two rolls. If a player manages to knock down a complete set, it is called a strike. But when there are still remaining pins, those that are knocked down are counted and removed.

Then the player has another opportunity to roll a second ball and if he manages to knock all remaining pins then it is called a spare. This process continues until everyone has completed their turns in the frame. After which the game proceeds to the next frame. Bonus points are awarded in case of a strike or a spare.

The pins are arranged in an equilateral triangle, the back row has four pins, the next one has three, and the next has two and the last row (front of the lane, also called the head pin) consist only of one pin aligned at the center. The pins have numberings to ease the references of pins, starting with the single pin in front as one, and ends at ten at the back and rightmost pin. With today’s technology, the pins are automatically set by the machine, unlike before with the usage of ‘pin boys’.

The playing area of ten pin bowling is a straight and narrow surface, known as the lane. Made of usually wooden boards or synthetic material made to look like wooden boards, the ten-pin bowling lane is standard 18.28 meters from the first pin to the foul line. Fifteen feet from the foul line are guide arrows pointing towards the pins and two sets of approach dots are located about 12 ft from the foul line, and another 15 ft for the second set of approach dots.

A Dummy Tips for Bowling

I never get tired of giving tips. Maybe because I always see groups of newbie fumbling over the next lane, too insufferable that watching them utterly breaks my concentration. I’m no expert myself, having played a couple of games for some time. But watching those poor oafs gave me enough motivation to share some secrets other seasoned players loathe to share. At least, any newbie who may read this page might gain enough information not to look ridiculous during a game. And who knows, he might be playing next to my lane.

Tips for bowling – Grips
Let’s start with grips. Bowling balls have a standard 3 holes. One hole is slightly apart from the other two which are spaced nearer. The two holes are for your ring and middle finger and the single hole for your thumb. So grip your ball (it helps while you read this you have a bowling ball in hand), the thumb goes all the way through the hole and the fingers goes until the second knuckle (finger knuckle). The rest of the fingers extend comfortably over the ball surface. Look at how you hold the ball. Does it resemble the way other bowlers on the center grip the ball?

Tips for bowling – Form

Forms define approach and release. Bad forms results in bad delivery and awkward releases. Ok, start with the proper gripping. Choose your starting distance. Refer to the double rows of dots some distance from the foul line. Use this to measure your approach; ultimately you want your final step to end within a foot from the foul line to optimize your throws. Now stand up straight. Wherever your grip is, the other hand is used to support the ball. If you’re going straight, put your support at the top of the ball. If you’re going for a hook, have your support at the side slightly tilting the ball.

For more reference on how to make a hook bowling ball, look for my article entitled ‘How to Perform a Hook Bowling Ball’. The proper starting form would be: stand straight, feet together pointing forward, knees bent very slightly, bowling arm elbow kept close to the hip and the wrist gripping the ball firm and in a ready delivery. If you are ready, begin your approach. It really helps if you have kept a close eye on how other players start their approach. Don’t rush it; take your time to adjust your timing. Keep in mind, approach and release.

Tips for bowling – Swing
The trickiest part is the swing; also the defining factor between noobs and skilled bowlers. As you start the approach, try to mentally set a four step approach. That way, you can anticipate where you will end. As you begin the steps, swing your gripping arm backwards slowly. Do the backward swing in the junction of your three steps. On the fourth step, begin your release.

The fourth step is done effectively with a slide, leg bent low and your other leg left behind stretched from the last step. As you complete the sliding fourth step, swing your gripping arm towards your target, stooping slightly to release and roll the ball. I cannot stress this enough: always observe the other players do the forms, you will gain enough information on how to execute yours.

For more information about bowling and how to improve your play, check out my other articles.

Bowling Supplies

Every game needs a specific set of equipment in order to be competent. I have yet to see a professional player without his own set of bowling supplies. It doesn’t add to the stature as one may oppose but having a proper mind set on the game is always invaluable to your performance on the lane. And having your own supplies do contribute strongly to you mindset.

A number of my friends a while back had started going with me to my regular bowling sessions and soon enough the game hooked them. So when I noticed them visiting the local bowling centers quite regularly, I advised them to have their own bowling supplies so that they can move towards the next step to becoming a decent player.

Bowling is perhaps one of those games that require so much equipment but the most critical of the bowling supplies are in fact few.

Bowling Ball

This is your main weapon, your ace and your bat. Of all the bowling supplies, this comes first. Why? Choosing the right ball can compensate your weakness; plastic or polyester balls for accuracy and reactive balls for stronger hooks. Likewise there are balls that do perform better in certain conditions.

Bowling Shoes

Bowling shoes are built for one effect -sliding. If you have an idea on how to perform a correct ball delivery, you can appreciate the effect of a sliding shoe. One shoe sole afford the essential slide, and the other gives the brake.

These are the core item every serious bowler should have. Without these, performance could be severely degraded. The next list features the secondary bowling supplies bowlers should consider obtaining.

Bowling Bags

Every bowler’s handy organizer. The fact that it has compartments intended for bowling ball should claim importance. Quite logical, too, to keep your bowling supplies in a bowling bag since it specifically made to accommodate every bowler’s items such as bowling shoes and bowling ball compartment, a feature that lacks in ordinary bags.


Towels have a handful of uses: to clean bowling balls and to clean hands, to clean the floor and to wipe away perspiration. No one objects the importance of towels. Just remember to bring several for each use.

I could go on prattling about bowling supplies, but it only goes with the adage: if you think you’re going to need it, then bring it. A powder, extra shoelaces, a shoe brush to clean shoe soles, hand conditioner, rosin, sole pads and slugs or inserts, or even fingernail clippers. Just bring it for it to be when the time of need arises.

Bowling History

Bowling history may be as old as the earliest civilizations along the Nile, yet the sport has still attracted multitudes of young and old to deliver a ball down the alley for a strike.
The game of bowling can be traced back to the ancient Egypt. When Sir Flinders Petrie, a British Anthropologist, discovered a child’s burial place in Egypt, he also uncovered remains of toys which studies revealed to be a game very much similar to bowling. The artifacts had dated at least 7000 years into the past, showing considerable evidence that earlier civilizations had enjoyed a sort of bowling-like sport.

Perhaps the strongest candidate for the bowling history was the German culture. In ancient Germany, peasants declare themselves free of sin by sticking a wooden club called Kegel into the earth. Then the peasant would try to knock the Kegel down by rolling a stone. And if he succeeds in knocking the Kegel, he is considered as free of sin. This had been a secular practice but eventually it moved out of the church to become a sport that the common German people enjoyed.

Martin Luther standardized the game with nine pins and called it Kegel. A wooden ball has replaced the stone and multiple pins were used to replace the Kegel. From Germany, the game spread over the neighboring countries. And from outdoors, the sport also had moved indoors, into taverns and inns and specifically made sheds with lanes of wood or sun baked clay. There had been variations of the game as well, like the French Petanque, the British Lawn Bowling, and the Italian Bocce.

Bowling was widespread during the renaissance in the old world. Bowling greens have appeared on wealthy European aristocrats. Bowling shoes and attire are displayed in the public and ladies are modeled wearing bowling attire. At some time, the English king Edward allegedly outlawed the game because his troops were more interested in bowling than the archery practice.

During the days of colonization, bowling made it to the New World by European immigrants. Bowling of that time became so widespread in taverns and inns, so naturally, taverns and inns in the New World would also host bowling alleys. It was believed that the Dutch immigrants were mostly responsible for the propagation of bowling in the US, especially the nine-pin setting.

As America gained independence, bowling also became one of the dominant games in the US. Bowling alleys have sprung up in crowded cities, until it became a focal point in crime, gambling and extortion. Eventually, the nine-pin games of bowling were banned; to get around the law, the ten-pin bowling was invented and bowling continued to thrive.

The American Bowling Congress (ABC) was formed in 1895, a national federation of bowling clubs. Under its leadership, bowling continued its popularity. With the advent of the automatic pin-setting machine, bowling further pick up its fame. Today, the ABC estimated there are 50 million bowlers nationwide. Bowling history has its roots from the ancient civilization but the branches had reached out clearly into our era.

Choosing the right Bowling Ball

Most bowling enthusiasts agree on one thing: if you’re into bowling seriously, go get yourself a ball. I don’t know what the effect that would have on you, but I always love to have my own ball with me every game. And by the way, bowling balls are still available if you play at any bowling centers, but nothing beats your own ball in hand. After using your bowling ball for some time, the familiarity of the ball will start to sink in, like what it is capable of and what it isn’t, the weight of the ball and how it will hook in the lane.

Bowling balls are always a hot topic. Not only novices but also advanced players every now and then go out of the way to buy a bowling ball. Why? Specific purpose. Not only bowling balls avail to suit a playing style, some bowling balls are best suited for specific conditions such as dry lanes. Reactive balls afford more hooks than a plastic ball, but with a much too dry lane, a hook could lead the ball straight instead to the gutter.

Given that balls can get real expensive and it is quite tricky in selecting the right ball, a good choice must be made. If you’re not careful, the ball may end up unused in the attic for a long time, and that would be nasty.