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Bowling is one of the oldest and most enduringly popular sports in existence.

The right ball can determine success or failure in bowling. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
The right ball can determine success or failure in bowling.


People have enjoyed bowling for thousands of years. Bowling pins and balls were even discovered in the tomb of an ancient Egyptian king who died in 5,200 BC, according to the official Web site of the Professional Bowlers Association.

Bowling remains a popular sport today. Eighty-five percent of the American population has gone bowling at least once, according to Active.com. However, when it comes to technique, many people simply roll the ball down the lane without much thought. A few simple tips can help beginning bowlers improve their game.

The Game of Bowling

Modern bowling games consist of 10 frames. Each frame represents one turn for a player, who gets to roll the ball twice per frame, if necessary.

The bowling ball is rolled down a 60-foot lane that is 42 inches wide. Bowlers make an approach, which means they walk down a 15-foot area to roll the ball down the lane, aiming it at the pins at the end. Gutters line both sides of the lane. The goal is to knock down as many pins as possible.

Ten pins stand in four rows, with a single pin in the first row, two pins in the second row, three in the third row, and four in the fourth row.

If all pins are knocked down, the player records a strike and doesn't bowl again during the frame. If the player knocks down all pins by the second roll of the frame, the player records a spare.

Regulation pins are 15 inches high and manufactured out of hard maple. Regulation bowling balls weigh 10 to 16 pounds.


If the player does not knock down all of the pins in two tries, the number of pins knocked down is simply entered onto the score sheet for that frame. In the event of a spare, the player marks down a slash and does not enter a score until bowling the next frame. The number of pins knocked down in the first roll of the subsequent frame plus 10 points is added to the score.

In the event of a strike, the number of pins knocked down in both rolls of the subsequent frame, plus 10 points, is added to the score. A strike is recorded as an X.

A perfect game, 12 strikes, is 300 points. Two additional rolls are added to the 10 frames if the bowler gets a strike in the tenth frame.

Tips for Beginning Bowlers

According to USBC Coaching and Bowlers Paradise, beginning bowlers can improve their game by following these tips:

  • Use insert tape. This tape goes in the thumbhole of the bowling ball to prevent slipping.
  • Brush bowling shoes. Using a brush on the bottoms of the special bowling shoes can prevent shoes from sliding.
  • Practice the right hook. Rolling a ball straight is unlikely to produce strikes. Rolling it at an angle into the pocket will.
  • Concentrate. Keep an eye on the target at all times when bowling. Use the arrows in the lane to align the ball. USBC Coaching recommends taking a deep breath before bowling to improve focus.
  • Use a four-step approach when swinging the ball. The Bowling Coach offers diagrams of the method. The first step should be short, to maintain balance. The hand then moves into a back swing. This approach begins four-and-a-half steps from the line.
  • Keep the shoulders straight at all times during the delivery.
  • Maintain proper ball position. In starting stance, keep the ball to the side, not in front.
  • Move in the direction of a miss. Keep the target in sight while moving. USBC Coaching considers this the Golden Rule of bowling.
  • Change the ball height to match tempo. Most people hold the bowling ball at waist height.
  • Use a relaxed swing. A relaxed swing, rather than a muscled swing, is best.
  • Carefully select a ball. Start out with two balls, one for strikes, and one for spares. Spare balls are usually made of plastic and don't grip the lane. Strike balls grip the lane. Ask a professional bowling coach which ball is best, as everything from weight to strength will be considered. The other option is to use a house ball, which is a ball typically used by beginners at bowling alleys. However, house balls are often flawed and aren't tailored to an individual bowlers needs.
  • Practice grips. Understand the difference between conventional and fingertip grips. Using a conventional grip helps a bowler keep the ball straight. With a conventional grip, the fingers sink into the ball to the second knuckle. Fingertip grip balls stop at the first knuckle and allow the ball to curve more.

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