Bundoran Glowbowl

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Bundoran Glowbowl & Macks Amusements ~ Main Street ~ Bundoran ~ County Donegal ~ Ireland ~ F94 P9FD

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Understanding the game of Ten Pin Bowling


Bowling Pin Numbers

There are ten frames in one game. You have two chances to knock down the ten pins in each frame (see the explanations for strike and spare). Note that the tenth frame rewards you with a final bonus ball if you convert your spare (or make two strikes). You can thus throw nine strikes in the first nine frames and, if you get another two in the tenth, the bonus ball means the most strikes you can have in one game is twelve. This is called a perfect game..
Getting all ten pins down with one ball is not as easy as it seems! So, if you leave one or more pins standing after your first delivery, you get a second chance to knock all the pins down, this is your "spare" shot. If you knock all remaining pins down on the second shot you have made your spare. A spare is marked on the scoresheet with a "/". It takes skill to consistently make spares and the scoring system rewards you by adding in the pins from the next ball into the current frame. See also split.
When the bowler knocks down all ten pins with the first delivery of the ball it is called a strike. Clearly your score goes up by ten, but like a spare, you get a bonus - your next two deliveries are added to the score. Stringing strikes together will raise your score dramatically  Marked on the scoresheet with an "X".

Understanding Scoring on the Overhead Monitors

Everyone is thankful for the electronic scoring at the bowling alley. We see our score come on the screen above us, but many of us don't know how it is determined. Hopefully the following exercises will clear up this mystery.

The score board for a bowling game has ten frames. During each frame, the player gets two tries to knock down all of the ten pins. The number knocked down is recorded:

In this frame, the player knocked down 5 pins with the first ball and 4 pins with the second. His score for this frame is therefore 9, the sum of 5 and 4.

You also should note that the score of a single frame is dependent upon the score of the frame before it. For example, the score in the second frame below is 13 because you must add the 5 pins from the first frame to the 8 from the second.


Now comes the tricky part:

Note how a strikeand a spareare marked on the score board.


A strike is when a player knocks down all ten pins on the first ball of a frame. The score for this frame is 10 plus the number of pins scored by the next two balls. In the following example, the score of frame 1 is 18 (10+3+5), and the score for frame 2 is 26 (18+3+5):

A spare is when a player knocks down all ten pins using two balls. The score for this frame is 10 plus the number of pins scored by the first ball of the next frame. In the following example, the score of frame 1 is 14 (10+4), and the score for frame 2 is 20 (14+4+2):


Bowling explained

The bowler can have up to two attempts at knocking down a set of ten pins. Any that are knocked down at the first attempt are removed and the bowler tries to knock down the remainder. Knocking all of the pins down with the first ball is called a 'strike', and knocking down all the remaining pins on the second go is called a 'spare'.

A game of bowling consists of ten frames, and the maximum you can score is 300 points. Let us imagine we have two bowlers, John and Mary. John bowls and knocks all of the pins down with his first ball. This is a strike, and an 'X' is marked in the Frame 1 box on the overhead monitor, but the total is left blank as John may score bonus points with his next two balls. John does not get a second ball in this frame as there is nothing left to knock over. Mary steps up to take her turn. Mary knocks over 9 pins with her first ball. A 9 appears in the Frame 1 box for Mary. With her second ball she knocks over the last pin. She has 'picked up a spare' and a '/' appears next to the 9. No total is put in as a spare means that you can score bonus points with your next ball.

John bowls his second ball and knocks down eight pins, leaving the 7 and 10 pins standing. This is known as a 'split' because these pins are separated from each other, and getting a 'spare' from this is very difficult. With his second ball he knocks down the 7 pin. In Frame 2 of the overhead monitor he gets 8 and a 1 next to it. He scored 10 from his first ball in Frame 1 and 9 from the next two balls (8 and 1) so the total in Frame 1 is 19. As he did not get a spare in Frame 2 there are no bonuses due,  the 9 is added to the 19 and so the total score is 28 in Frame 2.

Mary bowls the first ball of Frame 2 and gets a strike. She is delighted. She gets an 'X' in the box for Frame 2.  Her 9 + 1 in Frame 1 added to the next ball, which was a strike, now adds up to 20 so this is the total in Frame 1. She has no total for Frame 2 yet, because it will be added in the value of the next two balls following her strike.

Frames 1 to 9 are identical in their scoring, and then you come to the tenth and final frame. On the overhead monitor this looks different from the others, as it has an extra space. This is to allow the bonuses to be put in if the player scores a strike or a spare in this frame. If you get a strike with your first ball in the tenth frame, you are allowed two more balls. You could get three strikes in the tenth. You could get a spare in your first two balls; this then means you are allowed one extra ball to get the bonus points for your spare. Of course you may not knock all of the pins down with the first two balls and you get no further bonus goes and your game is finished.

A strike in every frame and two extra strikes in the tenth scores as follows: 30, 60, 90, 120, 150, 180, 210, 240, 270 and 300 giving the maximum score. Strangely enough a strike alternating with a spare throughout the game gives a score of 200.


Bowling Technique

You will notice lots of dots and arrows marking the floor, with dots on the approach and arrows on the lane. These are to help you position yourself as you bowl. Before you start, walk up to the black line, called the 'Foul Line', that marks the beginning of the lane. Turn your back to the pins and take three reasonable paces. Now look down at your feet and note how you are positioned in relation to the dots on the floor. Use this as a guide for where to start your bowling approach.

Turn the ball over if you cannot see the holes. Your correctly-sized ball should be measured up like this: put your thumb in the biggest hole and place the rest of your hand flat on the ball. The thumb hole should be neither too loose nor too tight. The other two holes should line up with the middle knuckles of your middle two fingers (not the index finger). Place your thumb and fingers in the ball while it is firmly placed on the stand. Always pick up the ball with two hands from the stand and take more of the weight in your left hand. Stand at the position you paced out for yourself earlier on and bring the ball up to your chin so that you are looking at the pins over the top of the ball. Your thumb should be closest to your face if you have the ball the right way round. When you are ready you will push the ball away from yourself in a big arc (don't let go yet) while you take your first step with your left foot. As you move forward in your three-step approach the ball swings behind you, you begin to slightly crouch. Let the ball come back in the same arc and let go as you and the ball arrive at the 'Foul Line' simultaneously. Your left foot (the one opposite to the hand you bowl with) should be in front of you. The ball should not bounce but glide smoothly down the lane, and if your aim is true hit the 'pocket', which is the space between the 1 and 3 pins.

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