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Bowling: Skills, Strategies & Rules

Instructor: Jennifer Nemeth

Jennifer is a Registered Nurse with experience in Med/Surg, Orthopedics and Neurology. She also holds a B.A.

Bowling is an activity that can be enjoyed by participants of all ages, for recreation as well as on a competitive level. Learn about the rules, equipment, safety, skills, and techniques needed to participate successfully in this time-honored sport.

The Bowling Basics: Rules, Safety and Equipment

Bowling is a sport most everyone can delight in - no matter if you are older, younger, novice, or professional, most everyone has bowled at least once in their lifetime. Whether at a children's birthday party or a competitive tournament, there are some basic things you need to know to be an effective bowler:

• Playing surface and necessary equipment

• Basic safety and etiquette concepts

• Understanding of the rules and scoring

Playing Surface and Equipment: Unlike other sports that are played on a field or a court, athletes bowl on a hardwood or urethane lane that measures 60 feet long (to the first pin) by 42 inches wide. The foul line is at the near end of the lane and the bowling pins are at the far end. Leading up to the foul line is a large 15-foot zone that is referred to as the approach. This is where the bowler does just that - they approach, or advance, to the foul line. On either side of the lane are gutters, which the bowler should try to avoid. A gutter ball is one that has left the lane and has fallen into a gutter, therefore out of play and missing the pins. The bowling ball, whether it has struck pins or landed in the gutter, is returned to the player via a conveyor system under the lane.

Ten hard maple bowling pins of regulation weight are used and are set up in four rows, beginning with a single head pin. The head pin is followed by two pins, increasing by a single pin in each row.

The bowling ball typically weighs between 10 and 16 pounds, although lighter ones can be used for children. The ball is usually pre-drilled with three finger holes for the middle fingers and thumb.

Special shoes must be worn for bowling to prevent damage to the lane. The shoes are often colorful, with soles made of hard leather or vinyl to allow the bowler to slide on the lane.

Bowler Bowling
Bowler Bowling

Safety and Etiquette: Bowling is a relatively safe sport, especially when you follow the basic safety guidelines. Do not throw, or loft, the bowling ball. Not only could this injure yourself or another person, it can also damage the lane. Make sure you do not release your ball until the sweep bar on the automatic pinsetter has lifted to avoid damage to the equipment. Be mindful of putting your hand or fingers directly into the ball return to avoid injury.

Bowling Ball Return
Bowling Ball Return

Manners are important in the bowling alley as well. Do not enter the approach until the bowler to the side of you has completed their turn. This helps limit distraction of the player. Once you have finished your turn, do not linger in the approach as another player is likely waiting to bowl. Try to keep your celebration or despair to a minimum as not to disturb other bowlers.

Rules and scoring: Bowling is relatively straightforward. A game consists of 10 frames and the bowler is allowed to roll the ball two times in each frame to attempt to knock down all the pins. A strike is when the player succeeds in knocking down all ten pins with the first roll. A spare is when the player is able to knock down the remaining pins with the second roll. An open frame is one where the player is not able to knock down all the pins during the frame.

If an open frame was bowled, the player receives one point for each pin that was knocked down. If a spare was achieved, the score sheet will show a '/' mark in the right-hand square and once the player rolls their next ball, 10 bonus points will be added to the total number of pins knocked down by that one turn. Similarly, if a strike is bowled, the score sheet is marked with an 'X' and the bowler receives 10 bonus points to the number of pins knocked down in the next two rolls.

In the example below, the player bowled a strike, so the form is marked with the 'X'. The next two balls the player knocked down a total of 9 pins, so he received a score of 19 for the strike (10 bonus points + 9) and then 9 points added to the strike score for the 9 pins he knocked down the frame following the strike (19 + 3 + 6 = 28).

How to Mark Down a Strike Score
How to Mark Down a Strike Score

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