Bowling Terms

Bowling Terms -


  • The spin on the ball and the movement of the pins caused by that spin. A relatively slow ball with a lot of action can be much more effective than a very fast ball with little action.
  • The way the pins bounce around hitting each other ending with a good result


The bowler's stance before beginning the approach.


A change of your game to be more competitive on a particular lane. This can mean an alignment change, equipment change or something else


  • The space extending back from the foul line used to make the steps and delivery.
  • How the bowler gets to the foul line.


A player has "area" if they are able to hit a larger number of boards and still get the ball back to the pocket. Modern high scoring environments can often give a player a 5-8 board area.


The path your arm takes from your pushaway to release. Generally it is desirable to have your armswing in a consistent plane of movement.


The triangles on the lane to help you aim the shot

Baby Split

The 2-7 or 3-10 split. Usually easy to pick up

Back End

The far end of the lane where the most hook can happen.

Bad Rack

A full set of pins that appears to have one or more badly positioned pin(s)


A string of strikes; i.e., four bagger is four strikes in a row.

Balance hole

As a general rule, if you take a bowling ball and place the label in front of you and then exactly dissect the ball into two equal halfs, a right and left side, the gross weight of each half would be the same. However, if you dissect the ball off center, a greater portion of the weight block will be on one side of the ball, possibly making that half of the ball too heavy vis-a-vis the other half; also, modern high tech balls and their asymmetrical cores can be drilled in such a manner as to be in violation of the maximum tolerances allowed by the USBC for side to side weight (which is a one ounce differential); to get the ball back to legal compliance an extra, non-gripping hole may be drilled to remove the excess weight. This extra hole is the balance hole. The balance hole can also be used to increase or decrease a ball's reaction and/or to fine tune a more subtle change in ball reaction.

Ball Return

The piece of equipment that returns the ball after a throw.

Ball Spinner

A machine that is used to spin a ball so that a user can apply ball polish or sand the ball down quickly.

Ball Track

  • The area of the lane where most balls are thrown;
  • the area on a ball where the ball rolls.

Big Four

The 4-6-7-10 split.

Blind Score

When a bowler's average is used as their score when figuring the team's total for each game. (usually for an absent bowler)


A lane consists of 39 strips of wood, each called boards; they are usually numbered by the bowler and used as targeting terms

Break Point

The portion on the lane where the thrown ball begins to hook back to the pocket. Finding the proper breakpoint (called "breakpoint management") is critical to the modern game. A ball that hooks too early or one that hooks too late will make it very difficult for a player to be consistent. Breakpoints can be adjusted by making changes in alignment, target, ball, ball surface and ball speed.


Refers to a ball that crosses over to the other side of the head pin opposite the side it was thrown (example: a Brooklyn strike would hit the 1-2 pocket for a right-hand bowler).


The oil conditioner on the lane does not soak into the boards, it sits on top. As balls are thrown, the oil is subtly may be pushed left and right, or, it may be moved farther down the lane (carried down). Usually, but not always, a house with a lot of carrydown will not allow a ball to hook as much on the back ends and scores will be lower. In some houses and oil patterns, the initial pattern is too much over/under and carry increases as the carrydown effect takes place. Carrydown is invisible to bowlers and cannot be seen. A top professional can anticipate carrydown and make adjustments accordingly.


To knock down one pin of a spare leave, while the pin next to or behind it remains standing.

Clean Game

A game without any open frames.(all strikes or spares)


Another name for lane oil.


Usually the number of pins knocked down in the next frame that apply to a spare or a strike.


The material that makes up the outer part of the ball; the hardness, texture, and shine of a bowling ball. It is generally defined as “Aggressive”, meaning it is made of a high friction material that is prone to large hook or flip when it encounters dry boards; or, “Medium” which displays less tendency to hook; and, “Mild/Mellow” which is the lowest friction material and the least sensitive to dry lanes.


The inconsistency in a bowler’s footwork For example, if you place the inside edge of your slide foot on board 15 on the approach, but your inside edge slides on the 12 board at the foul line, you have a three board inward drift.

Early Timing

Releasing the ball before the sliding foot completes its slide; usually results in less hook and a weaker ball as the player does not have the proper balance and leverage to hit up on the ball.


The angle relative to where a ball enters the pocket. As a general rule, increasing the angle means increased strikes (This is why a  preference for a ball that hooks a lot)

Finger Grips

Inserts that are placed in the finger and/or thumb holes that allow a better grip and allows for a better spin.


The migration of the ball track from the bowler's initial axis- the axis upon release-to the final axis-the axis at the moment of impact with the pins.


Hitting solid in the pocket.

Follow Through

The motion of your arm after the ball leaves your hand. It’s best practice to move it towards your target and upward as it helps promote better accuracy.


Crossing or allowing your foot to touch the foul line at delivery. It's counted as zero pins. If the foul occurs on the first ball of a frame, the bowler gets a second shot at a new rack.

Foul Line

The line that separates the approach area from the beginning of the playing surface.


A game of bowling is divided into 10 frames. In each frame there are two chances to knock down all the pins, except in the 10th frame.


An adjustment in scores in order to equalize competition by adding pins on a predetermined basis.

Head Pin

The 1 pin.

High Hit

hitting too much head pin on a strike attempt.


The bowling establishment or building.


The side boards around the pins that divide lanes, where pins frequently rebound or "kick" back onto the lane aiding in pin action.

King Pin

The 5-pin.


The pins left standing after the first ball has been rolled.


The distance the ball travels between time of release and the time it hits the lane.


A type of competition where nine (9) pins on the first ball is scored as a strike. There are also 8 pin no-tap competitions

Open Frame

A frame having neither a spare or strike.

Out of Bounds

An area from which the ball can't get to the pocket with its usual break. If, for example, a right-handed bowler delivers the ball from too far to the right, it is said to be out of bounds.


To a professional bowler, a 200 game. Other it might be their average

Perfect Game

Twelve consecutive strikes, resulting in a 300 game. The highest possible bowling score

Pin Deck

Area on which the pins are set.


The area of the lane behind the pin deck.


Angle at which the holes in a ball are drilled.


The desirable location for the ball to hit for the best strike potential. Generally the area between the 1-3 pins (right-hand player) or the 1-2 pins (left-hand player).

Radius of Gyration (RG)

Identifies how fast a ball begins to rotate once it leaves the bowler's hand.


Resetting the pins to a new full rack.

Revoution (Revs)

The number of times the ball rolls over its circumference from when it is released until it hits the pins.


Purposefully keeping an average low so that person can receive a bigger handicap.


The total score the bowler makes without any handicap.


How the ball reacts when it first hits the lane


A rear pin that is hard to see because of a pin directly in front of it


The distance between the thumb and finger holes on a ball


To knock down the remaining pins standing with the second throw.


A gap between two or more pins Examples: 4-5, 5-6, 4-10, 6-7, 7-10, 4-6-7-10.


Knocking down all 10 pins with the first throw .


Three strikes in a row

Vent Hole

An extra hole drilled to relieve suction in the thumb hole.

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