20 bowling terms every player should know

20 Bowling Terms Every Player Should Know

Are you new to the world of bowling or looking to expand your knowledge of the game?

Our article, “20 Bowling Terms Every Player Should Know,” is here to help you navigate the bowling alley with confidence.

From the basics like strikes and spares to more specialized terms like split and carry, this article covers essential bowling terminology that every player should be familiar with.

Understanding these terms will not only enhance your understanding of the game but also improve your communication with fellow bowlers.

So join us as we expand your bowling vocabulary to take your game to the next level.

20 Bowling Terms Every Player Should Know


A Strike

A strike in bowling is an exhilarating moment for any player.

It occurs when a bowler successfully knocks down all 10 pins with their very first ball of a frame. The impact of a strike is twofold – not only does it result in an immediate 10 points, but it also sets the stage for potential bonus points.

When a strike is achieved, the frame is instantly concluded, allowing the player to move on to the next frame without throwing a second ball.

This grants them the opportunity to accumulate additional points in the subsequent frames.

Furthermore, a strike initiates a thrilling chain reaction as the pins crash and scatter, providing a satisfying display of precision and power.


A spare in bowling occurs when a player successfully knocks down all 10 pins, but not on the first ball of a frame. It involves using both throws to clear the remaining pins.

When a spare is achieved, the player earns an immediate 10 points, just like a strike. While it may not be as exhilarating as a strike, a spare is still a valuable outcome as it allows the player to continue accumulating points and maintains their momentum in the game.

It requires precision and careful adjustment after the first ball to ensure that the remaining pins are knocked down with the second ball, showcasing the player’s adaptability and ability to strategize on the fly.


A split in bowling refers to a situation where the first ball of a frame leaves a noticeable gap between two or more standing pins.

It presents a challenging scenario for the player, as the remaining pins are separated, making it difficult to knock them all down with a single throw.

Splits can come in various forms, such as the 7-10 split, where only the two corner pins remain, or the more common 3-10 split, known as the baby split. Dealing with a split requires careful consideration and strategy.

Players must adjust their aim and approach, aiming to hit one side of the split in such a way that it rebounds into the remaining pins.

Successfully converting a split is a remarkable feat, often drawing admiration from fellow players and spectators due to the skill and precision required to accomplish it.


In the game of bowling, a turkey refers to an impressive feat accomplished by a player who achieves three consecutive strikes.

It is a term that denotes a remarkable display of skill, precision, and consistency.

When a player throws three strikes in a row, the consecutive strikes are often celebrated and acknowledged as a turkey. This achievement not only demonstrates a high level of bowling proficiency but also brings a significant scoring advantage.

The player earns an immediate 30 points for the three strikes and sets themselves up for a potential high-scoring game.

The term “turkey” is believed to have originated from the tradition of awarding bowlers with a live turkey as a prize for accomplishing this impressive feat in the early days of the sport.

Today, achieving a turkey remains a notable milestone and a source of excitement and motivation for bowlers striving for excellence on the lanes.


In the game of bowling, a frame refers to a fundamental unit of play.

It represents a single round of bowling for each player. Within a frame, each player has the opportunity to make two throws or rolls of the bowling ball. The objective is to knock down as many pins as possible with each throw.

The frame serves as a building block for the overall score and progression of the game. After completing a frame, the player’s score is calculated based on the number of pins knocked down.

A typical game consists of ten frames, with each frame presenting a fresh opportunity to accumulate points.

The frame structure provides a rhythm and structure to the game, allowing players to strategize and adapt their approach as they progress through each round of throws.


The lane is a vital component of the bowling alley where players deliver their bowling balls. It is the designated area where the game takes place and serves as the playing surface.

Lanes are typically long and narrow, constructed with a smooth and polished surface to facilitate the smooth movement of the ball.

The lane is divided into different sections, including the approach, the foul line, and the pin deck.

The approach is the portion of the lane where bowlers make their approach and prepare to release the ball. The foul line marks the boundary between the approach and the lane, and stepping over it results in a foul.

The pin deck is located at the end of the lane, where the pins are set up for players to aim at and knock down. The condition of the lane, such as the oil pattern, can significantly impact the ball’s trajectory and overall gameplay.

Understanding and adapting to the characteristics of the lane is crucial for bowlers to achieve consistent and successful throws.


The approach in bowling is the designated area of the lane where bowlers prepare and make their approach before releasing the ball.

It serves as an integral part of a player’s execution and plays a significant role in achieving a successful throw. The approach is located just before the foul line and typically consists of a polished and well-maintained surface to allow for smooth footwork.

Bowlers utilize the approach to establish their rhythm, timing, and positioning for the delivery.

It involves a series of coordinated steps, often accompanied by a specific footwork technique, as bowlers build momentum and generate power to propel the ball down the lane.

A well-executed approach is essential for consistent and accurate throws, as it sets the foundation for the release and determines the initial direction and speed of the ball.

By honing their approach, bowlers can optimize their technique and increase their chances of achieving their desired outcomes on the lane.


In bowling, a foul occurs when a player crosses or touches the foul line while throwing the ball. The foul line serves as a boundary between the approach and the lane, and crossing it results in a nullified throw with no points awarded.

It is important for bowlers to stay behind the foul line to ensure fair play and accurate scoring. Foul calls are usually made by sensors or observers who detect any infringement.

Stepping over the foul line can happen due to a lack of control or a misstep during the delivery.

It is crucial for bowlers to maintain their balance and control to prevent fouls and maximize their scoring potential.

Foul shots are not counted in the frame and do not contribute to the player’s overall score.

It is essential to remain mindful of the foul line and maintain proper technique and form throughout the game to avoid losing valuable points due to fouls.


Hook in bowling refers to a technique where a bowler imparts a significant amount of spin on the ball, causing it to curve as it travels down the lane.

This curving motion is a result of the ball’s rotational force interacting with the lane’s surface and the oil pattern applied to it.

The hook is achieved by using a combination of factors such as the release, ball speed, and the angle of approach. When executed properly, the hook can be a powerful weapon in a bowler’s arsenal, allowing them to hit the pins at an optimal angle for maximum pin action.

By curving around the lane, the hook enables the ball to make a sharper entry into the pocket, increasing the likelihood of strikes.

Skilled bowlers often fine-tune their hooking technique to adapt to various lane conditions and improve their scoring potential.

Related post: How To Hook A Bowling Ball With Conventional Grip

Backup Ball

A backup ball in bowling refers to a unique type of throw where a right-handed bowler’s ball curves left or a left-handed bowler’s ball curves right.

It is a deviation from the conventional hooking technique, where the ball typically curves in the opposite direction.

The backup ball is intentionally executed by altering the hand position, release, or ball rotation to create this reverse hook. While it is not as common as the traditional hook, the backup ball can be a useful tool when faced with challenging lane conditions or specific pin configurations.

It allows bowlers to approach the pocket from a different angle, potentially increasing their chances of knocking down stubborn pins or converting difficult spares.

Skilled bowlers who have mastered the backup ball can effectively incorporate it into their repertoire, adding versatility to their game and enhancing their overall performance.


In bowling, a Brooklyn refers to a situation where a right-handed bowler’s ball strikes the left side of the headpin or a left-handed bowler’s ball strikes the right side of the headpin.

It is considered a fortuitous outcome since the ball crosses over to the opposite side of the lane, hitting the pins from an unexpected angle.

While the Brooklyn shot may be unintended, it can result in a successful outcome, leading to pinfall and scoring points.

The term “Brooklyn” originates from the area in New York City where the game of bowling gained popularity.

When a Brooklyn occurs, it often surprises both the bowler and observers, adding an element of excitement and unpredictability to the game.

Though it may not be the preferred or intended shot, a Brooklyn can sometimes prove advantageous in knocking down pins and can contribute to a bowler’s overall score.


In bowling, the pocket refers to the specific area between the 1 and 3 pins for right-handed bowlers or the 1 and 2 pins for left-handed bowlers. It is considered the ideal spot to hit for optimal pin action.

When the ball enters the pocket, it has the highest chance of generating maximum pin action, resulting in a higher probability of strikes.

Hitting the pocket allows the ball to drive through the pins with sufficient power and angle, increasing the likelihood of multiple pins falling in a single throw.

Skilled bowlers aim to consistently target the pocket to achieve the best scoring outcomes.

The pocket is a key area of focus, and precise alignment, accuracy, and ball control are crucial to consistently find and hit this sweet spot on the lane.

Ball Speed

Ball speed in bowling refers to the velocity at which the bowler releases the ball down the lane. It is an essential factor that can greatly influence the ball’s trajectory and interaction with the pins.

The ball speed is determined by the bowler’s delivery technique, strength, and the amount of force applied during the release.

A faster ball speed can be advantageous as it allows the ball to cover more distance quickly and potentially generate more pin action.

However, it also increases the challenge of controlling the ball’s direction and accuracy. On the other hand, a slower ball speed may provide greater control and precision but may result in reduced pin carry and potential for strikes.

Finding the right balance of ball speed is important for each bowler to suit their individual style and to adapt to different lane conditions.

Skilled bowlers often possess the ability to adjust their ball speed as needed to optimize their performance on the lanes.

Oil Pattern

Oil pattern in bowling refers to the specific pattern of oil applied to the surface of the bowling lane. It is a critical aspect of the game as it significantly influences ball movement and lane conditions.

The oil pattern is carefully selected and applied to the lane to create varying levels of difficulty and challenge for bowlers.

Different oil patterns can alter the ball’s friction and skid, impacting its speed, angle of entry, and overall hook potential.

Oil patterns can be categorized as “dry” or “wet,” with dry patterns providing less oil on the lane and promoting greater friction, while wet patterns offer more oil, reducing friction and allowing the ball to glide more smoothly.

The oil pattern’s complexity and distribution play a crucial role in determining how the ball will react, influencing a bowler’s strategy, equipment selection, and shot execution.

Understanding and adapting to the oil pattern is essential for bowlers to make accurate adjustments, optimize their ball motion, and achieve consistent performance on the lanes.

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Ball Weight

Ball weight in bowling refers to the specific weight of the bowling ball used by players during a game. It is a crucial factor that can significantly impact a bowler’s performance and overall game strategy.

Bowling balls typically range in weight from 10 to 16 pounds, with variations available within this range to cater to different bowler preferences and physical abilities.

Choosing the right ball weight is essential for achieving the desired ball speed, control, and accuracy. A heavier ball can generate more power and pin carry, making it advantageous for bowlers with greater strength and momentum.

However, it may require more physical effort to control and deliver accurately. Conversely, a lighter ball offers increased maneuverability and control, but may lack the desired power and pin action.

Selecting the optimal ball weight depends on factors such as a bowler’s skill level, physical condition, and personal preference. It is essential to find the right balance to maximize performance and minimize fatigue during a game.

Strike Ball

A strike ball in bowling refers to a ball that is specifically designed to maximize striking power. It is engineered to provide optimal pin carry and increase the likelihood of knocking down all pins in a single throw.

Strike balls are carefully crafted with various core designs, coverstock materials, and surface finishes to enhance their hook potential, control, and hitting power.

They are often built to create a strong backend reaction, allowing the ball to hook sharply towards the pins for a devastating impact.

Bowlers choose strike balls based on their individual style, lane conditions, and personal preferences.

These balls are typically higher performance and tailored for more experienced or competitive bowlers seeking high scores and consistent strikes.

Utilizing a well-matched strike ball can significantly enhance a bowler’s ability to achieve successful outcomes and maximize their scoring potential on the lanes.

Spare Ball

A spare ball in bowling is a specialized ball used specifically for picking up spares. It is typically a plastic or urethane ball with reduced hook potential compared to a strike ball.

Spare balls are designed to provide consistent and predictable motion, minimizing the chances of the ball hooking too much and potentially missing the target pins.

The reduced hook potential allows bowlers to target specific pins with greater accuracy and confidence, increasing the likelihood of converting spare opportunities.

Spare balls are often selected based on their straighter trajectory, durability, and reliability. They are particularly useful for spare shooting situations where precision and control are paramount.

By employing a spare ball, bowlers can effectively improve their spare conversion rates and enhance their overall scoring performance on the lanes.


Carry in bowling refers to the manner in which the pins react and fall after being struck by the bowling ball. It measures the effectiveness of pin action and determines how many pins are knocked down with each throw.

Good carry refers to pins falling in a desirable and efficient manner, resulting in high pinfall and increased scoring potential.

When a ball has good carry, it generates enough power and angle to propel the pins in various directions, increasing the chance of multiple pin collisions and maximizing the chances of strikes.

Factors such as ball speed, entry angle, pin deflection, and pin spacing all contribute to the overall carry.

Bowlers strive for optimal carry to achieve consistent and high-scoring games. They make adjustments in their technique, equipment, and targeting to improve carry and maximize their performance on the lanes.


In bowling, the release refers to the crucial moment when the bowler lets go of the ball during the delivery.

It is a critical aspect of the technique that greatly impacts the ball’s trajectory and overall performance. The release is the point where the bowler imparts the desired rotation, spin, and direction to the ball.

A smooth and consistent release is essential for accuracy, control, and generating the desired ball motion.

The bowler’s hand position, grip, and fingers’ action at the release determine the amount of spin and revolutions the ball will have.

A well-executed release can result in a powerful hook, creating an optimal angle of entry into the pins for increased pin action and potential strikes.

Skilled bowlers often work on refining their release technique to ensure consistency and maximize their scoring opportunities on the lanes.

Pin Deck

The pin deck in bowling refers to the specific area at the end of the lane where the pins are set up for each frame. It is the final destination for the bowling ball as it travels down the lane.

The pin deck is typically made of a hard material to withstand the impact of the pins. It is designed to provide a flat and level surface to ensure consistent pin placement and fair play.

The arrangement of the pins on the pin deck follows a specific pattern, with the headpin positioned at the forefront.

The pin deck plays a crucial role in determining the outcome of each throw. When the ball reaches the pin deck, it interacts with the pins, causing them to scatter and fall, hopefully resulting in strikes or spares.

Understanding the dynamics of pin action on the pin deck and making adjustments accordingly is essential for bowlers to maximize their scoring potential and achieve successful outcomes on the lanes.

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