How Are Bowling Pins Set Up?

how are bowling pins set up

Bowling pins are set up in a triangle consisting of ten pins in four rows with the head pin at the front. They are set up on the pin deck at the end of the bowling lane furthest from the bowler.

As with any game the more you know about how it works and the better your understanding of the game the more likely you are to do well. With bowling, many people are familiar with the general concept of the game but not with exactly how the set-up works or why.

So, in order to help you up your bowling game, we are going to detail everything that you need to know about how bowling is set up. So, carry on reading to find out more.

What Is the Formation of the Pins on the Pin Deck?

Most people are familiar with the general shape of the bowling pins at the end of the bowling lane. But not many people know exactly how they are arranged.

The pins are arranged in their formation on what is known as the “pin deck”. The pin deck is the lower area of the bowling lane, furthest away from the player, that gives them adequate room to bowl. 

On the pin deck there are ten spots for each pin placement. There are a grand total of ten bowling pins that are arranged in a triangle formation. There is one pin at the head of the triangle and this is known as the “head pin”. This is typically where most people will aim when throwing their bowling ball.

The head of the triangle (the head pin) is facing towards the bowler and the pins increase in number until the back row of the triangle. 

In total there are four rows of pins, totalling ten pins. There is one pin in the first row at the point of the triangle, two pins in the second row slightly to the side of the head pin, three pins in the third row and four pins in the fourth row. 

With each row, the pins are slightly more to the side so that they appear to be poking out from the sides. 

Each pin is assigned its own number between 1 and 10. The head pin is number 1, the second row contains numbers 2 and 3, the third row numbers 4-6 and the fourth and final row 7-10.

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How Far Apart Should Bowling Pins Be?

All of the pins in a single row are referred to as neighboring pins. Neighboring pins should be placed at a distance of 30cm apart from each other (12 inches) at the center. This means that there is actually 18cm (approximately 7 inches) between the pins.

In terms of the spacing between the pins in the rows, there are no two consecutive rows that have pins directly behind one another. The pins will only align with every other row. So, for example, the head pin will not line up directly with the pins in the second row but will align with the center pin in row three. 

The distance between these aligned bowling pins is 20.75 inches. The pairs of bowling pins that are directed aligned are:

  • 1 and 5
  • 2 and 8
  • 3 and 9

The rest of the pins will not align with another pin due to the formation.

If we are looking at the diagonals of the triangle for distance (e.g. pins 1, 3, 6 and 10 in one line and pins 1, 2, 4 and 7 in the other line) then this distance is 36 inches.

The distance between the front and back of the pin deck should measure 40.25 inches with the back row of bowling pins being only 3 inches from the back.

When it comes to the sides of the pin formation pin 7 (the back left-hand pin) and pin 10 (the back right-hand pin) should only be a distance of 2.5 inches from their respective gutters.

How Did Bowling Pins Get Their Shape?

Bowling pins are a very recognizable shape and in order to do this, the process for creating a bowling pin is neither quick nor simple. The details must be perfect.

In order to give a bowling pin its shape, you must first construct a stack of maple wood blocks that is roughly the correct size for a bowling pin. You should create this shape by glueing together smaller blocks of wood until you reach the right size.

Once you have this larger block of wood you will then need access to a lathe. A lathe is a specialist machine that allows you to place a piece of wood on a spinning center in order to cut, file and shape it. 

The large block of wood can then be shaped into the correct shape and size for a bowling pin either by using a machine or by carving it by hand. This process can take a long time if done by hand as it firstly involves carving the wood to the correct shape before sanding and smoothing it down. This will remove any rough edges and splinters.

Once this process is complete the bowling pin is then covered in a plastic material before it is painted and glossed. This will then give the bowling pin its signature shiny finish. 

Did you know that most professional bowlers wipe down their bowling balls after each shot? Oil track is excess oil that is left on a bowling ball after a shot. When a lane is oiled too much, the amount of oil tracked on your bowling ball will greatly affect the way it rolls. Using a bowling ball wipe pad like this one after each shot can help keep excessive oil off of your bowling ball.

How Do Bowling Alleys Reset the Pins?

If people were to reset the pins by hand then a single game of bowling would take a very long time. What would otherwise be a fun and exciting game would be seriously hampered by the tedious task of having to correctly and accurately reset the bowling pins after each player’s turn.

So, instead, bowling alleys use an automated machine to reduce the workload and to keep the game flowing. This machine is called a pinsetter (or pinspotter) and it is involved in returning the bowling pins to their correct position as well as returning the bowling ball to the players. 

The pinspotter is able to know exactly where each pin belongs and the mechanisms inside the device ensure that each pin is placed exactly where it should be. There is no room for error. For example, no pin will be slightly closer to another on one side than the other, so there is no room for set-up error like there would be with a person.

The machine can quickly and easily reset the bowling pins allowing you to get on with your game. 

Final Thoughts

Bowling is a fantastic game that involves a lot of skill. But, just like anything, the more you know about how the game works and how it is set up the better. By knowing exactly how the pins are arranged and the distances between them you can calculate the best place to aim for.

This will then hopefully give you an advantage over the other players that you are competing against (as long as you have a good throw and are using the appropriate equipment!)

Remember that even professionals can have bad days in the bowling alley. So, relax and have a good time and hopefully, your knowledge will help you to improve your bowling game. 

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