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Why Do Bowling Pins Have a Hole in the Bottom?

why do bowling pins have a hole in the bottom

At any bowling lane across the country and on any given evening, you will see people from all walks of life tossing bowling balls down lanes at a horizontal pyramid of ten bowling pins. You may have never noticed, but one thing unique and curious about a standard bowling pin is that it has a hole in the bottom.  

The reason for this hole is two-fold. First, the hole allows the manufacturer to center the upside-down pin in a mold during coating. Second, it will enable the manufacturer to drill out enough center mass to reduce the weight to acceptable league standards.

What is Inside a Bowling Pin?

Logically, one would assume a hole in the bottom of a pin means that the bowling pin must be hollow. However, to understand why a bowling pin is not hollow, you need to know how bowling pins are made these days.

These days, bowling pins are blocks of hardwood maple glued together. Instead of one piece of wood with rings that run in one circular direction, several blocks are used, making the pin more durable with less chance of splitting.

The blocks are then clamped together to form the rough shape of the pin and pressure glued into a single reinforced piece. After the core is set, each pin is lathed to create the more recognizable form of the bowling pins of today. Then a hole is drilled in the bottom just before the coating process begins.

Each Pin Must Pass Many Tests

Once the pin has its shape, it needs to be coated, smoothed, the manufacturer’s marking added along with the approval stamp of the sponsoring bowling association.

The manufacturer must satisfactorily address all items such as perfect height and weight and even moisture retention and center of gravity, and a host of other requirements before it can be certified. Each pin must obtain exacting standards before making it to the lanes.

Each finished pin must pass a rigorous litany of regulations set by the American Bowling Congress and Woman’s International Bowling Congress before it can make its way to the bowling alley. Each pin manufacturer has its unique, specialized process of producing bowling pins, but they all must reach the standards for their product to be accepted.

A Year in the Life of a Certified Bowling Pin

Once approved, bowling pins are distributed all over the country, and when put in action, the average bowling pin will only last about six months before it has to be returned for recoating and patching.

After another six months, the repaired pin will probably break, making sense when you stop and think about the beating they take. Almost all post-repair breaks take place at the neck of the pin, where it flexes nearly a full quarter of an inch when toppled over.  

Thus, a bowling pin typically has a short lifespan. Nevertheless, the manufacturer and repair of bowling pins to meet a nationwide pastime and professional sport demands is a lucrative venture. Bowling pins have been produced for almost two hundred years, so it is safe to say they will be around for a little longer.

As stringent as the bowling pin manufacturing process is, it is hard to comprehend these pins’ short shelf life. They get battered about, swept into the back of an automatic pinsetter, then dropped into a holding chute and displayed as stationary targets for the next ball to come rolling down the lane.

If a professional bowler lays down that ball, it is safe to say all the pins are going down, especially if the pro used the dot on the bowling ball to have the holes drilled into the ball in the perfect spot.

What Does the Dot on a Bowling Ball Mean?

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When drilling the suitable grip holes in an asymmetrical bowling ball, the pro shop must consider a few essential things. First, the professional bowler must help the driller understand the motion or action the ball will take at the beginning of the lane, at mid-point, and finally at the back end just before striking the pins.

Once the drilling layout is chosen, the pro shop must locate the pro shop has to identify where the bowling ball’s Mass Bias is. For example, on an asymmetrical bowling ball, where the internal mass is closest to the outside edge of the ball is called Mass Bias.

That is what the dot on the bowling ball does. All asymmetrical bowling balls have a dot where the Mass Bias is located. It helps the driller at the pro shop find the Mass Bias. From a professional bowler’s viewpoint knowing where the Mass Bias will help determine the drilling layout and give the pro more accuracy.

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Final Thoughs

Understanding why bowling pins have holes in their bottoms or what the dot on a bowling ball means may not make you a better bowler, but it will make you more knowledgeable about all the things that go into the sport. Of course, bowling is a commercialized sport full of pin-producing, automatic pin setting and the science of gravitational pull on a bowling ball as it rolls toward the pins or spins out of control into a gutter.

It is not just throwing a ball down the lane but rather a physics game of one pin striking another that creates an avalanche of chaotic activity. Bowling means understanding how speed affects curve and power and their effect when they hit the sweet spot known as the pocket. It is the glee-infecting unmistakable sound of ten pens vanishing in a whirl of topsy-turvy action. It’s jumping for joy and the surge of adrenalin when you smash three strikes in a row.

But, more than all that, bowling, in general, is hours of entertainment as you meet with friends and family and continue to try and hit that perfect score. We know a three hundred score is unlikely to come our way soon for those of us who have bowled our way into a seven-ten split.

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