Bowling Pin And Pinfall Rules

Bowling Pin And Pinfall Rules

Bowling’s rules for proper pins and pinfalls are surprisingly detailed. While they may not be enforced in a local friendly game, these rules put in place by the United States Bowling Congress (USBC) determine how the sport is played at the professional level. How are the right pins determined for a bowling match? What counts as a legal pinfall? Read on to learn the rules for pins and pinfall in professional bowling.

Bowling Pin Rules

bowling pin numbers

Rule 7 of the USBC rulebook covers pin setup and the steps taken to replace a defective pin. Crucially, this rule covers what the player is responsible for and what the tournament officials are responsible for.

Rule 7a deals with the procedure for when pins are improperly set. Each of the ten bowling pins has numbers and positions they start in. The rule states that if a setup is incorrect, the player themselves has to protest for the pins to be moved. For instance, imagine a player’s first throw knocks down all the pins except 4, 7, and 8. However, when the remaining pins are set up for their second throw, the pins are set up at 4, 7, and 9.

It is the player’s responsibility to tell officials that the pin in the 9 spot actually belongs on the 8 spot, and if the player fails to do this, there’s nothing they can do about a potentially harder pin setup. The only case where a delivery is allowed to be redone is when a pin is deemed to have been missing.

Rule 7c mostly covers what a tournament’s officials must do about the pins. The officials are responsible for replacing a pin if it’s broken (if either the plastic case or the core inside are badly damaged enough to potentially change a game). The replacement pin must be of equal weight and condition to the rest of the pins in the set. The directors of the league have to ensure that every pin setup is consistent. Otherwise, their tournaments risk the fairness of competition.

Bowling Pinfall Rules

With the rules for pin setup established, how does the USBC rulebook determine what a legal pinfall is? Rule 6 (6a and 6b) lists out every possible outcome for how a pin might fall, sorted into whether it’s counted as a legal or illegal pinfall.

Rule 6a covers all legal pinfalls. In general, a pinfall is legal when either the ball or another pin knocks it down. Even if a pin rebounds off the kickbacks (the side walls separating the pits at the end of each bowling lane) or the inactive mechanical pinsetter (the bar that sweeps downed pins out of the lane), the pin can legally knock down another pin. A pin is also deemed down, or “dead wood,” if it ends up leaning on the kickback, since it would fall otherwise.

Rule 6b focuses on illegal pinfalls. If a bowling ball falls off the lane, usually into the gutter, then even if it bounces out, no pinfalls count. The same rule applies if the ball only knocks down a pin after bouncing off the rear cushion behind the lane. A bowling pin can’t be knocked down by a person in the lane, either. If a human is setting up the pins, the bowler must wait for them to leave the lane. The bowler must also wait for any dead wood to be taken off the lane since if the ball makes contact with the dead wood, all pinfalls will be illegal. In short, the onus is on the player to wait for the lane to be cleared. If not, their delivery will count, but only for a “0” on the scorecard.

In addition, a bowler’s delivery will count, but their pinfalls won’t if they commit a foul during their throw. A foul is usually committed when, while letting go of the ball, the bowler steps over the foul line onto the lane. The rules of legal versus illegal pinfalls only come into play when a bowler’s delivery is counted.

If an illegal pinfall occurred in the first of two throws in a frame, the pin or pins that fell illegally will be put back to their positions and can be knocked down on the second throw.

Bowling Rebound Rules

If a pin falls down but bounces back upright, does it count as “dead wood”? Rule 7b of the USBC rulebook has a quick answer. If a pin rebounds and ends up standing on the lane, it is deemed a standing pin. Rule 7b rarely comes into play, because the physics of a falling pin make it extremely difficult for it to end up in a standing position after being knocked down.

Bowling Pin Rules Summary

  • Each of the 10 bowling pins is numbered, with a corresponding starting position.
  • All pins must be of equal weight and in similar condition.
  • If a pin was missing from the setup, a bowler may redo their delivery.
  • A pinfall is legal if the pin is knocked over by the ball or another pin.
  • If a bowling pin falls off the lane, no pinfalls are counted.
  • Pinfalls will not be counted if a bowler rolls with “dead wood” still on the lane.
  • If a player commits a foul while bowlings, no pinfalls are counted.
  • If a pin rebounds and stands back up, it is declared a standing pin.