What Are The Types Of Bowling Games?

Bowling is a great way to spend your Friday or Saturday nights, but are you aware that there is more to the game than just ten pin bowling? Bowling has rich roots dating back to 300 A.D. in Germany, so it only makes sense that the game would have evolved over the years. Keep reading for descriptions of the most popular types of bowling games today.

What are the Types of Bowling Games?

There are five universally accepted types of bowling games, which vary in rules, lane size, number of pins, and shape of the pins. Some even use different-sized balls to affect the difficulty of hitting a perfect strike. These are the types of bowling games:

  • Nine-Pin Bowling
  • 10-Pin Bowling
  • Five-Pin Bowling
  • Duckpin Bowling
  • Candlepin Bowling

10-Pin Bowling

The most common form of bowling in the United States, 10-pin, is an American tradition. The 10-pin layout is created by laying out a pyramid at the end of the lane. In ten-pin, players compete individually, or on teams of up to six, each competing to reach the highest possible number of pins knocked down. Players receive two turns per frame to knock out all ten pins.

In 10-pin bowling, players earn a point for each pin knocked over. Scoring in ten-pin is simple, with each frame resulting in a strike, spare, or number of pins knocked. A strike in ten-pin bowling can only occur when all ten pins are knocked down on the first turn of the frame. Strikes compound, meaning that the pins knocked down on the next frame are added onto the strike as a bonus.

Nine-Pin Bowling

The most popular variation of bowling in Europe, nine-pin, has the most variation from traditional 10-pin. Eight pins are spaced out to create a diamond around the ninth pin, which is painted red.

Each bowler is given two rolls to knock over the diamond and the red pin. When the pins are not all successfully knocked down in one turn, the next player resumes with the same pin setup. When it gets to the last bowler’s turn in the round, the white pins knocked down in their turn are added to the team score.

Five-Pin Bowling

Five-pin bowling is most commonly associated with Canada, as it was created there in 1909 by Thomas F. Ryan. Five-pin takes less effort than ten-pin because the ball is rubber and fits in your hand. The pins are also smaller and set up in a V formation. Each player receives three turns per frame.

Five-pin bowling is usually played individually, but teams are not uncommon. Scoring in five-pin is based on the location of the pin. The innermost pin is worth five points, the outermost pins are worth two points, and the middle pins are worth three points. All the pins add up to 15 points. In the event of a strike, the score is compounded similarly to 10-pin bowling.

Duckpin Bowling

Duckpin bowling is primarily played on the east coast of the U.S. and is immensely popular with children. Duckpin bowling is played with ten pins, similarly to traditional ten-pin, set in a pyramid. However, the pins are shaped differently at 9 in tall and 4 in wide.

Scoring in duckpin bowling is exactly the same as traditional ten-pin, with matches lasting ten frames. The only difference in duckpin bowling is that bowlers are given a third turn if there are still pins standing after the second turn. Then, on the third try, the pins that have fallen on that roll only are added to the scoreboard for the round.

Candlepin Bowling

Candlepin bowling is known for its popularity in New England and in regions of Canada and was invented in Massachusetts by Justin White. During every round, each player gets three turns rather than two, and fallen pins are not cleared until after all three turns. The pins are taller and skinnier, and the balls are 5 in in diameter. Candlepin bowling also uses smaller balls with a diameter of fewer than five inches.

Candlepin bowling uses a thinner lane with a lowered deck at the end for the pins. In candlepin bowling, a full game is called a string, and each round is referred to as a box. The rules for candlepin are also standard, besides the dead-wood rule (not clearing the pins).


The most popular type of bowling is 10-pin bowling. In this type of bowling, ten pins are set up in pyramid order (4-3-2-1), and then either individual players or teams of six compete against one another to see who can knock the most pins down during each turn. Scores are added up based on the number of pins knocked over, and the person or team with the highest cumulative score wins.