The best result you can hope for in a round of ten-pin bowling is a strike, where all ten pins are knocked down by just one ball. In fact, a perfect game of bowling, where you score a strike every time, will score you 300 points.
So what do you need to know to get the best chance of achieving the perfect score?
The pins in bowling are arranged in a triangle shape with one pin (which is known as the ‘head pin’) at the point nearest to you. Common sense might tell you that aiming for the head pin will give you the best chance of a strike. But is this true?
If you hit the head pin straight on it is likely that some pins will stay standing. Worse than that, they are likely to be left at the opposite sides of the triangle, where you are very unlikely to hit them all with a second ball. This is known as a ‘split’. For the best chance of a strike, right-handed players should aim the ball at the gap between the head pin and the one on its right. The ball should make direct contact with at least four of the pins to get a strike, and this is more likely if you aim for this gap. Left-handed players should aim for the gap to the left of the head pin. In both cases this area is known as ‘the pocket’.
In an ideal throw, your bowling ball should skid along the first bit of lane, then start to roll and then finally bend around to hit the pins in the last part of the roll. Bowling lanes are oiled to encourage skidding but you need some friction on the lane further down to get the ball to start rolling. When the ball starts rolling, any spin you have put on the ball starts to have an effect and this steers the ball – with luck towards the pins.
Bowling used to be played with nine pins set out in a diamond shape, but the game became linked with crime and gambling and was banned. The extra pin was added to get around the ban so people could carry on playing!