Rules Of The Game: Strikes and Pinfalls

The strike in bowling is akin to the hole-in-one in golfing or the three-point shot in basketball. But not all strikes are actually strikes according to the rules and regulations of the USBC, the regulatory authority in the bowling industry. Here’s what you should know.  

When a Strike Is a Strike

First off, a strike means all the 10 pins in a full setup are knocked down with the first delivery in a single frame. A single strike is counted as 10 plus the number of pins that have been knocked down on the succeeding two deliveries. Each strike is also marked by an (x) in the small square in the frame’s upper right-hand corner.

There are several ways that a strike can be made including but not limited to:

  • Flush shot
  • Messenger sends the corner pin down
  • Messenger misses the head pin yet all the pins are down

There are also cases when it isn’t a strike. These include when the ball bounces out of the gutter and results in a strike (i.e., dead ball) or when a pin wobbles but the entire deck becomes knocked out. The rules state that the pin must still be spotted in its original place for it to be considered a strike.

When It’s Legal and Illegal

If you spend enough time at your neighborhood Brunswick bowling alley, you will eventually be familiar with the rules of the legal and illegal strikes. You can start by knowing these basics.  

A legal pinfall will be credited to your score when the pins are knocked down or off the lane surface either by the ball or another pin; or by a pin on the rebound either from a rear cushion or a side partition; or by a pin on the rebound from the sweep bar when it’s at rest and before it sweeps deadwood.

Pins that lean and then touch either the side partition or kickback are also considered as legal pinfalls.

In an illegal pinfall, the delivery will be counted but its resulting pinfall will not be counted. These can occur in the following circumstances:

  • The ball leaves the lane before it can reach the pins.
  • The ball rebounds from the rear cushion.
  • The pin rebounds after making contact with the arms, legs or body of a human pinsetter or when a human pinsetter knocks down a pin.
  • The pin makes contact with the mechanical pinsetter.
  • The pin is knocked down during the removal of deadwood pins.

For beginners, it’s important to know these rules of the game even before setting foot in the bowling alley. It’s a serious sport, not just a matter of throwing a heavy ball at wooden pins. 

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