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What is 5 Pin Bowling?

By Carol Francois
Updated May 23, 2024
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Five pin bowling is an indoor sport that was invented in 1909 by Thomas F. Ryan at the Toronto Bowling Club. This is a variation on the more popular, ten pin bowling game. Both the 5 pin and ten pin bowling games are available in most bowling alleys in Canada.

In 5 pin bowling, the bowling pins are 25% smaller than in ten pin. The bowling ball itself is hand-sized, completely without holes and is easy to roll. At the end of the bowling lane, five pins are arranged in a V shape. The purpose of the game is to roll the ball down the lane and knock all the pins down.

Points are assigned based on the pins hit. The center pin is worth five points, the two pins on either side are worth three each, and the pins on the outside are work two each. Each player gets three attempts to knock down all five pins. Up to four people can play at one time and each player gets ten turns to obtain the highest score possible. The person with the highest score wins.

5 pin bowling was originally invented in response to complaints that the bowling ball in ten-pin bowling was too heavy. 5 pin bowling is very popular with children and is an easy introduction to bowling. A perfect score in bowling is 450, which can be obtained by combining more than one strike. A strike occurs when the bowler knocks down all five pins with one bow, and this is worth 15 points. The next two balls of the subsequent frames are added to the score of the strike. Essentially, they are doubled in score.

If the player takes two balls to knock down all the pins, this is called a spare. The first bowl of the next frame or attempt counts twice. If the bowler has two strikes in a row, the first strike is worth 30 points plus the score from the next attempt or frame. If a bowler has three strikes in a row, this is called a turkey or triple. The bowler receives a score of 45 for the first strike.

A 5 pin bowling game is easy to learn and provides an opportunity for strategy. Physical strength is not as important as it is in ten-pin bowling. A strategic player can achieve greater success in this type of bowling.

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Discussion Comments
By Melonlity — On Nov 24, 2014

@Terrificli -- When I learned bowling, I was given a very light ball (it weighed six pounds, I think) and guards were raised in the alley so the ball couldn't fall into a gutter.

I learned how to bowl just fine that way and I know I am not alone. I am not saying that the five pin method is a bad idea, but I am not sold on the idea that it is necessary to teach kids how to bowl.

By Terrificli — On Nov 23, 2014

I have never seen five pin bowling here in the United States. Every bowling alley I have ever visited (and there have been plenty of them) feature 10 pin bowling and that is it.

And that brings up a question. If five pin bowling is a great way to teach the game to kids, why can't I find the game in the United States? Wouldn't that be easier than teaching kids to play by rolling a huge ball down a bowling alley that pops into gutters? Seems like that would be frustrating for children.

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