Kubsie's Korner
Bowling Terms




Absentee Score - Score allowed for an absent team member, usually average minus ten pins or ten percent or a set score such as 150 or 175. Also known as a "dummy" score.

Aces - Scoring term applied when both corner pins are left standing after the first ball of a frame. Also referred to by bowlers in some regions as bedposts, or candles.

Anchor - Last bowler in a team line-up. Usually the best bowler or the bowler most likely to strike out.

Approach - The section of a bowling lane where the bowler stands and delivers the bowling ball. It extends from immediately in front of the seating/scoring area to the foul line (usually a length of 16 feet/4.87m). Or, it is also the bowler's forward movement to delivering the bowling ball from th stance and push-away ending with the start of the delivery.

Armswing - The arc of the bowling arm and hand from the first move towards the foul line (the pushaway) until the delivery of the bowling ball onto the lane.

Arrows - Markings embedded into the lane to assist bowlers in aiming. The arrows are located between 12 feet/3.6m and 16 feet/4.8m beyond the foul line. Also referred to as "darts".

Automatic Pin-setters - Mechanical devices (machines) used to reset a full set of pins or to clear away fallen pins or "deadwood".

Average - Is the measurement of a bowler's typical game score. Adding the accumulated pinfall and dividing by the number of games played arrives at a bowler's average.



Backup - A term applied to the clockwise turn of the wrist during the release and delivery of a bowling ball which causes the bowling ball to break (move) on the lane in a left to right direction for a right handed bowler or a counter-clockwise wrist turn at release causing the bowling ball to break (move) from right to left for a left-handed bowler.

Backswing - The path of the arm behind the body during the next to last step of the bowler's approach.

Ball Rack - A device located on the approach section of the bowling lane where the balls rest after returning from the pit.

Beer Frame - In team play, when all bowlers strike in the same frame. Tradition has it that a bowler who doesn't strike when the other bowlers on the team do, that bowler must treat the teammates to a "refreshment".

Board - An individual piece of the lane (total of 40 or 41 across) which run the length of the bowling lane and are numbered from 1 on the right side for right-handers and from 1 on the left for left-handers.

Body English - Contortion of arms and legs and trunk in an attempt to steer the ball after it has left the hand.

Bowling Ball - A perfectly round sphere constructed of hard rubber or approved synthetic materials, used by bowlers to roll down the lane at the bowling pins.

Bowling Center - An establishment where the sport of bowling can be played. Commonly referred to in previous times as a bowling alley.

Bowling Fee - Cost per bowler to participate in a league or tournament that includes the cost of bowling (which is paid to the bowling center) plus the prize fund portion (which is used by the league or tournament to award prizes).

Bowling Proprietors' Association of Canada - Trade organization of the people who own bowling centers.

Bowling Shoes - Special shoes for bowlers have a rubber sole on the non-sliding foot to act as a brake and a slicker leather or synthetic sole on the other foot to allow sliding on the last step.

Bowl-offs - Games prebowled for a regularly scheduled league session to be used by the bowler on a specific date when the bowler knows (s)he will be absent. Also called "pre-bowls" or "bowl-aheads".

Bowlers - Term applied to participants who compete in the game of bowling.

Break - The number of boards the bowling ball moves from left to right or right to left. It is also a lucky shot.



Canadian 5 Pin Bowlers Association - The national membership based governing and rule-making body for the sport of 5 Pin Bowling.

Captain - Team member responsible for al all the members being present, arranging for substitutes, collecting and payment of bowling fees, determining team line-up, and completing team forms.

Channel or Gutter - Depression approximately 9.5 inches/23.75 cm wide and 2.75 inches/6.87 cm in depth to the right and left of the lane designed to guide the ball to the pit should it leave the playing surface. Also referred to as "gutter".

Chop - Chopping the front pin of a spare leave while a pin(s) to the left or right remain standing.

Chop-off - Set-up of pins which remain standing after the first legally delivered ball of a frame, when the headpin, 3 pin and 2 pin on the same side of the lane have been bowled down thereby leaving the 3 pin and 2 pin standing on the opposite side of the lane.

Classified - Leagues or tournaments with average limitations or classifications.

Clean Game - Strike or spare in each frame of the game (ie no open frames).

Clearing the lane - Removing the fallen pins and bowling balls from the lane-bed, pin deck or channels to allow a subsequent shot.

Clutch - Pressure situation.

Conversion - Making a spare, ie knocking down all the pins that remain with the second ball.

Coach - An individual chosen or appointed to guide, prepare, and motivate a bowler or team.

Computer Scoring - A device which automatically records the score(s) of bowlers by computer.

Corner Pin - Either the left or right 2 pin. When speaking of leaving a Corner Pin, it is the set-up of one pin, either the left 2 pin or the right 2 pin, which remains standing after the first legally delivered ball of a frame.

Count - Number of pins knocked down on any given ball.

Cross Over - Term used when the first ball of a frame crosses over to hit the opposite pocket of the headpin (which is the left side for the right-handed bowlers and the right side for left-handed bowlers). Also referred to as a "cross-over" hit.

Curtain - Protective piece of rubber or thick leather situated immediately in front of the pit cushion.



Dead Ball - A delivered ball that is declared dead based on allowable circumstances and must be rebowled.

Deadwood - Pins knocked down but remaining on the lane or in the channel. Such pins must be removed before continuing play or a foul will result.

Delivery - The act of rolling the bowling ball with the goal of knocking down pins. Preparation + Approach + Release + Follow-through.

Dots - Dots (circles) on the approach are used to set the bowler's feet in the stance position. Dots on the lane are used to aim the ball or to swing through a visualized line between the dots and arrows.

Double - Two consecutive strikes thrown in succession by the same bowler. Scores 30 plus the value of pins bowled down on the next ball.

Dry Lanes - Lanes with very little oil applied to them allowing the bowling ball to break more.

Dummy Score - See "absentee" score.



Fast Lanes - Lanes with more than normal amount of oil applied to them allowing the bowling ball to break very little. Also referred to as a "wet" lane.

Fingertip Grip - Holding the bowling ball with the fingertips is the recommended method.

Five Bagger - Five (5) strikes in a row.

Flat Ball - Ineffective ball, one that is rolled with very little spin or rotation.

Follow-through - Motion of the arm swing after the point of release. Should be reaching for the intended target.

Foul - Touching or going beyond the foul line at delivery.

Foul Detector - Automatic device used to signal when a bowler crosses the foul line.

Foul Line - Line marking the end of the approach and the start of the playing area of the bowling lane.

Foundation Frame - Ninth frame. The base of a good finish (strike out).

Four Bagger - Four (4) strikes in a row.

450 Game - A perfect game consisting of 12 strikes in a row without committing any fouls.

Frame - A bowler's turn to play. One tenth of a complete game. A frame consists of three legally delivered balls made by the same bowler in succession, except when the bowler rolls a strike or spare. If the bowler makes a strike or spare then the bowler's frame (turn) is also considered complete.



Game - A game of 5 Pin Bowling shall consist of ten (10) frames and shall be played with regulation equipment on regulation lane-beds.

Garbage Hit - A shot that very lightly hits the headpin but gets a strike anyway.

Grab the Lane - Meaning the friction between the bowling ball and lane surface is good allowing the ball to break.

Groove - Ball track or indentation in the lane OR a bowler who is performing well and his approach and armswing is almost mechanically perfect.



Handicap - Pins awarded to individual bowlers or teams in an attempt to equalize competition.

Headpin - The front or middle pin of the full five (5) pin set-up. It is worth 5 points. Sometimes referred to as the "kingpin". OR the name of the split when the headpin only is knocked down and leaves the other pins (right 3 pin and 2 pin, left 3 pin and two pin) standing. Bowlers refer to knocking down the headpin only as a Punch, Pick, Plow or Plug depending on the geographic region.

Headpin Split - Name of the split when the headpin only is knocked down and leaves the other pins (right 3 pin and 2 pin, left 3 pin and 2 pin) standing.

Hook - A ball that breaks to the left for right handed bowlers and to the right for left handed bowlers.

House - Bowling establishment or bowling center.

House Ball - Bowling ball provided by the bowling center for use by its customers.



Judge of Play - A trained official who watches play during competition and rules on any disputes or violations.



Kegler - A synonym for bowler.

Kickback - Vertical division between lanes at the end of the lane between pin decks. On many hits the pins bounce off the kickbacks and knock down additional pins. Also referred to as "sideboards".

Kingpin - Another name for the headpin / 5 pin.



Lane - Playing surface on which the game of bowling is played. Usually constructed of maple and pine boards and more recently synthetic materials. It measures between 42 inches (1.06 m) in width and 63.18 (27.33m) in length.

Lane-bed - The entire area that a lane is constructed into from the approach section to the pit and including the channels.

Lane Certification - A program conducted by the C5PBA to annually ensure that lanes and equipment adhere to the industry specifications.

Lane Draw - A schedule of teams and lane assignments for a specified period of dates and/or games.

Lane Guard(s) - An approved piece of bowling equipment designed to protect the lanes from lofted bowling balls.

Lead-off - First bowler in a team line-up.

League - A group consisting of four (4) or more teams of bowlers of four (4) or more individual participants, bowling the sport of 5 Pin Bowling according to a prearranged schedule, shall be defined as a "LEAGUE" regardless of whether prizes of any character are offered.

League Executive - Individual members of a league who are appointed or elected by the league membership to oversee the conduct and affairs of the league.

League Sanction - Approval given by the C5PBA that the rules, constitution and by-laws of the league are consistent with the polices and rules of the sport governing body.

Leave - Those pins which are left standing after a legally delivered ball.

Lift - The upward motion of the bowling ball imparted by the fingers at the point of release.

Light Hit - A shot that does not fully contact the target pin hitting the pin too much on the side.

Line - The path that a bowling ball takes down a lane.

Lineage - The portion of a bowler's fee that is paid to the bowling center for the cost of the games played.

Lofting the Ball - Throwing the ball well out on the lane instead of rolling it.

Loose Hit - A light pocket hit which strikes the target pin closer to the adjacent pin than the center of the target pin. Also referred to as a Light Hit. Opposite of nose/high/tight hit.

Lost Ball - A delivered ball that hits the Lane Guard causing it to be resituated or clears the lane guard. Ball is counted as a ball rolled but no pinfall is credited to the bowler.

Love Tap - A tap from a moving pin usually off the kickback, which delicately knocks over another pin.



Maple - The first 15' to 18' (4.5m to 5.4m) of lane is usually constructed of a very durable hardwood (i.e. maple) to stand up to the excessive shock of the bowling ball being rolled/lofted onto the lane. Often referred to as the "head" or "head maple".

Mark - A strike or spare. Also, another term used for aiming target.

Master Bowlers' Association - An organization of competitive tournament bowlers and teaching instructional players.

Match Play - Type of competition where bowlers are pitted individually one-on-one against each other rather than playing against the entire field.

Missed Shot - A legally delivered ball that travels the length of the lane, does not enter either channel and does not knock down any pins.



Open Bowling - Term used for public bowling. Non-league or Non-tournament play.

Open Frame - A frame without a strike or spare (mark).

Out of Bounds Ball - A legally delivered ball that enters the left or right channel.



Perfect Game - In a game of full ten frames, a bowler must bowl twelve (12) strikes in succession and must not commit any foul, to have bowled a "Perfect Game" score of 450.

Pick - To cleanly take out (knock down) one single pin when attempting a full set-up of five (5) pins.

Pin(s) - The cylindrical objects that bowlers attempt to knock down with the bowling ball. Also referred to as "wood" or "sticks".

Pin Band - A one-inch piece of rubber affixed to the belly of each pin in order to somewhat control the deflection and bounce of the pins. Also referred to as "rubbers".

Pin Bowling - Aiming at the pins rather than using the recommended method of aiming at the arrow targets.

Pin Deck - Area of the bowling lane located 60 feet (18.28m) from the foul line where the pins are spotted. Usually constructed of a hard wood (maple) or synthetics or fabricated steel. Pins are spotted 18 inches (45cm) apart (center to center) on a 36 inch (90cm) equilateral triangle on the pin deck.

Pine - The section of lane-bed located between the head maple and the pin deck. Usually constructed of soft wood (pine) to allow the bowling ball to break more.

Pinfall - The accumulated point values of pins legally knocked down by a bowler.

Pin Spots - Synthetic fibre circles (2.25" / 5.6cm in diameter) embedded into the pin-deck which mark the prescribed location where the pins should be set upon.

Pin Values - The scoring point values assigned to each of the five (5) pins.

Pit - Area at the end of the lane where the pins and balls end up.

Pit Cushion - Padding at the rear of the pit area to absorb shock of ball and pins and to protect equipment.

Play-offs - An extended set of games/matches to determine a league or tournament champion.

Pocket - The side of the headpin which consistently produces more strikes for the bowler.

Position Round - Designated parts of a league or tournament schedule which call for teams or bowlers to meet each other based on their standings. First place meets second, third versus fourth, etc.

Prize Fund - Portion of the bowler's league tournament fee that is contributed directly to providing prizes (whether they be cash or merchandise).

Provisional Ball - In cases where a dispute or question arises over the legitimacy of a delivered ball or pinfall, a provisional ball can be rolled and both scores recorded until a decision or ruling can be made.

Pushaway - Movement of th ball and starting foot together which begins the "approach".



Range Finders - The term applied to the combination of the series of dots embedded in the lane-bed 7 feet (2.1m) beyond the foul line and the arrows located another 9 feet (2.7m) down the lane which the bowlers use to determine a target line.

Reading the Lane - Discovering whether a lane breaks or holds and where the best place is to roll the bowling ball to score high.

Release - Hand and finger tip motion as the ball is put onto the lane.

Reset - Re-racking the full set of five (5) pines.

Rotation - The spin imparted on the bowling ball at the moment of delivery which results in pin"action".

Rules - Adopted and accepted guidelines and procedures for conducting competition.

Rulebook - Official document of the sport which details the formal rules for the sport of 5 Pin Bowling.



Sanctioned - Competition conducted in accordance with C5PBA rules.

Score-sheet - Pre-printed form used to record the ball by ball progress of a bowler's game or a team of bowlers games.

Scorekeeper - Individual who is appointed or volunteers to record the scores of a bowling game.

Scoring - Term used to describe the pinfall or pin action.

Scratch - Actual score without the benefit of handicap.

Series - Two or more games.

Shadow Ball - A ball or balls rolled in practice without the pins being set-up, usually for a specified period of time or determined number of balls before league or tournament competition commences.

Shield - A barrier which automatically blocks the pin deck from view by the bowlers when the automatic string pin-setting machine recycles to clear the deadwood and reset the pins which were left standing. Also used as a timing element to determine whether pins are legally standing or fallen on string pin-setting machines.

Short Pin - A pin that falls or rolls on the lane but just fails to reach a standing pin.

Shot - Rolling a bowling ball. Another term for legal delivery.

Sideboards - Vertical division between lanes at the pit end of the lane. Also referred to as "kickbacks".

Slide - The last step of the bowler's delivery (approach).

Spare - All pins are knocked down using the first two balls of a frame.

Spare Bowler (Substitute) - A bowler who serves as a replacement bowler for a team or league when needed to fill in for an absent or injured member.

Splice - Area of the lane where the maple and pine boards join.

Split - General term applied to a difficult leave (Headpin, Headpin Split and Aces) and conversion spares are rare.

Spot Bowling - Target on the lane at which the bowler aims. Could be a dot, a board, or an arrow.

Stance - Bowler's starting position.

Strike - All five (5) pins down on the first ball of a frame.

Strike Out - To get all three available strikes in the tenth frame or similarly finishing the game from any point with strikes.

String - Three or more consecutive strikes, or in some regions another name for a game or games of bowling, or thin rope used on automatic string pinsetting machines to attach each pin to the machine.

String Pinsetter - A mechanical device using a series of thin ropes and pulleys to set and reset the bowling pins.

Sweep - The rake part of an automatic free-ball pinsetting machine that clears the pin-deck area and channels from pins and/or bowling balls.



Targets - See Range Finders.

Tap - When a pin stands on a apparent perfect strike hit.

Team - A group of two or more bowlers who bowl together in league or tournament competition.

Tournament - A meeting at which a number of individual competitors or teams of competitors compete for a championship.

Tournament Committee - A group of elected or appointed officials charged with the duties of conducting and administering a tournament.

Tournament Sanction - Approval given by the C5PBA that the rules of the tournament are consistent with the policies and rules of the sport governing body.

Triple - Three consecutive strikes by the same bowler also known as a "turkey" or some regions also refer to triple as a three game total score.

Turkey - Nickname for triple. Three strikes in a row by the same bowler.

Turn - Another term for the motion of the ball as it breaks on the lane.



Wood - General term for pin or pins.

Working Ball - A delivered ball with enough action to mix the pins well to get strikes. The same ball will often break up splits when nose hits occur.



Young Adult Bowlers Association - (YABA) A young adult bowling program that is designed for bowlers aged 18 to 30.

Youth Bowling Council - (YBC) A youth bowling membership program conducted by the Bowling Proprietors' Association of Canada that is designed for bowlers aged 18 and younger.


These terms are taken from the
Official Rules and Regulations Governing the Sport of 5 Pin Bowling
printed by the Canadian 5 Pin Bowlers' Association.

Janet 'Kubsie' Jenkins