Duckpin bowling

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Duckpin bowling is a variation of the sport of bowling.


Duckpin balls are 4+34 in (12 cm) to 5 in (12.7 cm) in diameter, weigh 3 lb 6 oz (1.5 kg) to 3 lb 12 oz (1.7 kg) each, and lack finger holes. They are thus significantly smaller than those used in ten-pin bowling but are slightly larger and heavier than those used in candlepin bowling.

Duckpins, though arranged in a triangle identical to that used in ten-pin bowling, are shorter, slightly thinner, and lighter than their ten-pin equivalents, which makes it more difficult for the smaller ball to achieve a strike. For this reason, similar to candlepin bowling, the bowler is allowed three rolls per frame.

Duckpins closeup.jpg
Duckpins are shorter and squatter than the pins used in ten-pin bowling.
20190609 Duckpin bowling ball in hand.jpg
A duckpin bowling ball in an adult hand
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Duckpin balls are small enough to pass between same-row duckpins.
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Scale diagram of balls and pins for three popular variations of bowling. The horizontal blue lines are one inch apart vertically.


According to the National Duckpin Bowling Congress (NDBC), regulation duckpin bowling is played in nine states (shown here in green). Non-regulation "mini-duckpin" bowling is played in additional locations. 20190510 Duckpin bowling states.png
According to the National Duckpin Bowling Congress (NDBC), regulation duckpin bowling is played in nine states (shown here in green). Non-regulation "mini-duckpin" bowling is played in additional locations.

Duckpin bowling has rules [3] similar to ten-pin bowling. In a 10-frame game, bowlers try to knock down pins in the fewest rolls per frame. Bowlers have three balls per frame, instead of two as in ten-pin bowling, to knock over a set of 10 pins. If a bowler knocks down all 10 pins with their first roll in a frame, it is scored as a strike . If all the pins are knocked down in two rolls, the bowler has made a spare . If all the pins are knocked down in three rolls, it is scored as a ten, as in candlepins, with no bonus. If pins are still standing after the third ball, the bowler gets one point for each pin knocked down.

In the case of a strike, the bowler gets 10 points plus the total number of pins knocked down with the next two balls rolled, for a maximum of 30 points. In the case of a spare, the bowler gets 10 points plus the number of pins knocked down with the next ball, for a maximum of 20 points. If it takes three balls to knock down all 10 pins, the bowler gets 10 points, with no bonus. A bowler's final score is the sum of the points earned over 10 frames (a spare or strike in the tenth frame earns one or two rolls respectively). The maximum possible score of 300 points, which is accomplished by rolling 12 strikes in a row, has never been achieved under official conditions.

Duckpin bowling lanes are the same size as ten-pin bowling lanes, but with smaller gutters. [4]


The origin of duckpin bowling has been disputed. A commonly recited assertion is that the sport began in Baltimore around 1900, at a bowling, billiards and pool hall owned by future baseball Hall of Famers John McGraw and Wilbert Robinson, [5] both of the old (18821899) Baltimore Orioles. [6] One such claim is reported in the Pittsburgh Press of March 3, 1929. [6] However, research has since found references to duckpin dating to the early 1890s in New Haven, Boston and Lowell, Mass. [5] Author Howard W. Rosenberg wrote in 2005 that his research showed the sport was around "at least as of 1894, and probably well before that", [7] with former Duckpin News editor Stacy Karten stating in a 2016 publication that Rosenberg found an 1892 reference to duckpin in The Boston Globe. [8]

18930102 Duck pins - Oxford Club of Lynn - The Boston Daily Globe.png
A January 2, 1893 article describes "bowling fever" and closes with a mention of playing "duck pins". [9]
18931216 Candlepin Duckpin - The Boston Post.png
A December 16, 1893 article describes "duck pins", "the swan", and "the midget" (pins) in the context of candlepins—predicting that bowling with duckpins "will be the popular game next year". [10]
18940519 Duckpin tournament - The Lowell Daily Sun.png
Early documentation of a "duck pin" bowling tournament in or near Lowell, Massachusetts published on May 19, 1894. Quoted game averages range from about 73 to about 94. [11]
18950501 Duck-pin bowling tournament - The Topeka State Journal.png
Documentation of a "duck-pin" bowling tournament, published May 1, 1895 in Topeka, Kansas [12] —far from the east coast U.S. where duckpin is played in recent years. [1]
18971213 Duck Pin Contest - Topeka State Journal.png
A December 13, 1897 newspaper notice in Topeka, Kansas informs of a local "duck pin contest". Quoted game averages range from about 78 to 85. [13]

Duckpins was not an organized sport until the National Duckpin Bowling Congress (NDBC) was founded in 1927. [14]

Duckpin bowlers, 1936. 19360224 Duckpin bowlers by pins - LoC - Harris & Ewing, photographer.jpg
Duckpin bowlers, 1936.

In 1953, submarine designer Ken Sherman developed the first automatic duckpin pinsetter, its design having over 1,000 moving parts. [5] Sherman's refusal to sell his patent to ten-pin competitor Brunswick caused him to lack corporate investment needed to manufacture large numbers of duckpin pinsetters. [15] Further, no parts for the Sherman pinsetter have been manufactured since 1973, [15] so that anyone wanting to open a new bowling center must cannibalize parts. [16] The absence of new pinsetter machines is thought to curtail growth of the sport, and spare parts must be scavenged or obtained from alleys that have closed. [5] Only one company makes duckpins, and it only leases them. [16]

The executive director of the National Duckpin Bowling Congress said in 2016 that there were 41 congress-certified duckpin bowling alleys, down from nearly 450 in 1963. [5] In comparison, there were about 4,000 ten-pin centers in 2018. [17] The Baltimore Sun reported in 2017 that the number of professional duckpin bowlers is down by more than 90 percent. [16]

In 1982, the Women's National Duckpin Association (WNDA) was formed, conducting tournaments for women to compete professionally, [18] with Ladies Professional Duckpin Tournament (LPDT) events extending back at least as early as 1974. [19]

Accomplishments and record scores

World record scores as reported by the NDBC for men (through March 2006) [20] and women (through July 2016) [21]
No. Games in SetBowler's Name
(men's category)
ScoreAvg Score / GameYearBowler's Name
(women's category)
ScoreAvg Score / GameYear
1Pete Signore Jr.2792791992Carole Gittings2652651973
3Jeff Pyles6552181978Diane Jasper5861951988
4Nappy Ranazzo7581891994Amy Bisson7411852005
5William Schwartz9881971988Amy Bisson Sykes8821762016
6James E. Deviers11161861984Jill Manns10171692013
SeasonJeff Pyles164.47164.471982-83Amy Bisson155.08155.082005-06

In 1999, Sports Illustrated named Elizabeth "Toots" Barger among the fifty top Maryland athletes of all time, Barger having claimed thirteen NDBC No. 1 rankings for having the highest female duckpinner average. [8] Barger won nine world championships, and, in 1961, became the second woman to be inducted into the Maryland Athletic Hall of Fame. [22]


Rubber band duckpins

This 1915 U.S. patent shows a duckpin in which "a band of rubber or other resilient material 11" (yellow tinting added to image above) is placed "in an annular peripheral groove or channel 10". 19150622 Duckpin bowling pin - U.S. patent 1,144,078.png
This 1915 U.S. patent shows a duckpin in which "a band of rubber or other resilient material 11" (yellow tinting added to image above) is placed "in an annular peripheral groove or channel 10".

In 1905 a variant called rubber band duckpins was introduced in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area by William Wuerthele, [24] in which the pins are circled with hard rubber bands to increase action and scoring.[ clarification needed ] Wuerthele observed bowlers wasting their third ball as well as flying pins injuring pin boys, so, according to a defunct publication called The Ducks, Wuerthele added the rubber band to increase scoring.

The American Duckpin Congress was formed in the 1920s to govern the game of rubber band duckpins. The organization later became the American Rubber Band Duckpin Bowling Congress in 1945 and became an affiliate of the National Duckpin Bowling Congress. The rubber band game is now almost extinct, with most of the lanes located in private clubs, though there is one alley in the U.S. still open to the public in Glassport, Pennsylvania.[ citation needed ]

As of 2018, rubber band duckpins was mostly limited to Québec, where it is called petites quilles. [25]

There have been perfect games bowled in rubber band duckpin, including the largest duckpin prize ever won on television, C$50,000 in 1994. [26] Since it is easier to knock down pins in rubber band duckpin, its rules are identical to those of ten-pin bowling.

A mini duckpin alley in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Duckpin bowling in Pittsburgh 03.jpg
A mini duckpin alley in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Mini duckpins

In mini duckpins, the lane is shorter than a standard duckpin lane, and the width of the lane is not standard. [2] While there has never been a sanctioned perfect game in regulation duckpin bowling, 300 games are said to be relatively common in mini duckpin play. [2]

Compared to ten-pin bowling

The USBC reported that there were 55,266 certified 300 games in ten-pin bowling in the 2013-14 season alone, but there has never been a certified 300 game in duckpin bowling. [5] A Connecticut man named Pete Signore Jr. came closest with a 279 game in 1992. [5]

Related Research Articles

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Ten-pin bowling Type of bowling

Ten-pin bowling is a type of bowling in which a bowler rolls a bowling ball down a wood or synthetic lane toward ten pins positioned evenly in four rows in an equilateral triangle at the far end of the lane. The objective is to knock down all ten pins on the first roll of the ball, or failing that, on the second roll.

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A spare is a term used in bowling to indicate that all of the pins have been knocked down during the second ball of a frame when not all the pins were knocked down in the first frame of that player’s two turns. The symbol for a spare for most bowling sports is a forward slash mark (/), while the unique vertically-oriented scoring system for candlepin bowling is somewhat different.

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Bowling Class of sports in which a player rolls a bowling ball towards a target

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  4. "Rules of the Game". Retrieved 12 August 2021.
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  15. 1 2 Lennon, Beth (November 22, 2017). "Vintage bowling: Duckpins, candlepins roll on". USA Today. Archived from the original on December 4, 2017.
  16. 1 2 3 Kaltenbach, Chris (March 2, 2017). "Small pins, big hopes: With duckpin bowling, longstanding Baltimore tradition hopes for a resurgence". The Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on July 26, 2018.
  17. Data: Wayback Machine archives of USBC's website. Links provided on Wikimedia's image page (2019-04-03 archive thereof)
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  19. "Past Tours". Womens National Duckpin Association. Archived from the original on April 22, 2019. Accessed in 2019; presumably page is updated annually.
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  23. U.S. Patent 1,114,078,Stanley, Richard E.,"Bowling Pin",issued June 22, 1915
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