Nine-pin bowling

Last updated
Nine-pin bowling
Nine-pin ball and pins, as used in Germany.
Highest governing body WNBA
Nicknamesninepins, 9-pin, kegel, kegeln
First playedMedieval times, Germany
Registered playersabout 130,000
Team members6 per side + reserves
Mixed gender Yes, separate competitions
Type Team sport, ball sport
EquipmentNine-pin bowling ball and pins
VenueNine-pin bowling lane
Olympic No
World Games 2005

Nine-pin bowling (also known as ninepin bowling, nine-pin, kegel, or kegeln) is a bowling game played primarily in Europe. European championships are held each year. Over 90,000 members are on teams in Germany, often playing in officially registered Bundeskegelbahnen (association bowling alleys) to be found in almost every sizable town. In Europe overall, there are some 130,000 players. Nine-pin bowling lanes are often found in Austria, Czechia, Slovakia, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Estonia, Switzerland, Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Poland, North Macedonia, Hungary, Brazil and Liechtenstein. The English-speaking countries, having a predominance of facilities for the modern ten-pin sport which originated in the United States, as well as regionally popular "small-ball" bowling sports of various types, do not have many facilities in existence for the nine-pin game in the 21st century. On the other hand, a modified version is played in the US state of Texas.


European version

"Music and Bowling" (1736) by Johann Franz Hormannsperger (b.1710 - d.?) Privatalbum Hormannsperger 04.jpg
"Music and Bowling" (1736) by Johann Franz Hörmannsperger (b.1710 – d.?)

This game is played by rolling a ball down an alley towards nine pins. Unlike the ten-pin ball — and like the ones used for other American "small-ball" bowling sports such as five-pin bowling, candlepin and duckpin — the nine-pin ball has no finger holes, although there are also special balls with two finger holes designed for novice and amateur players. The regulation lanes are 19.5 m (64 ft) long without gutters and a string lined in the foul line, in which the ball must be thrown beneath. A regional variation found in Germany and Luxembourg utilizes a narrower lane that increases in width to the end and features gutters, known locally as the Scherenbahn (lit. "scissor lane"), and is more challenging than the regular nine-pin lane. The Scherenbahn is rarely used for professional championships and mostly only for recreational games and/or local competitions.

The nine pins (literally known as "cones" in the local languages) are placed in a square shape whose diagonal coincides with the axis of the lane. In modern systems the pins are reset by a pinsetter which lifts up the pins, each connected by a string on top, and lowers them back into the square shape for the next throw. The strings can be a positive factor for the bowler, as they can knock down other pins, or a negative factor, as they can get tangled up during the resetting process, though this is not always a problem as the machine can retract the strings for a short distance and allow a few seconds for them to untangle automatically. Compared with the ten-pin "free-fall" pinsetter, the string pin-setter has fewer moving parts, consumes less power, and costs less to maintain. String pinsetters can also be found on low-cost or recreational ten-pin lanes.

The game is played in 120 throws of four lanes. On each lane there are 30 throws; the first fifteen throws simply reset the pins after each throw, and the next fifteen throws reset the pins only after all the pins are knocked down (fallen pins remain out of play until no pins are left). After each lane of 30 throws is completed, players shift to the next lane to the right (except for the player in fourth lane, who moves to the first lane) until the tournament is over.

The ball is 16 cm (6.3 in) in diameter and weighs approximately 2.85 kg (6.3 lb), slightly smaller than the standard ten-pin ball. For younger and/or novice players, the ball is 14 cm (5.5 in) and weigh 1.9 kg (4.2 lb), often with two finger holes. The pins usually have a weight of approximately 1.3 kg (2.9 lb).


Pin points are added up for each throw. Professional players knock down 700 pins and more. The unofficial world record is the result of Vilmoš Zavarko - 771 pins set up on February 8, 2020 in St. Martin. However, it is unofficial record, according to the WNBA's regulations, world records are recognized at World Championship events. This one belongs to the Hungarian Tamás Kiss, is 734 and was set in Brno on May 23, 2014.

Historic depiction of Nine-pin bowling by Friedrich Eduard Meyerheim (1834) Friedrich Eduard Meyerheim 002.jpg
Historic depiction of Nine-pin bowling by Friedrich Eduard Meyerheim (1834)

League play is arranged in many WNBA member countries. Teams are composed of six competing players, of whom each one plays 120 throws, except if he is substituted. Two substitutes are allowed per game. As the play goes, each team sets up the lineup before the game. Players compete against each other for team points. A player who has more points on a lane gets one set point. If the players have knocked down the same number of pins, each gets 0,5 set points. The player with more set points gets a team point. If they have 2 set points each, the player with the higher total number of pins gets the team point. If they have the same number of pins, each team gets 0,5 team points. The team points are added up, the team with more total pins gets 2 additional team points. The team with more team points wins the game. If the team point score is 4:4, the game is tied. Those same rules apply for international matches. The winners of the National league championships enter the Champions League, the highest club competition.

Opposed to the league play, which is arranged in teams, there are National Championships, which are arranged individually. The player with the most pins combined is usually the winner. In some countries though, the national championships are competed through a knockout format, where the points are added up similarly as in the league play.

World records

Updated 10 June 2019. [1]

734Tamás KissFlag of Hungary.svg Hungary23 May 2014 Flag of the Czech Republic.svg Brno 687Ines MaričićFlag of Croatia.svg Croatia26 May 2019 Flag of the Czech Republic.svg Rokycany
4012Claudiu Boanta
Levente Kakuk
Tamás Kiss
Zsombor Zapletán
László Karsai
Norbert Kiss
Flag of Hungary.svg Hungary25 May 2013 Flag of Hungary.svg Zalaegerszeg 3830Saskia Seitz
Ute Beckert
Daniela Kicker
Ursula Zimmerman
Simone Bader
Corinna Kastner
Flag of Germany.svg Germany22 May 2009 Flag of Germany.svg Dettenheim
250Igor KovačićFlag of Serbia.svg Serbia21 May 2014 Flag of the Czech Republic.svg Brno 238Beata WłodarczykFlag of Poland.svg Poland25 May 2016 Flag of Croatia.svg Novigrad
(1x120 + 2x20)
955Tamás KissFlag of Hungary.svg Hungary24 May 2014 Flag of the Czech Republic.svg Brno 890Jasmina AnđelkovićFlag of Serbia.svg Serbia26 May 2018 Flag of Romania.svg Cluj

European Nine-Pin Leagues

See World Ninepin Bowling Association members for partial list, till updated here.

American version


Standardized rules and organization of nine-pins were developed by the American Bowling Congress in 1895. Nine-pins was the most popular form of bowling in much of the United States from colonial times until the 1830s, when several cities in the United States banned nine-pin bowling out of moral panic over the supposed destruction of the work ethic, gambling, and organized crime.[ citation needed ] Tenpin bowling is said to have been invented in order to meet the letter of these laws, even with evidence of outdoor bowling games in 1810 England being bowled with ten pins set in an equilateral triangle as is done today in tenpin bowling. Today, nine-pins has disappeared from all of the United States except Texas, where, by 1837, ninepin alleys were numerous enough that rather than a ban, the 1st Congress of the Republic of Texas chose to subject them to an annual tax of $150, and all forms of bowling have remained legal and subject to taxation in Texas ever since. Whereas tenpin alleys were usually found in saloons and other establishments frequented exclusively by men, ninepin alleys were often built by clubs patronized by families.


The American variation of nine-pin bowling is played with the same lane as in conventional ten-pin bowling. The difference is the lack of automatic pinsetter and electronic scoring system. Both of these are done manually, similar to how ten-pin bowling was in the early 20th century. The lane is usually under a dry lane condition (without oil), or rarely oiled in typical house shot, allowing players to release a hook ball in a similar fashion as ten-pin bowling.

Unique to Central Texas

By World War I most Texas bowling establishments, both private and commercial, had changed to ten-pins. However, nine-pins remained popular in predominantly German communities like Fredericksburg, New Braunfels and Bulverde, until the introduction of fully automated pin-setting machinery in the 1950s caused most of them to make the change as well. Those bowlers who still preferred the teamwork and camaraderie of nine-pins then moved to the nine-pins clubs in the small outlying communities of Bexar, Comal, and Guadalupe Counties.

Organizations like the Turner Club, Barbarossa, Bexar, Bulverde, Blanco, Bracken, Cibolo, Fischer, Freiheit, Germania (the oldest club, organized in 1889), Highland, Laubach, Marion, Martinez, Mission Valley, Solms, Spring Branch, and Zorn bowling clubs maintain the only active nine-pins leagues in the United States.

League organization and gameplay

These bowling clubs typically have league bowling Monday through Friday, dependent on the number of bowling lanes and number of league bowlers. The smaller clubs (Zorn, Barbarossa, and Laubach, for example) have only four lanes while the bigger clubs may have eight or more lanes. League bowling consists of two teams bowling head-to-head for three games, with each nine-pin team having six bowlers. Each game consists of six frames.

The rules of this game are slightly more complicated than the European version. Each bowler will roll the ball twice in each frame regardless of the number of pins knocked down on each roll. When a bowler’s turn is completed, the next bowler will not receive a “Full House” to bowl at: rather, the next bowler must attempt to knock down the pins that were left by the previous bowler. For example, if the first bowler is only able to knock down seven pins, the second bowler must attempt to knock down the remaining two pins. Should the second bowler be unsuccessful in knocking down both of these pins in the allotted two rolls, the third bowler will attempt to knock down the remaining pins. This will continue until the remaining pins are knocked down or until the end of the frame. Once all pins are knocked down, the “12-pin”/”Redhead” is left standing alone (see below), or the end of the frame is reached, all nine pins (a Full House) will be reset.

Something that makes nine-pin bowling different from ten-pin bowling is that the bowlers do not have to bowl in the same order in each frame. Each team can designate a bowler to “Captain” each game. This Captain has complete discretion in determining the bowling order in each frame. These decisions are made on-the-fly: If the remaining pins are on the left side, and there is a remaining bowler who is better than the rest on left side pins, the Captain will send that bowler. This gives the Captain the flexibility to help maximize the team’s score. However, each bowler must roll two balls in each frame.

The pins used in the Texas version of nine-pins are the same dimensions as those used in ten-pins, and the bowlers use ten-pin balls, with finger and thumb holes drilled in them. [2]

The pins are set up in a diamond (1-2-3-2-1) configuration. The pin exactly in the center has a special purpose in nine-pin bowling. This pin is typically painted red, either partially or completely, and is called the “12-Pin” or the “Redhead”. From front to back, the pins are 1) the Head Pin, 2) the Left Front Beer and Right Front Beer Pins, 3) the Left Corner, the 12-Pin/Redhead, and the Right Corner, 4) the Left Back Beer and Right Back Beer Pins, and, finally, 5) the Sleeper Pin.


Scoring in nine-pin is also different. Each frame begins with a full house. If a bowler knocks down all nine pins in a full house, that bowler achieved a nine-ringer and is given a score of 9 with a circle around it. Note that the circle is just to show that this was a ringer. There are no additional points for a ringer. If a bowler knocks down all the pins except for the center pin in a full house that bowler achieved a twelve-ringer and is given a score of 12 with a circle around it. Again, the circle does not add additional points; it simply shows that a ringer was bowled.

If a bowler’s roll does not result in either “9” or “12” points, that bowler’s roll is given a “-“ (dash) or a “√” (check) which carries no point value. The one exception to this is the last ball rolled by the last bowler in the frame. This bowler will receive credit for the number of pins knocked down. For example, if the last bowler has rolled his second ball for this frame, and three pins remain standing (six pins knocked down), that bowler will receive credit for those six pins, regardless if that bowler knocked these six pins down or not.

When a bowler takes a turn and knocks down the remaining pins, that bowler receives nine points for that shot, regardless of the number of pins knocked down to receive these nine points. If a bowler knocks down the remaining pins, except for the center pin, that bowler receives 12 points for that shot regardless of the number of pins knocked down to receive those 12 points.

Because bowlers face the pins their teammates have left, the better teams are those who have a mix of bowlers that can “hit the left side”, “hit the right side”, or can “roll ringers”. This leads to “specialization”. A good team “Captain” can also help their team by sending the bowlers in the order that maximizes their success.

Typical nine-pin league bowling teams have both male and female bowlers with ages that span from teenagers up to 80- and 90-year-old great-grandparents. It is not unheard of for an 80-something grandmother to be on a bowling team because “she can hit the left side every time”.

See also

Related Research Articles

Five-pin bowling

Five-pin bowling is a bowling variant which is played in Canada, where many bowling alleys offer it, either alone or in combination with ten-pin bowling. It was devised around 1909 by Thomas F. Ryan in Toronto, Ontario, at his Toronto Bowling Club, in response to customers who complained that the ten-pin game was too strenuous. He cut five tenpins down to about 75% of their size, and used hand-sized hard rubber balls, thus inventing the original version of five-pin bowling.

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.

Skittles (sport) Old European lawn game

Skittles is a historical lawn game and target sport of European origin, from which the modern sport of bowling is descended. In regions of the United Kingdom and Ireland the game remains as a popular indoor pub game. A continental version is popular in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Other varieties of bowling are more popular in Australia, but the similar game of kegel, based on German nine-pin bowling, is popular in some areas. In Catalonia, bitlles, a local version of this game, was formerly popular..

Candlepin bowling Form of bowling

Candlepin bowling is a variation of bowling that is played primarily in the Canadian Maritime provinces and the New England region of the United States. It is played with a handheld-sized ball and tall, narrow pins that resemble candles, hence the name.

Duckpin bowling A variation of the sport of bowling

Duckpin bowling is a variation of the sport of bowling.

Perfect game (bowling)

A perfect game is the highest score possible in a game of bowling, achieved by striking in every frame. In bowling games that use 10 pins, such as ten-pin bowling, candlepin bowling, and duckpin bowling, the highest possible score is 300, achieved by bowling 12 strikes in a row in a traditional single game: one strike in each of the first nine frames, and three more in the tenth frame.

Bowling for Dollars was a television game show on which people could play the sport of bowling to win cash and sometimes prizes based on how well they bowled.


In bowling, a pinsetter or pinspotter is an automated mechanical device that sets bowling pins back in their original positions, returns bowling balls to the front of the alley, and clears fallen pins on the pin deck. Prior to the machine's invention, pinsetters were originally young men stationed at bowling alleys to manually reset pins and return the ball. The first mechanical pinsetter was invented by Gottfried (Fred) Schmidt, who sold the patent in 1941 to AMF. Pinsetting machines have largely done away with pinsetting as a manual profession, although a small number of bowling alleys still use human pinsetters. While humans usually no longer set the pins, a pinchaser, or in slang "pin monkey", is often stationed near the equipment to ensure it is clean and working properly, and to clear minor jams.

<i>Bowling</i> (video game) Video game for the Atari 2600 from 1979

Bowling is a sports video game published in 1979 by Atari, Inc. for the Atari VCS. It was programmed by Larry Kaplan who left Atari to co-found Activision the same year. The game is an interpretation of the sport bowling, playable by one or two players.

A split is a situation in ten pin bowling in which the first ball of a frame knocks down the headpin but leaves standing two or more non-adjacent groups of one or more pins. Scoring a spare in this situation is often referred to as a "killer shot".

In the sport of ten-pin bowling, there are many different ways in which to deliver the bowling ball in order to advance it toward the pins in an accurate and powerful manner. Generally, there are three basic forms of 10-pin bowling. The most basic form is known as stroking, which is the most classic form. The most powerful form is known as cranking, which imparts great leverage and maximum rotation on the ball, but sacrifices accuracy. In between the two is the domain of the tweener, who has characteristics of both, but does not truly fit into either category. A well-known variant of "tweening" is the power stroker.

Spare (bowling)

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.

Strike (bowling)

In bowling, a strike means that all of the pins have been knocked down on the first ball roll of a frame. On a bowling scoresheet, a strike is marked by an "X".

Automatic scorer

An automatic scorer is the computerized scoring system to keep track of scoring in ten-bowling. It was introduced into bowling alleys in the 1970s and combined with mechanical pinsetters for detecting the pins bowled down. Automatic scorers took away the task of having to keep score by hand by using a specialized computer designed for the task of automatically keeping the tally.

Kegel (bowling) German bowling game

Kegel, or kegeln, is a German bowling game, in which a player rolls a wooden or plastic ball along a smooth, hard indoor lane. The object of the game is to knock down the nine kegels at the other end of the lane. Kegel is a German derivative of European nine-pin bowling and is therefore closely related to its American counterpart, and bear similar elements to the traditional ten-pin bowling. It was also introduced to South Australia by German settlers in the 19th century and remains popular in areas in which many German people settled, such as the Barossa Valley.

Trick bowling is a form of competitive bowling in which unusual and difficult custom setups are used. Trick bowling often involves special pin setup, multiple bowling balls, or obstacles placed on the lane.

Basque bowls Basque variants of bowling games.

Basque bowls, is one of the few Basque rural sports which do not originate in an activity related to rural or marine work. It has a number of other names too and is played in a bolatoki or bolaleku "bowls place" which often consists of a playing area in the open, an open sided structure with a low roof or a playing area located inside a colonnaded hallway.

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

Bowling is a target sport and recreational activity in which a player rolls a ball toward pins or another target. The term bowling usually refers to pin bowling though in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries, bowling could also refer to target bowling, such as lawn bowls.

<i>Bowling Revolution P-League</i>

Bowling Revolution P★League is a series of Japanese women-only bowling tournaments, developed solely for television. Entry into these tournaments is limited to selected members of the Japan Professional Bowling Association (JPBA), and amateurs who have qualified via open auditions. The show airs throughout Japan on BS Nittele (BS日テレ).


  1. WNBA NBC Official World Records. According to the WNBA directive, official world records are set only at World Championship events.
  2. "Texas 9-Pin Bowling - Cultural Relic". Retrieved January 1, 2019.