Bowling centers, referred to as "alleys," contain an average of 20 lanes, although the largest alleys may contain as many as 100 lanes. Each bowling "lane" contains an approach, a lane, a pin deck, and a pit. The approach is at least 15 feet, and allows bowlers to take several strides to gain momentum before releasing the ball. The approach features markings at 15 feet, 12 feet, and 6 inches behind the foul line to assist in aiming the ball. The lane is 60 feet long and 41 to 42 inches wide. A gutter runs along each side of the lane to catch misaimed balls. Each gutter is 9.5 inches wide. Some lanes feature bumpers in the gutters to assist beginners by bouncing the ball back toward the pins. A pin deck is located at the end of each lane and contains pin spots 1 foot apart on which the pins rest, forming a 3 foot triangle. Pins are made of wood and plastic, and must be 15 inches tall and weigh between 3 lb, 6 oz and 3 lb, 10 oz. The pit is located behind the pin deck, containing a machine that gathers and resets the pins and sends the ball back up a track to the approach area. Each bowling area also contains a scoring desk and benches.
Bowlers must use a special ball and shoes. Most bowling centers will rent these to players, but league bowlers may wish to purchase their own. Bowling balls weigh between 8 and 16 pounds and competition balls must measure 8.5 inches in diameter. Bowling balls have three holes, one for the thumb and two fingers. They are made of rubber, plastic, urethanes, or a combination, and come in a variety of colors, although the standard color is black. Bowling shoes feature smooth soles enabling fluidity of movement during the approach.
A bowling game consists of ten frames. During a frame, each bowler tries to knock down all ten pins by rolling twice. If the first roll knocks down all ten pins, this is known as a strike, and is worth ten points. The bowler then gets to roll twice more. The highest possible score in a frame is 30 (three strikes), and a perfect game is a score of 300. If all the pins are knocked down within two rolls, it is known as a spare and is worth ten points plus the number of pins knocked down on the subsequent roll. If all the pins are not knocked down on both rolls, the number of points is the number of pins knocked down on both throws. When no pins are knocked down it is called a scratch and worth no points. Players rolling a spare in the final frame receive an extra ball, and players rolling a strike in the final frame receive two extra balls.
Bowlers should start at the middle of the foul line facing away from the pins, and take four and a half steps forward before turning and facing the lane. The fingers of one hand are placed in the holes of the bowling ball, with the weight of the ball rests in the opposite hand. The ball should be tossed smoothly toward the front pin, without throwing too hard or releasing the ball too high from the floor.
The exact history of bowling is unclear, but Egyptians played a game similar to bowling thousands of years ago, and games like boccie and fivepins were popular in Medieval Europe. Dutch settlers brought the game of ninepins to North America in the 1620s and a tenth pin was soon added. During the early 1900s, bowling became popular with both men and women, and automatic pinsetting machines enhanced the game in the early 1950s. Bowling soon became a sport for all people, growing to be one of the most popular competitive and recreational activities in the world.
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