How Many Pins Are There In Bowling? Everything You Need To Know

Contrary to popular belief, there are several varieties of bowling that go beyond the classic ten-pin bowling game.

As a result of these varieties, each game has its own number of pins that need to be knocked down. 

How Many Pins Are There In Bowling? Everything You Need To Know

So, whether you’re a keen bowling enthusiast or you’re merely curious about the game, you’re probably wondering “How many pins are there in bowling”? 

Here is everything you need to know about how many pins there are in bowling, including the most common games and some rarer bowling varieties. 

How Many Pins Are There In Bowling? 

Tenpin Bowling

In the most common game of bowling, known as ten-pin bowling, there are – you guessed it – ten pins!

These pins are arranged in the shape of a triangle with the tip pointing towards the player.

The player then has to try and throw the bowling ball in the direction of the pins, with the aim of knocking as many pins over as possible. 

The reason why ten is the most common number of pins is that the pins make the most even triangle shape, making for the fairest shot. 

Ten-pin bowling is now most commonly referred to as “bowling” and is considered the most conventional and popular form of bowling, as recognized by the United States Bowling Congress, American Bowling Congress, British Ten-pin Bowling Association, and Women’s International Bowling Congress. 

Tenpin bowling is also the most competitive bowling variety there is and is generally considered the only form of bowling by those who don’t know about the other variations. In professional settings, such as competitions and leagues, the only competitive game is ten-pin bowling. 

The game of ten-pin bowling is simple – just aim to knock down as many of the ten pins as possible within the ten frames.

Each frame offers two shots, with an extra bonus shot in the tenth and final frame if you score a strike. 

The scoring system is also straightforward unless you shoot a special shot. You will receive a point for every pin you knock down (so, if you knock down 7 pins, you get 7 points).

However, if you shoot a strike or a spare, you get bonus points. 

A strike is when you knock down all 10 pins in one shot. This is arguably the hardest shot in bowling and the one everyone aims for because it gets you the best bonus points.

Once you hit a strike, you automatically get 10 points. The bonus is that the next two shots you shoot will be doubled. 

For example, if you knock down 4 pins and then 8 pins in your next two shots, the total score will amount to 34. 

A spare is when a player knocks down all ten pins within the two shots of a frame.

Not only do they receive ten points, but they also receive an added bonus of the additional points of their second shot in the spare. 

For example, if you knock down 6 pins in the first shot and then the remaining 4 in the second shot, you will get 14 points altogether. 

How Many Pins Are There In Bowling? Everything You Need To Know

Nine-pin Bowling

As the name suggests, nine-pin bowling is a variation of the classic ten-pin bowling game, except with just nine pins!

Interestingly enough, nine-pin bowling is quite different from ten-pin bowling.

Nine-pin bowling is a primarily European game that is a team-only game, rather than tenpin bowling which is played individually.

This game is also called “Kegel”, which was the game’s original name when it originated in Germany. 

Also, rather than laying out the pins in the classic tenpin triangle style, nine-pin bowling pins are set up in the shape of a diamond, making the overall formation wider than a tenpin triangle. 

This actually is believed to make nine-pin bowling harder than ten-pin bowling, because there is more distance between the pins, and therefore makes it harder to knock them all down at once. 

Other than the formation and number of pins (as well as the gameplay of playing in a team vs individually), those are the key differences between nine-pin and ten-pin bowling.

The bowling ball for nine-pin bowling remains the same, with three holes for the thumb and middle, and ring fingers. 

However, unlike tenpin bowling alleys where the pins are automatically set up by a machine, nine-pin bowling pins typically need to be set up manually.

This is because nine-pin bowling is less common than ten-pin bowling unless you’re in Europe, where there might be nine-pin bowling alleys. 

This is why you’ll find that a lot of nine-pin bowling setups have strings or wires connected to the pins.

This is designed to knock over the pins without the pins flying everywhere, so you don’t have to climb between the lanes to pick up random pins. Still, there will be a designated pin-setter for this game. 

Nine-pin bowling is slightly different in terms of frames and scoring. There are six frames instead of ten, and the aim is still to knock down all the pins in one shot.

All the pins are white except for a red pin in the middle. Players receive a point for every pin they knock, so if they knock down all 9, they receive 9 points. 

However, here’s the catch. If they knock down all white pins except for the red one, they will receive 12 points for their team.

This is easier said than done and makes nine-pin bowling a challenging bowling variation. 

How Many Pins Are There In Bowling? Everything You Need To Know

Five-pin Bowling 

As the name suggests, five-pin bowling is another variation of ten-pin bowling, except with only five pins!

This is a Canadian version of the game that features five pins situated in a V-shape formation.

These pins are smaller than the nine-pins and ten-pins, and they are knocked with a smaller ball without holes.

Interestingly, the rules of five-pin bowling are slightly different from ten-pin and nine-pin bowling.

Rather than every pin amounting to one point, each pin in five-pin bowling has its own point number.

The two pins on the outside are worth two points each, the pins in the middle are worth three points each, and the pin in the center is worth five points. 

Players are then given three shots in one frame to knock down as many pins as they can to get the highest score.

There are ten frames overall, and instead of the highest score being 300, the maximum is 450. Five-pin bowling is certainly more of a strategic than a skillful game. 

Five-pins also look very different from nine-pins or ten-pins. The pins are significantly shorter and feature a weighted rubber band in the middle, which helps to make it harder to knock the pins over. 

Candlepin And Duckpin Bowling

Two other variations of bowling are candlepin and duckpin bowling, which are arguably the most uncommon kinds of bowling. 

Candlepin bowling is very similar to regular tenpin bowling, as it consists of ten pins with a similar point system.

However, as the name suggests, these pins are tall and cylindrical to mimic candlesticks.

This actually makes it harder to knock down all of the pins, which is emphasized by the smaller bowling ball

Duckpin bowling also features ten duckpins, which are basically shorter and chunkier versions of tenpins. Likewise, the ball is also smaller, making it harder to knock all the pins over. 

Both candlepin and duckpin bowling feature ten pins that are set up in a triangle formation, just like the classic tenpin bowling game.

However, candlepin and duckpin bowling are commonly played in eastern Canada and the New England region of the United States. 


So, there you have it! While you might assume there are only ten pins in a game of bowling, this doesn’t count for the other variations of the game that include nine or five pins. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Are There 12 Pins In Bowling?

The maximum number of pins in any game of bowling is 10 pins, with other variations including 9 or 5 pins, but never 12.

This is mostly because of the formation the pins have to be in, and with the classic triangle variation of tenpin bowling, 10 is the ideal number of pins. 

The only time 12-pin is referenced to in bowling is with the nine-pin bowling variety.

Nine-pin bowling, also known as “kegel”, features 8 white pins and 1 red pin in the middle, which is called the 12-pin.

If the player knocks down every pin, including the red pin, they receive 9 points. If the player knocks down every pin except for the 12-pin, they receive 12 points. 

What Are Bowling Pins Called?

While bowling pins are often just called “bowling pins”, other common names include “Skittles” and “Kegels”, which are terms most often used in Europe.

Depending on the type of bowling game you are playing, bowling pins can also be called nine-pins, five-pins, duckpins, or candlepins.

This is because every bowling game variety features its own type of pin. 

Drew Kaufner