Why Are Bowling Pins Numbered?

Bowling pins can be arranged in a wide variety of ways depending on where you’re bowling and the type of game you are playing.

For example, while they are always set up in a triangle-style position in ten-pin bowling, for five-pin games they are set up in more of a V shape to fit the style of the game.

Why Are Bowling Pins Numbered

While their positioning can change around quite a bit, one thing that stays the same in most games is the pins being numbered.

There is actually a very good reason for pins being numbered and in some games, it can even make a huge difference or make the game more competitive.

Here are all the main facts regarding pin numbers including why they need to be numbered and what it means for certain games of bowling.

Why Are Pins Numbered?

There is a very simple answer to this question and it is that it makes organizing the pins far more convenient.

In a regular ten-pin game of bowling, each individual pin is given a number from 1 to 10 in order to signify where it is in the triangular formation.

This is not usually as much of a factor for bowlers who play casually, however many experienced bowlers in a bowling center or at a tournament will commonly refer to each pin by their number to clearly explain where each one is and what they are aiming for.

Learning the number of each can actually be a great way to expand both your bowling knowledge but also experience as it can allow you to identify how many pins there are that might be harder to see, and what particular pins you should be aiming for to knock down the most with one throw.

Number Layout

In a regular game of ten-pin bowling, at the very front of the triangle and standing alone is pin number 1, also known as the ‘Headpin’.

This is often the pin many bowlers will aim for when trying to hit a strike with a straight shot since it can bowl over into the pins behind it and send them flying too to rack up a good score.

In the second row and behind the head pin are pins 2 and 3, these are often placed five boards apart from the head pin with pin 2 being on the 25 board and pin 3 being on the 15 board.

The third row is then composed of pins 4, 5, and 6 being on the 30, 20, and 10 board respectively. Pin 5 is often called the ‘sleeper pin’ because it is hidden right behind the head pin and can be quite hard to spot.

The final back row is then composed of pins 7, 8, 9, and 10 with 7 being on the far left and 10 to the far right.

The spacing of each pin is required to be 12 inches each spreading across the triangular shape, this even spacing can ensure that a perfect hit knocks down the bowling pins easily.

Numbers In Nine-Pin Bowling

Why Are Bowling Pins Numbered

The numbers on pins matter much more in nine-pin bowling because of how the game is played with a ‘red’ pin being in the middle which can earn you more points if you manage to avoid it while hitting the others.

Pins are set up in a diamond formation for nine-pin bowling, with pin number 9 being the ‘kingpin’ right in the center of all the other pins. This is the ‘red’ pin and has a significant effect on scoring depending on whether you hit it or not.

For the other pins, number 1 is placed right at the front on its own with 2 and 3 right behind it.

The middle row is then composed of numbers 4 to the left, 5 to the right, and the red 9 pin squeezed in between them. Just behind this row will be pin numbers 6 and 7, and in the final row on its own is number 8.

While the width of the pins is the same for both nine and ten-pin bowling, nine pins are a lot longer and can often be positioned a bit further away from each other in order to adjust to the game and its specific rules.

Despite once being incredibly popular and having a vast and fascinating history, nine-pin bowling has unfortunately witnessed an extreme decline in popularity due to being banned in some areas, however, you can still find centers and alleys allowing it to be played such as in many parts of Texas.

Why Is It Useful To Know Pin Numbers?

Learning the numbers on pins is incredibly easy, just remember that the headpin at the front is number 1, and then from left to right for each row the numbers go up until it reaches 10.

While this may seem simple, it is actually an incredibly easy way to improve your game since sometimes when we are playing and the pins are a little huddled together, it can be hard to notice or see how many pins are still left standing.

If you know which numbers have already been knocked out, it can give you an idea of which are still standing that might be a little more out of view and harder to hit.

If you are in a more competitive setting such as a tournament, then knowing pin numbers is even more important since announcers and coaches will often refer to each pin by their number, so it can be a good idea to keep the numbers in mind just so you know what specifically they are referring to.

Sometimes the number of pins can even show up on scoreboards during a tournament to refer to what pins are knocked down by a player on each frame, so it can be crucial to know if you are looking to prove your skills in a fiercely competitive setting.


Bowling pin numbers are incredibly easy to remember once you know the general layout, however, they can actually affect a game quite a bit depending on how you’re playing.

While it can be good for just keeping track of your pins in ten-pin bowling, it can be much more important in nine-pin bowling where the positioning of each pin matters far more and can heavily affect your end score depending on how you throw.

Therefore it’s never a bad idea to start referring to pins by their numbers, both to keep a clear idea of what ones are left standing and to show your friends how much your bowling experience has expanded.

Drew Kaufner