Ten-pin bowling is a competitive sport in which a player (the “bowler”) rolls a bowling ball down a wooden or “synthetic” (polyurethane) “lane” with the objective of scoring points by knocking down as many pins as possible.

The 41.5-inch (105 cm) wide, 60-foot (18 m) lane is bordered along its length by “gutters”—semicircular channels designed to collect errant balls which also pose an obstacle to advanced bowlers, because a straight ball cannot be rolled on a regulation lane at the angle required to consistently “carry” (knock down) all ten pins for a strike. Most skillful bowlers will roll a more difficult-to-control “hook” ball to overcome this. There is a “foul line” at the end of the lane nearest to the bowler: if any part of a bowler’s body touches the lane side of this line after the ball is “delivered” (rolled), it is called a “foul” and no pins knocked over by that delivery are scored. (The bowler is allowed a shot at a new “rack” of ten pins if he fouled on the first roll of a frame.) Behind the foul line is an “approach” approximately 15 feet (5 m) long used to gain speed and leverage on the ball before delivering it. 60 feet (18 m) from the foul line, where the lane terminates, it is joined to a roughly 24-inch (61 cm), 41.5-inch (105 cm) wide surface of durable and impact-resistant material called the “pin deck” where each rack of pins is set.

The bowler is allowed ten frames in which to knock down pins, with each frame being composed of up to two rolls. The tenth frame may be composed of up to three rolls: the bonus roll(s) following a strike or spare in the tenth (sometimes referred to as the “eleventh” and “twelfth” frames) are “fill balls” used only to calculate the score of the mark rolled in the tenth. Bowling has a unique scoring system (see below) that is notoriously confusing to newcomers who attempt to score a game with multiple “marks” (strikes and spares). Bowling scores tend to be unintuitive: if a bowler was to knock down 9 pins with his first shot but miss his spare every frame, he would have a score of 90; if the same bowler were to make all of his spares and knock down 9 with the bonus ball, he would have a score of 190. If he were to carry all ten pins with each shot and strike with each of his bonus balls in the tenth frame, he would have shot a “perfect game” of 300.

Since being brought to the United States from Europe, ten-pin bowling (thought to be descended from the game of skittles) has risen in popularity as its technology has improved. The sport is most popular in the United Kingdom and the United States. Both nations maintain national regulatory organizations that govern the sport’s rules and conduct and many of those countries’ best players participate in tournaments on both the national and international stage. Because of the rise in popularity, many companies are now making bowling balls and apparel for professionals as well as for recreational bowlers. Bowling has also become more prevalent in the media in recent years, with the continued popularity of bowling publications and the appearance of films centred around the culture of the sport. However, the sport continues to face challenges in garnering mainstream coverage of the athletic aspects of the game.