Tenpin bowling - An easy game to play, a tough sport to master

Tenpin bowling looks simple enough, but the level of skill and technical knowledge behind the greatest bowlers takes years of dedication to acquire and no-one ever truly masters it.

What makes it so difficult?

The bowling lanes are often prepared differently using a machine that can lay a variety of oil patterns. The bowlers need to figure out the pattern in order to bowl the ball in the right place with the right amount of hook and speed for it to hit the pins in the correct place. As the game develops, the distribution of oil moves on the lane which then requires the bowler to consider changing their “shot”.

The game can be played by novices using a “plastic” ball which is designed to roll straight and not react to the oil pattern. However, in order to truly develop, a bowler will use a variety of different “reactive” balls which are designed to help bowlers with changing lane conditions.

You can think of it like a Formula One car, that needs to change tyres according to road conditions.

What makes it unique as a sport?

Whilst the sport has a physical side, the main emphasis is on skill and technique. Bowling therefore reaches out to children that wouldn’t otherwise be playing sport. Children that are not athletically gifted are not disadvantaged in bowling, and unlike a team sport such as football, no one is left on the side-line waiting for their chance to get involved.

The handicap scoring system is a great leveller, which means people of all ages and genders can compete against one another. The handicap (starting score) is calculated according to the average scores achieved across a defined number of previous games.

In youth bowling, children of all ages and abilities play together at the same time, which means that more experienced bowlers share their knowledge of the sport with newer participants. Most sports segregate by both gender and age, whereas bowling encourages everyone to learn and compete as one.

Bowling tournaments usually feature a combination of singles, doubles and 4-person team events. The points system for team events in youth bowling usually dictates that a team requires a mixture of younger and older bowlers. Singles and doubles competitions can be played according to gender, age group and/or based on bowlers’ handicap.

What skills do the bowlers learn?


Tenpin bowling is fun, although can be very frustrating for a bowler as he/she strives to improve. Bowling develops key skills including learning to work in a team, the discipline required to cope with frustration in a competitive environment, sportsmanship and bowling etiquette.