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Bowling Pin Specifications

Everyone should learn about bowling pin specifications. Since knowledge is always key in the path to improvement, let's examine useful bits of information about United States Bowling Congress (USBC) bowling pin specifications.

First, bowling pins are made of hard maple wood and are either plastic coated or constructed in one piece or laminated in two or more pieces? Of course, as pins age or wear from use and constant collisions with bowling balls, there are maintenance procedures allowed by USBC which preserve the life and usefulness of the pins. The use of steel wool or sandpaper to remove dirt and surface splinters and the application of finish and/or the patching of plastic coated pins are permitted but must meet USBC specifications.

The weight of a standard wood pin or a plastic coated pin is not less than 3 lbs 6 ounces and not more than 3 lbs 10 ounces. The average weight pin is about 24% of the weight of a 15 lb. bowling ball. It is easy to understand how a ball will deflect excessively upon contact with a pin if a fairly precise bowling ball angle of entry is not created. Allowing for pin deflection is an important part of strike and spare alignment systems.

It is also easy to understand that if a bowling ball is not delivered with a sufficient average velocity, either too much speed or not enough speed, the ball will deflect more than a ball deflects if delivered in an optimum speed range. Typically, a ball measured from the release point to impact with the pocket should be between 2.1 seconds elapsed time and 2.4 seconds or about an average speed of 18-21 m.p.h. at release and about 16-18 m.p.h. at impact with the pins. Bowling balls are manufactured to be delivered in this optimum speed range to maximize pin carry and produce a consistent ball motion traveling down the lane.

The height of a bowling pin is 15" but certainly appears much shorter when viewing the pins from the lane approach area. The diameter of the cup at the base of the pin is 3/4". The base diameter of a pin is 2 1/4". The narrowest pin diameter is 1.8" and about 10" above the base of the pin and is sometimes referred to as the "neck" of the pin.

The Center of Gravity of a pin, measured from the bottom of the pin, is 5 5/16" or about one third way up the height of the pin and approximately one inch above the widest pin diameter area of 4.76" measured 4.5" above the pin base. The CG of a bowling pin and the widest part of the pin diameter are both very near the same point where a bowling ball contacts the pin given that the radius measurement of a bowling ball is also about 4.5 inches above the lane surface.

Because of this, pins can deflect more predictably than one might expect. The bowling ball manufacturing engineers, therefore, can use core and coverstock technology to create ideal ranges of bowling ball entry angles to optimize pin carry. A bowling ball entering the pocket in a straight line parallel to the edges of the lane will deflect more than a ball hooking into the pocket and is at a disadvantage to produce a "strike" result to due to the deflection factor.

For a right handed bowler, the straight line delivery reduces the ability of the bowling ball to also contact the 5 pin in the second row of pins and the 9 pin in the third row of pins (in most cases the 9 pin and in some cases the 8 pin as well) due to excessive deflection off of the head pin on strike deliveries which also may result in reducing the pin carry and the likelihood of getting a strike.

It is also useful to know something about the pin spots on the pindeck and their relative locations to the edges of the lane and back of the lane. The center of the 7 and the 10 pin spots are located 2.75" from the edge of the lane. The pin spots are 2 1/4" in diameter and must be spaced 12" apart in an equilateral triangle formation.

The 7, 8, 9, & 10 pins center of spot is 3" from the pit at the back edge of the pindeck. The distance from the center of the 7 and 10 pin spots to the nearest kickback panel is 12 1/16". This 12' distance from the kickback panel plus the additional 2 3/4" the ten pin is spotted on the pindeck from the edge of the lane yield total of 15" a pin must travel from the kickback to also contact the 10 pin and produce a strike result.

The term "weak 10" (for right handed bowlers) refers to the 10 pin remaining standing on a good pocket delivery. Because the pin deflecting off of the right side kick panel (usually the 6 pin) did not make it back to also contact the 10 pin due to the excessive room between the kickback panel and the 10 pin on the pindeck and generally remains in the channel, the bowler thereby leaves the "weak 10 pin" spare to convert.

The head pin is equidistant from both kickbacks and edges of the lane and is located 34 3/16" from the center of the pin spot to the pit. The overall lane width is 41.5", not including the channel measurements.

With these bowling pin specifications and lane measurements in mind, it is easier to understand how a bowling ball is wide enough to contact both adjacent pins in the same row of pins such as the 4-5 pin combination or the 5-6 pin combination. A bowling ball can deflect enough if it contacts the right edge of the 3 pin to also contact the left edge of the 10 pin for the right handed bowler's "baby split." Same on the left side of the lane with the 2 and 7 pins for left and handed bowlers.

If, however, a bowling ball hooks too sharply just prior to impact with the 3 pin, then it will not contact the 10 pin as well. That is why most top-flight amateur and professional bowlers will use a cross angle delivery and/or a non-aggressive coverstock bowling ball to avoid the bowling ball hooking too severely upon impact when attempting to convert the 3-10 pin split. We hope you find this pin specification information useful.

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