Bowling Lingo You Should Know

Address: A bowler’s starting position or stance.

Anchor: The last person to bowl on a team.

Approach: The area of the lanes extending from the foul line to the back of the lanes.

Baby Split: Slang term for either the 3-10 or 2-7 split. The easiest splits to convert.

Backend: Refers to the section of the lane closest to the pins. The dry part of the lane after the oil pattern.

Backup Ball: A shot that curves to the right for a right-handed bowler or curves left for a left-handed bowler.

Balance Hole: An extra hole drilled into a ball to make it USBC compliant, or react in a specific way. Balance holes will become illegal in August of 2020.

Bed Posts: Slang term for a 7-10 split.

Brooklyn: A ball that hits the headpin on the unintended side. eg. a right-handed bowler hits the left side of the headpin, and vice versa for left handed bowlers.

Carry: AKA “pin carry” refers to the chaotic movement of the pins. Having good carry can allow imperfect shots to still knock down all ten pins.

Cherry: Hitting the front pin(s) of a spare while leaving a pin behind it. Same as a chop.

Chop: Hitting the front pin(s) of a spare while leaving a pin behind it. Same as a cherry.

Christmas Tree: Slang term for 3-7-10 or 2-7-10 split.

Clean Game/Sheet: Every frame is either a spare or strike.

Closed Frame: Any frame in which you get either a strike or spare.

Closed/Clean Game: Any game of bowling in which every frame is closed. You just need a strike or spare in the tenth. There is a misconception that you need to get strikes in the tenth frame to consider it a “closed” game.

Dead Wood: Pins that are left in the gutter or on the lane after a shot.

Double: Two strikes in a row.

Fill Shot: The third shot of the tenth frame.

Foul: Passing the foul line with your foot. Mark it zero.

Foundation: A strike in the 9th frame. Allows for the maximum amount of points in the tenth.

Frame: Every game of bowling consists of ten frames. Each frame a new set of pins is placed on the lanes and you get two chances to knock down all ten. Except for the tenth frame in which you can get up to three throws.

Front x: Starting a game with x amount of strikes. If you have all strikes in the first five frames, you can refer to that as having the “front 5”.

Golden Turkey: Nine strikes in a row. Three turkeys in a row.

Grandma’s Teeth: 7-9-10 or 7-8-10 split.

Gutter Ball: When the ball rolls into the gutter. It is marked a zero even if some pins get knocked down.

Hambone: Four strikes in a row.

High: Hitting the headpin too directly.

Hook: Another word for the curve the ball makes as it travels down the lane.

Jersey Side: See “Brooklyn”.

Lane: The playing surface from the foul line to the back of the pin-deck.

Leave: Refers to the remaining pins left standing.

Lily: 5-7-10 split. AKA “Sour Apple”.

Loft: Tossing the ball further down the lane than usual.

Maples: Pins.

Mark: Refers to either a strike or spare on the scorecard.

Match Play: 1 vs. 1 competition.

Messenger: A pin that rolls or slides across the deck to knock over another pin to either strike or save yourself from a split. See here.

Mother-In-Law: 7 pin.

Nose: The center of the headpin.

Open Bowling: Non-league or tournament bowling.

Open Frame: Any frame in which you don’t get a strike or spare.

Par: 200 points.

Perfect Game: 300 points. 12 strikes in a row.

Pocket: Space in between the 1-3 or 1-2 pins depending on your dominant hand.

Punch-Out: To get only strikes from the current frame onwards. AKA “Strike-Out”.

Rack: A set of ten pins.

Return: Where your ball gets returned to you.

Runway: Another term for the “Approach”

Sand-Bagging: A very frowned upon practice where a bowler will intentionally bowl poorly in order to have a lower average and higher handicap.

Scratch: The number of points you got in a game without handicap. A “scratch” league is a league with no handicap involved.

Sour Apple: 5-7-10 split. Same as a “lily”.

Spare: Knocking down the rest of the remaining pins on your second shot.

Spare Ball: Usually plastic or urethane balls that are designed to hook very little. This allows the bowler to ignore the current lane conditions and bowl straight at the pin(s).

Split: When there is a gap between the remaining pins.

Strike: Knocking down all ten pins on your first throw.

Strike Ball: Most typically, these are balls with a reactive resin coverstock and a reactive core. These balls are designed to curve, so you have the highest chance of getting a strike.

Turkey: Three strikes in a row.




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