About 9-Pin Bowling
9-pin is older than 10-pin or the standard bowling we all know today. 9-pin is not to be confused with 9-pin no tap bowling, these two are as different as day and night. Depending on who you talk to, the game was introduced in Germany in the Medieval Ages or back in the 1800’s in the USA by German immigrants. Either way 9-pin has been around for a lot longer time than 10-pin. As a matter of fact one of the tales I hear told is that 10-pin was derived from 9-pin in an effort to skirt gambling restrictions imposed on 9-pin back in the late 1800’s.
Many a bowler has no clue what 9-pin is or that it even exists. Yet one can find many a “social” club with 2 to 4 four lanes for 9-pin scattered through the country. South Texas has its share of 9-pin clubs (see Bowling > Tournaments > King & Queen/Bexar County Trophy Bowl/Tri-County page on this web site for 9-pin clubs in Bexar, Comal and Guadalupe Counties).
9-pin is very different to today’s 10-pin in many ways. I will try to describe 9-pin bowling in the following paragraphs without trying to complicate the issue or confuse anyone. 9-pin is very simple really once you understand how the scoring is tabulated.
First of all the pins are lined up much like 9 ball in pool, a diamond shape rack. The difference is that the pins are not touching but in fact are actually further apart than in ten-pin. The center pin or #9 pin (some call it the #5 pin) is red in color and has a significant meaning in the scoring. Both 9-pin and 10-pin are the same width but in 9-pin the length is slightly longer (see diagrams at the top of the page).
Also in 9-pin the 1 or head pin, the 9 pin and the 8 pin are all lined up one behind the other. Also the corner pins in 10-pin (7 pin and 10 pin) are further back in the lane than are the side pins of 9-pin (4 pin and 5 pin), which are further up on the lane. The 9-pin rack lends itself to more splits than in 10-pin, which like in ten-pin are not good for scoring purposes, as a fact they are more costly in 9-pin.
Because there are no machines that set the pins automatically like in ten-pin, 9-pin uses pin setters to set up the pins and return the bowling balls (Quite an exercise if you have never tried it).
Team Make-up & Game Format
In 9-pin there are 6 bowlers and the game is 6 frames unlike in ten pin, which has 10 frames. The line up is not fixed in 9-pin like it is in ten-pin. The team captain or “caller” calls up the rotation on a frame to frame basis and he/she chooses which bowler starts and which bowler follows in the rotation. A team will bowl the first 3 frames on one lane then switch with the other team to the other lane to bowl the remaining 3 frames. For example if Team A is bowling against Team B on lanes 3 & 4, Team A will bowl the first 3 frames on lane 3 while Team B is bowling their first 3 frames on lane 4. The teams switch for the last 3 frames.
Each bowler is given two balls to roll no matter what he/she scores on the first ball. A score of 9 is awarded for a “splash” known as a strike in ten-pin, unless the red (9) pin is left by itself, then the score is 12 known as a “ringer”. That means a bowler may score a possible of 24 points per frame (very difficult). If however the bowler does not splash on the first ball he/she then uses the second ball to spare (score 9 or 12). If the bowler does not score (clear the pins or leave the red 9 pin) then no score is awarded and the team captain/caller then calls on another bowler to finish the task.
No score is awarded the team until the pins are all down or the red pin is left no matter how many bowlers it takes. The exception is on the last ball of the last bowler then however many pins are down is the score given. The score is a team score there are no individual scores even though the score is marked by the bowler who scored the points. The frame scores are added resulting in the game score. Like in 10-pin there are three games bowled and the total of the three games counts as a point awarded for a total of 4 points possible.
There are variations of how many bowlers or how many games are played adapted for tournament or league play, but in general that is 9-pin bowling.