Bowling Pin Numbers: How the pins are numbered and why.

Bowling pins are numbered sequentially for several reasons. Learn why and discover the pattern in this post.
bowling pin numbers

If you’re a bowler who wants to increase your knowledge about bowling pins and their sequential numbering, then this is the article for you!

In this article, we will break down the notion of Bowling Pin Numbers so you know all there is to know about it!

Ten Pin Bowling

This article details the bowling pins numbered for a game of ten-pin bowling. There are actually several bowling games in which the pins are set up differently.

We all know that you want to knock down as many pins as possible… but have you ever wondered “how are bowling pins numbered“? Then you have landed on the right page…

GO sign instead of a STOP sign

Let’s get started.

There are four rows of bowling pins in the pin rack that sits on the pin deck. They form a triangular shape with the smallest part of the triangle pointing at you.

The first row has one pin. The second row has two bowling pins. The third row has three bowling pins. The fourth row has four bowling pins. In total, in a game of ten-pin bowling, there are ten pins.

Using the triangular formation to your advantage will help you greatly in your next bowling game.

If you are looking for how strikes in a row are named check out this post!

How are Bowling Pins Numbered?

Every bowling pin is assigned a number from 1 to 10, with the first pin (the headpin) being number 1 and all other pins following a sequential numbering all the way to 10. Let’s explore the significance of these numbers and how they were originally assigned.

To get started we should talk about the first pin in the formation.

The Head Pin

first row of the pin deck containing the headpin. Also called pin 1

When you’re bowling, it’s important to know the significance of each pin number as well as some basic terminology. The pin closest to you is called the head pin.

The headpin is assigned pin number 1 and is the first one in the equilateral triangle formation of the pin deck. This means it’s crucial to take out the headpin first in order to clear the way for the other pins.

Second Row

second row of the pin deck containing pins 2 and 3

The headpin is always number 1, followed by the second-row pins. The second row has two pins in it.

These are pins 2 and 3, respectively. After that, the pins follow in numerical order until you reach the end of the lane. Knowing where each pin is can help you improve your game!

When you’re bowling, it’s important to know where each pin is. This helps you aim your ball correctly and score higher.

Third Row

third row pin deck containing pins 4,5, and 6

The significance of bowling pin numbers and their sequential numbering can be confusing for some bowlers.

In the third row, you have pins 4, 5, and 6. There are three pins in the third row.

Fourth Row (Last Row, Back Row)

the fourth row of the pin deck containing pins 7, 8, 9, and 10

In the back row, you have pins 7, 8, 9, and 10. In the back row, you have four pins.

Numbering Bowling Pins

The best way to refer to bowling pins is by their number. This number can identify pins that have been left standing.

Or if there are very few pins knocked down, their number can be called to let people know which pins were knocked down on ball delivery.

In every pin set, there are 10 pins.

Pin Placement on the Pin Deck (Pin Spot)

close-up shot of grungy bowling pins with red ball on foreground

Pin 1 

The pin that is closest to the bowler is called the “headpin” or “Pin 1”.

The headpin is always placed in the middle of the bowling lane on the 20th board. The boards are the pieces of wood that make up the bowling lane.

This is also considered the “pin spot” or “sweet spot”.

Pins 2 and 3

Pins 2 and 3 are behind the headpin and to the left and right of the headpin, respectively.

The placement of the boards should be five boards apart from the headpin on the bowling lane.

  • Pin 2 is on the 25 board 
  • Pin 3 is on the 15 board

Pins 4, 5, and 6

In the third row, you have Pin 4, Pin 5, and Pin 6.

Pin 5 is located behind the headpin and is often referred to as the “Sleeper Pin” because it is difficult to see.

  • Pin 4 is on the 30 board
  • Pin 5 is on the 20 board
  • Pin 6 is on the 10 board

Pins 7, 8, 9, and 10

The final row is the back row. Pin 7 is on the left, Pin 8 is in the middle, Pin 9 is on the right, and Pin 10 is on the far right.

  • Pin 7 is on the 35 board
  • Pin 8 is on the 25 board
  • Pin 9 is on the 15 board
  • Pin 10 is on the 5 board 

Where Should The Bowling Ball Hit the Pins?

Adam picking up that Spare Pin at The Bowling Ally

Now that we know the significance of each pin number, let’s talk about where you should aim the ball.

If you’re a beginner, you might want to start by aiming for the middle of the headpin.

Angles Matter

grungy bowling pins in gate with reflection in polished floor

However, the angle at which you hit the Headpin plays a significant factor as to whether or not you will get a strike on that roll.

Try New Attacks

As you get more experienced, you can try to aim for different spots on the pins.

For example, if you’re a left-hander, you might want to aim for the 2nd-row pins.

This is because when the ball hits the headpin, it will spin-off to the right and take out the 2nd-row pins.

If you’re a right-hander, you might want to aim for the 3rd-row pins.

This is because when the ball hits the headpin, it will spin off to the left and take out the 3rd-row pins.

The best way to improve your aim is to practice! The more you bowl, the better you’ll get at hitting your target.

Bowling Pin Numbers History: How They Were Assigned

bowling pins triangle

The significance of bowling pin numbers can be traced back to their original purpose.

When bowling first became popular, the pins were placed in a diamond formation.

The headpin was in the middle, followed by the 2nd-row pins, then the 3rd-row pins, and finally the 4th-row pins.

This made it easy to remember which pin was which.

However, as the game evolved, the formation of the pins changed.

Now, the headpin is in the middle, followed by the 2nd-row pins, then the 3rd-row pins, and finally the back row pins.

The headpin is still Pin 1, followed by Pins 2 and 3.

However, Pin 4 is now in the back row, followed by Pins 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10.

While the numbering of the bowling pins has changed, their significance has not.


We’ve looked at the numbers assigned to bowling pins and their order in this article. Head to your nearest bowling alley and put this new knowledge to good use.

Bowling Pin Number:

  • The pins are numbered to make them easier to identify
  • First Row (“head pin”): Pin 1
  • Second Row: Pin 2, Pin 3
  • Third Row: Pin 4, Pin 5, Pin 6
  • Fourth Row (“Back Row): Pin 7, Pin 8, Pin 9, Pin 10

How many pins do you have to knock down for a strike?

You need to knock all the pins. So to roll a strike in bowling you must knock down all ten pins.

What happens if I cross the foul line?

If you cross the foul line, your shot is counted as a zero.

What is the Ball return?

The ball return is the machine that picks up the bowling balls and returns them to the bowlers.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I get a little off the top to help me keep this website running. 

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