Candlepin Bowling

Pins and bowling ball logomark

Candlepin Bowling

The sport of Candlepin is a bowling game unique to New England and the Canadian Maritime Provinces. First played in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1880, Candlepin Bowling is an exciting skillful sport, requiring minimal physical strength while demanding great timing, dexterity and patience from each participant. Candlepin bowling is enjoyed by the young and old, the strong and the handicapped, by boys and girls, men and women.

It is indeed a sport for all people. That is what prompted the formation of the International Candlepin Bowling Association. The I.C.B.A. is an umbrella organization that consists of delegates from each State and Provincial Association. Its members see Candlepin Bowling as a part of history and wish to ensure its future.

One of the goals of the I.C.B.A. is to unify the sport so that Candlepin Bowlers will be bowling under the same conditions and rules no matter where they bowl.


The rules of candlepin bowling are quite simple. Each player must roll a small ball down a wooden lane to knock over a set of ten skinny pins arranged in pyramid fashion with one pin in the nearest row and four pins in the furthest row. Each player gets three rolls per turn. Any pins that are knocked over in between turns are left to rest where they fall. 

If all ten pins are knocked down with the first ball (a strike), the player receives ten points plus the count on the next two rolls. When this happens, the pins are cleared and a new set is placed. If all ten pins are knocked down with two balls (a spare), the player receives 10 points plus the count of the next ball, pins are cleared and reset. If all three balls are needed to knock all the pins down, the score for that frame is simply ten, and known in New England as a ten-box.
If more than one player is playing on the same lane at the same time, bowlers will typically roll two complete boxes before yielding the lane to the next bowler. In the tenth box, play is similar, except that a player scoring a strike is granted two additional balls, scoring a spare earns one additional ball. Three balls are rolled in the tenth box regardless of their results.

A foul (scored by an F on some computer scoring systems) refers to a ball that first rolls into the gutter and then strikes deadwood (felled pins resting in the gutter) or hops out of the gutter and strikes a standing pin, a "lob"-bed ball that touches neither the approach, nor lane in the three meters' distance of lanebed before the lob line, or as in tenpins and duckpins, a roll made by a bowler's foot crossing over the foot foul line shared by nearly all bowling sports. 


  • A game consists of 10 boxes, in which not more than 3 balls are allowed for each box.
  • If all pins are felled by first ball it is a strike and is marked with a double line.  
  • If all pins are felled by first 2 balls it is a spare and marked with a single line.  
  • If all pins are felled by 3 balls it is a ten box and marked by an X.
  • A strike permits you to score ten plus a bonus of the pins felled by the 1st and 2nd balls of your next box.
  • A spare permits you to score ten plus a bonus of the pins felled by the 1st ball of your next box.
  • In the 1st box: You fell 8 pins after 3 balls.
  • In the 2nd box: You fell 7 pins after 3 balls totaling 15.
  • In the 3rd box: You fell all pins with 3 balls.
  • In the 4th box: You fell all 10 pins with 1 ball scoring a strike. You add the first 2 balls of the 5th box to the strike (10 + 5).
  • In the 5th box: Finish rolling the 3rd ball and total down after all 3 balls is 9.
  • In the 6th box: You fell all 10 pins in 2 balls scoring a spare. Your spare is worth 10 plus pins fallen from the first ball of the 7th box. In this case 6.
  • In the 7th box: Finish rolling the 2nd and 3rd ball and total down after all 3 balls is 8.
  • In the 8th box: You fell 9 pins after 3 balls.
  • In the 9th box: You scored a strike.
  • In the 10th box: You scored a spare filling your strike with a 10 and a total being 20 in your 9th box. 
  • To finish out the 10th box and your spare roll 1 ball and add it to your spare (10+8=18).

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