Nine-pin bowling
Nine-pin ball and pins, as used in Germany.
Highest governing bodyWNBA
Nicknamesninepins, 9-pin, kegel, kegeln
First playedMedieval times, Germany
Registered playersabout 130,000
Team members6 per side + reserves
Mixed-sexYes, separate competitions
TypeTeam sport, ball sport
EquipmentNine-pin bowling ball and pins
VenueNine-pin bowling lane
World Games2005

Nine-pin bowling (also known as ninepin bowling, nine-pin, kegel, or kegeln) is a bowling game played primarily in Europe. European championships are held each year. In Europe overall, there are some 130,000 players. Nine-pin bowling lanes are often found in Austria, Czechia, Slovakia, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Estonia, Switzerland, Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Poland, North Macedonia, Hungary, Brazil and Liechtenstein.

In English-speaking countries, where ten-pin bowling (which originated in the United States) is dominant, facilities for nine-pin bowling are uncommon. A modified version is played in the US state of Texas, and remains popular in areas the state of South Australia such as the Barossa Valley in which many German people settled in the 19th century.[1]

European version

This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in German. (March 2022) Click [show] for important translation instructions. View a machine-translated version of the German article. Machine translation like DeepL or Google Translate is a useful starting point for translations, but translators must revise errors as necessary and confirm that the translation is accurate, rather than simply copy-pasting machine-translated text into the English Wikipedia. Consider adding a topic to this template: there are already 9,030 articles in the main category, and specifying|topic= will aid in categorization. Do not translate text that appears unreliable or low-quality. If possible, verify the text with references provided in the foreign-language article. You must provide copyright attribution in the edit summary accompanying your translation by providing an interlanguage link to the source of your translation. A model attribution edit summary is Content in this edit is translated from the existing German Wikipedia article at [[:de:Kegeln]]; see its history for attribution. You should also add the template ((Translated|de|Kegeln)) to the talk page. For more guidance, see Wikipedia:Translation.
"Music and Bowling" (1736) by Johann Franz Hörmannsperger (b.1710 – d.?)
"Music and Bowling" (1736) by Johann Franz Hörmannsperger (b.1710 – d.?)
Often associated with gambling, bowling often had a negative image. This 1800 English mayor instructed "putting a stop to the growing evil of skittle and bowling alleys... to take care that there are as few inducements as possible for the thoughtless husband to spend his substance to the detriment of his family."[2]
Often associated with gambling, bowling often had a negative image. This 1800 English mayor instructed "putting a stop to the growing evil of skittle and bowling alleys... to take care that there are as few inducements as possible for the thoughtless husband to spend his substance to the detriment of his family."[2]


Nine-pin bowler in East Germany, 1976
Nine-pin bowler in East Germany, 1976

This game is played by rolling a ball down an alley towards nine pins. Regulation lanes are 19.5 m (64 ft) long and 1.3 m (4.3 ft). A string spans the foul line which the ball must be thrown beneath. A regional variation found in Germany and Luxembourg utilizes a narrower lane that increases in width to the end and features gutters, known locally as the Scherenbahn (lit. "scissor lane"), and is more challenging than the regular nine-pin lane. The Scherenbahn is rarely used for professional championships and mostly only for recreational games or local competitions.

The nine pins (literally known as "cones" in the local languages) are placed in a square shape whose diagonal coincides with the axis of the lane. In modern systems the pins are reset by a pinsetter which lifts up the pins, each connected by a string on top, and lowers them back into the square shape for the next throw. The pins usually have a weight of approximately 1.3 kg (2.9 lb).

The ball is 16 cm (6.3 in) in diameter and weighs approximately 2.85 kg (6.3 lb). For younger or novice players, the ball is 14 cm (5.5 in) and weigh 1.9 kg (4.2 lb). Unlike the ball used for ten-pin bowling, but like the ones used for other "small-ball" forms of bowling such as five-pin bowling, candlepin and duckpin, the nine-pin ball has no finger holes, although there are also special balls with two finger holes designed for novice and amateur players.


The game is played over 120 throws across four lanes. On each lane there are 30 throws; the first fifteen throws reset the pins after each throw, while the next fifteen throws reset the pins only after all the pins are knocked down (fallen pins remain out of play until no pins are left). After each lane of 30 throws is completed, players shift to the next lane to the right (except for the player in fourth lane, who moves to the first lane) until the match is over.

Pin points are added up for each throw. Professional players knock down 700 pins and more.

Historic depiction of Nine-pin bowling by Friedrich Eduard Meyerheim (1834)
Historic depiction of Nine-pin bowling by Friedrich Eduard Meyerheim (1834)

League play is arranged in many WNBA member countries. Teams are composed of six competing players, each of whom plays 120 throws, except if he is substituted. Two substitutes are allowed per game. As the play goes, each team sets up the lineup before the game. Players compete against each other for team points. A player who has more points on a lane gets one set point. If the players have knocked down the same number of pins, each gets one-half set point. The player with more set points gets a team point. If they have two set points each after bowling in each of the four lanes, the player with the higher total number of pins gets the team point. If they have the same number of pins, each team gets one-half team point. The team points are added up, and the team with more total pins gets two additional team points. The team with more team points wins the game. If the team point score is 4:4, the game is tied. These same rules apply for international matches.

The winners of the National league championships enter the Champions League, the highest club competition.

Opposed to league play, which is arranged in teams, there are National Championships, which are arranged individually. The player with the most pins combined is usually the winner. In some countries though, the national championships are competed through a knockout format, where the points are added up similarly as in the league play.

World records

Updated 10 June 2019.[3]

Competition Men Women
Result Athlete Nationality Date Location Result Athlete Nationality Date Location
738 Čongor Baranj  Serbia 27 Oct 2021 Poland Tarnowo Podgórne 687 Ines Maričić  Croatia 26 May 2019 Czech Republic Rokycany
4140 Robert Ernješi
Igor Kovačić
Vilmoš Zavarko
Radovan Vlajkov
Čongor Baranj
Adrijan Lončarević
 Serbia 27 Oct 2021 Poland Tarnowo Podgórne 3830 Saskia Seitz
Ute Beckert
Daniela Kicker
Ursula Zimmerman
Simone Bader
Corinna Kastner
 Germany 22 May 2009 Germany Dettenheim
250 Igor Kovačić  Serbia 21 May 2014 Czech Republic Brno 238 Beata Włodarczyk  Poland 25 May 2016 Croatia Novigrad
(1x120 + 2x20)
955 Tamás Kiss  Hungary 24 May 2014 Czech Republic Brno 890 Jasmina Anđelković  Serbia 26 May 2018 Romania Cluj

American version

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This 1836 editorial portrayed bowling alleys as "drunkeries" that were "visited by a set of as miserably profane, drunken, worthless chaps as can be found".[4]
An 1838 newspaper describes how ten-pin bowling was devised to evade a Baltimore law prohibiting nine-pin bowling.[5]

Standardized rules and organization of nine-pins were developed by the American Bowling Congress in 1895. Nine-pins was the most popular form of bowling in much of the United States from colonial times until the 1830s, when several cities in the United States banned nine-pin bowling out of moral panic over the supposed destruction of the work ethic, gambling, and organized crime. Ten-pin bowling is said to have been invented in order to meet the letter of these laws, even with evidence of outdoor bowling games in 1810 England being bowled with ten pins set in an equilateral triangle as is done today in tenpin bowling. Today, nine-pins has disappeared from all of the United States except Texas, where, by 1837, ninepin alleys were numerous enough that rather than a ban, the 1st Congress of the Republic of Texas chose to subject them to an annual tax of $150 (equivalent to $3,593 in 2021), and all forms of bowling have remained legal and subject to taxation in Texas ever since. Whereas tenpin alleys were usually found in saloons and other establishments frequented exclusively by men, ninepin alleys were often built by clubs patronized by families.

Unique to Central Texas

By World War I most Texas bowling establishments, both private and commercial, had changed to ten-pins. However, nine-pins remained popular in predominantly German communities like Fredericksburg, New Braunfels and Bulverde, until the introduction of fully automated pin-setting machinery in the 1950s caused most of them to make the change as well. Those bowlers who still preferred the teamwork and camaraderie of nine-pins then moved to the nine-pins clubs in small outlying communities of Bexar, Comal, and Guadalupe Counties.

Organizations like the Turner Club, Barbarossa, Bexar, Bulverde, Blanco, Bracken, Cibolo, Fischer, Freiheit, Germania (the oldest club, organized in 1889), Highland, Laubach, Marion, Martinez, Mission Valley, Solms, Spring Branch, and Zorn bowling clubs maintain the only active nine-pins leagues in the United States.


The American variation of nine-pin bowling is played with the same lane as in conventional ten-pin bowling. The difference is the lack of automatic pinsetter and electronic scoring system. Both of these are done manually, similar to how ten-pin bowling was in the early 20th century. The lane is usually under a dry lane condition (without oil), or rarely oiled in typical house shot, allowing players to release a hook ball in a similar fashion as ten-pin bowling. The pins used in the Texas version of nine-pins are the same dimensions as those used in ten-pins, and the bowlers use ten-pin balls, with finger and thumb holes drilled in them.[6]


Scoring in nine-pin is also different. Each frame begins with a full house. If a bowler knocks down all nine pins in a full house, that bowler has achieved a nine-ringer and is given a score of 9 with a circle around it. There are no additional points for a ringer. If a bowler knocks down all the pins except for the center pin in a full house, that bowler has achieved a twelve-ringer and is given a score of 12 with a circle around it. If a bowler’s roll does not result in either “9” or “12” points, that bowler’s roll is given a “-“ (dash) or a “√” (check) which carries no point value.

The one exception to this is the last ball rolled by the last bowler in the frame. This bowler will receive credit for the number of pins knocked down. For example, if the last bowler has rolled their second ball for this frame, and three pins remain standing (six pins knocked down), that bowler will receive credit for those six pins, regardless if that bowler knocked these six pins down or not.

When a bowler takes a turn and knocks down the remaining pins, that bowler receives nine points for that shot, regardless of the number of pins knocked down to receive these nine points. If a bowler knocks down the remaining pins, except for the center pin, that bowler receives 12 points for that shot regardless of the number of pins knocked down to receive those 12 points.

Because bowlers face the pins their teammates have left, the better teams are those who have a mix of bowlers that can hit the left side, hit the right side, or can "roll ringers". This leads to specialization. A good team captain can also help their team by sending the bowlers in the order that maximizes their success.

See also


  1. ^ "German Traditions, Influences and Leisure Activities". Archived from the original on August 17, 2007. Retrieved June 26, 2007.
  2. ^ Goldson, William (Mayor) (19 May 1800). "A Charge / Delivered to the Jury at a Court Left Holden for the Borough of Portsmouth". Portsmouth Telegraph (later Hampshire Telegraph and Naval Chronicle).
  3. ^ WNBA NBC Official World Records. According to the WNBA directive, official world records are set only at World Championship events.
  4. ^ "Drunkeries". Fall River Monitor and Weekly Recorder. Fall River, Massachusetts, U.S. October 8, 1836. p. 2. (clipping)
  5. ^ "Evasions of Law". Logansport Telegraph. Logansport, Indiana, U.S. March 10, 1838. p. 1. (clipping)
  6. ^ "Texas 9-Pin Bowling - Cultural Relic". Retrieved January 1, 2019.