Ten-pin bowling is a type of bowling in which a bowler rolls a bowling ball down a wood or synthetic lane toward ten pins positioned evenly in four rows in an equilateral triangle at the far end of the lane. The objective is to knock down all ten pins on the first roll of the ball (a strike), or failing that, on the second roll (a spare).
An approximately 15 feet (5 m) long approach area used by the bowler to impart speed and apply rotation to the ball ends in a foul line. The 41.5-inch-wide (105 cm), 60-foot-long (18 m) lane is bordered along its length by gutters (channels) that collect errant balls. The lane's long and narrow shape limits straight-line ball paths to angles that are smaller than optimum angles for achieving strikes; accordingly, many advanced bowlers impart side rotation to hook (curve) the ball into the pins.
Oil is applied to approximately the first two-thirds of the lane's length to allow a "skid" area for the ball before it encounters friction and hooks. The oil is applied in different patterns to add complexity and regulate challenge in the sport. Especially when coupled with technological developments in ball design since the early 1990s, easier oil patterns, commonly called house shots or typical house patterns (THPs), enable many league bowlers to achieve scores rivaling those of professional bowlers who must bowl on more difficult patterns—a development that has caused substantial controversy.
People approach bowling as either a demanding precision sport or as a simple recreational pastime. Following substantial declines since the 1980s in both professional tournament television ratings and amateur league participation, bowling centers have increasingly expanded to become diverse entertainment centers.
Ten-pin bowling is often simply referred to as bowling. Ten-pin, or less commonly Big-ball, are prepended to distinguish it from other bowling types such as lawn, candlepin, duckpin and five-pin.