Duckpin Bowling in Baltimore

Duckpins are shorter and squatter than the pins used in 10-pin bowling.
Valerie Everett/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA-2.0

People young and old love duckpin bowling. In Baltimore, the game is a city tradition that dates back to the early 1900s. If you're used to 10-pin bowling, don't think duckpin bowling will be easy: the game uses shorter and squatter pins and a significantly smaller bowling ball, making it more difficult to achieve a strike. For this reason, the bowler is allowed to roll three times per frame. Keep reading for more information on duckpin bowling, including where you can bowl in Baltimore.

Rules and Regulations

  • Bowling Balls: The balls used in duckpin bowling are slightly larger than a softball at 4.75 in (12 cm) to 5 in (12.7 cm) in diameter and weight 3 lb 6 oz (1.5 kg) to 3 lb 12 oz (1.7 kg).
  • Bowling Pins: Bowling pins are shorter and squatter than those used in 10-pin bowling.
  • Arrangement: Pins are arranged in the same triangular pattern as ten-pin bowling.
  • Goal: In a 10-frame game, bowlers try to knock down pins in the fewest rolls per game.
  • Time Frame: Bowlers attempt to knock over a set of 10 pins, and have three rolls per frame.
  • Strike: If a bowler knocks down all 10 pins with their first roll in a frame, it is scored as a strike. The bowler gets 10 points plus the total number of pins knocked down with the next two balls rolled, for a maximum of 30 points.
  • Spare: If a bowler knocks down all 10 pins with their first two rolls in a frame, it is scored as a spare. The bowler gets 10 points plus the total number of pins knocked down with the next ball rolled, for a maximum of 20 points.
  • 10 Down: If it takes three balls to knock down all 10 pins, the bowler gets 10 points and no bonus.
  • 10th Frame: If a spare or strike is rolled in the tenth frame, the bowler earns one or two bonus rolls respectively.
  • Final Score: The final score is the sum of the points earned over 10 frames.
  • Maximum Score: The maximum possible score is 300 points, which is accomplished by rolling 12 strikes in a row.

The History Behind Duckpin Bowling

Although the exact origin is up for debate, the game was long thought to have originated in Baltimore around 1900 by two Baltimore Orioles baseball players, John McGraw and Wilbert Robinson, who owned a billiards and pool hall in the city. However, early newspaper articles in the Boston Globe show that references to duckpin bowling can be traced back to 1893. It is thought that duckpin bowling and candlepin bowling, another variation also using smaller bowling balls and three throws per frame, were invented in the same year.

In candlepin bowling, thinner pins are used and downed pins are not cleared away.

Besides Baltimore, duckpin bowling centers are located throughout Maryland and suburban Washington, DC, and can also be found in New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Indiana.

Duckpin Bowling Centers in the Baltimore and Washington, DC Area

Patterson Bowling Center: Opened in 1927, this two-story bowling center has 12 lanes and runs regular leagues and open play bowling. It is the oldest operating duckpin bowling alley in the country. There is no snack bar, but the bowling alley is BYOB and allows you to bring food in  2105 Eastern Ave. (Fells Point), Baltimore; 410-675-1011.

Stoneleigh Duckpin Bowling Center: This 16-lane duckpin bowling alley in Baltimore is located in the connected basements of several rowhomes. The bowling center is BYOB and hosts live music many nights. Food is also available.  6703 York Rd., Baltimore (near Towson); 410-377-8115.

White Oak Duckpin Lanes: This duckpin bowling alley in the Washington, DC area has 24 bowling lanes, a full grill snack bar, and video games.  1120 New Hampshire Ave., Silver Spring; 301-593-3000.

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