Bowling Pin Setup – Spacing and Arrangement (With Pictures)

Are you curious about how are bowling pin setup and what formal spacing measurements are used for bowling pins to configure them on the pin deck?

In bowling, finding a single hack can enhance your game and obviously it depends on your dedication to learning the basics of bowling.

Arrangement and bowling pin setup gives an idea, of how the bowling mechanism works behind the bowling ball.

Let’s jump into the detailed guide to bowling pin setup. 

Terminologies Used in the Blog Post:

  • Pin Deck: Area on the lane where all the 10 pins are arranged or placed.
  • Pin Rack: Total number of pins.
  • Headpin: Pin number 1 or the front pin that faces the bowling ball right in the center on the pin deck.

Formation Of Bowling Pins

bowling pin formation
Figure 1. Bowling Pin Setup Diagram

In the traditional game of ten-pin bowling, there are a total of 10 pins placed on the pin deck from 1 to 10.

These 10 pins are arranged in the shape of an equilateral triangle whereas the first pin also called the headpin faces the front and all others behind the headpin are placed in a form that makes a triangle.

Other bowling game variations such as 5-pin bowling and 9-pin bowling have different pin arrangements. 

The arrangement of pins in 5pinbowling is the same but the pins are placed side-by-side similarly ten-pin where pin 1 is placed in front, 2nd and 3rd also placed same as ten-pin bowling but 3rd and 4th not placed behind but same as 2nd and 3rd on the edge that also makes a triangle.

However, the arrangement of pins in nine-pin bowling is quite different from others the pins are placed in the form of squares but the arrangement of squares is placed on the pin deck in such a way that the bowling ball faces the corner of the square.

Numbering On Bowling Pins

To identify each bowling pin, there are specific numbers allocated to each pin that assist the bowler while bowling.

The headpin has the number 1 whereas other remaining pins from left to right have 2 to 10 numbers in ascending order as shown in figure 1.

The number on the pin helps the bowler identify which pins they got knocked down.

Arrangement Of Bowling Pins 

The number of pins is arranged in the proper shape on the pin deck following the board.

bowling pin arrangement
  1. There are a total of four rows to arrange these pins
  2. The first pin, also known as the head pin, is placed on the first row right in the center of the lane at the pin deck.
  3. On the second row, there are two pins 2 and 3 that are placed side by side with the head pin.
  4. The third row consists of three pins where pin numbers 4, 5, and 6 are placed.
  5. Lastly, the fourth row takes 4 pins at the end of the lane containing 7, 8, 9, and 10 pins.

The layout of the bowling pins on the lane is done by boards.

In modern bowling, there are 39 or 40 boards on the bowling lane from the gutter to the gutter and each carries an equal length. The headpin is placed on the center of the lane which is the 20th board and other pins such as pin 2 placed on the 25th board and pin 3 is placed on the 30th board. Similarly, all other pins are arranged in their particular place by formal space or distance.

bowling lane board

How Much Space Between Bowling Pins

Now, we know how these pins are arranged in their place but the question is what is the bowling pin space approved by the international bowling organization?

To understand what the identical space measured between all bowling pins, we have to slice this section into three parts.

Measurement Of Dimensions Between Bowling Pins In Inches

Section 1: 

This section contains the arrangement of neighboring bowling pins that have a space 12 inches from each other. For example, pin 1 has a space of 12 inches from pin 2, and similarly pin 2 has the same space as pins 1 and 3. This applied to all the pins that were adjacent to each other.

12 inches space

Section 2:

In this section, the specific space is applied on particular pins that face each other next or behind. There are 20.75 inches of space between pin 1 to 5, pin 2 to 8 and pin 3 to 9.


Section 3:

The final section of bowling pin space is about the diagonal of the pin rack and it has 36 inches of space from pins 1 to 7, 1 to 10, and 7 to 10 number pins.

36 inches bowling pin spacing

How Is The Bowling Pin Set Up For Every Frame?

In the modern world of bowling, the bowling alley uses a mechanical machine called a pinsetter that rearranges the bowling pins in their place and returns the bowling ball back to the player after each frame or strike/spare.

The pinsetter or pin spotter was invented in 1941 by Gottfred and was later sold to AMF. in the early days of bowling, the arrangement of bowling pins was done by human which manually set the pins in their place and give back the bowling ball to the bowler even there is still a small amount of bowling alley that use the human for this purpose.

Why Bowling Pin Formation In Triangle Shape?

Related Question

How far apart are bowling pins spaced?

The adjacent bowling pins are spaced 12 inches while the pins facing front/behind each other have 20.75 inches and the diagonally 36 inches.

How are bowling pins rearranged?

Bowling pins are rearranged by using a mechanical machine called a pinsetter or pin spotter to place the pin on the pin deck and give back the bowling ball to the bowler.

What is a bowling pin formation called?

There are different bowling formations used but a highly recognized bowling pin formation is called a triangle or pinball.


In today’s bowling world, you will see a triangular shape of bowling pins formation where 10 pins are arranged following the defined spacing. 

The bowling pin setup was once done by humans back in the early era but with time the technology took place for such purpose and they invented the mechanical machine called pinsetter.

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