Are Bowling Pins On Strings? (Quick Facts)

Bowling has come a long way since its early days of wooden pins and manual resetting.

Today, the sport is experiencing another fascinating evolution, sparking debate among bowling enthusiasts – are bowling pins on strings?

In this blog post, we’ll delve into the history and development of bowling pins, explore various types of pinsetters including string pinsetters, and examine their impact on your games.

We’ll also take a look at innovations in pin-setting technology that may shape the future of this popular pastime.

Should Bowling Pins Be On Strings Or Not?

The use of string pinsetters in bowling alleys has sparked a debate between proponents of the new technology and fans of the traditional free-fall pinsetters.

Supporters of string pins argue that they yield less lane downtime, require fewer maintenance needs, and result in more revenue per lane due to their reliability.

However, research data from the US Bowling Corporation reveals that string pins tend to leave a higher percentage of multi-pin spare combinations compared to free fall systems, which could potentially affect strike percentages during gameplay.

Research Findings And Data

Recent research studies have shed light on the impact of string pinsetters on bowling statistics. Preliminary USBC research indicates that bowlers using string pinsetters yield nearly 7% fewer strikes and leave more multi-pin spare combinations compared to traditional pins.

A study analyzing over 86,000 shots found that string pins resulted in about 7% fewer strikes and a higher percentage of splits (source). The findings suggest that while string pinsetters might be easier to maintain for alley owners due to their simplicity, they may not necessarily benefit bowlers looking for better scores or higher strike percentages.

Implications For Tournament Play And Alley Owners

The introduction of string pins in the bowling industry has raised concerns among tournament regulators and alley owners.

The International Bowling Federation (IBF) approves the use of string pinsetters in tournaments, while the US Bowling Congress (USBC) is still studying its impact on competitive play.

Alley owners are gradually transitioning to using string pinsetters because they require less maintenance and are harder to knock over and reset compared to freefall machines.

However, some have expressed concern about differences in pin action between the two types of machines, suggesting that this may increase or decrease players’ chances of making certain shots at different times during the competition.

History And Evolution Of Bowling Pins

Early in the 19th century, wooden bowling pins were used, but as time progressed, synthetic and plastic materials became more prevalent in the mid-20th century.

Early Wooden Pins In The 19th Century

In the 19th century, bowling alleys were mostly found in bars and pubs, often associated with a culture of crime and gambling. During this period, competitions used early wooden pins crafted from a single block of hard rock maple.

The craftsmanship that went into creating these early pins was impressive, as each pin had to be carved and shaped by hand. Despite their humble beginnings as crude implements in illicit settings, these wooden pins laid the foundation for what would become an essential part of a popular American pastime.

Transition To Plastic And Synthetic Materials In The Mid-20th Century

In the mid-20th century, bowling alleys began experimenting with different materials to recreate the look and feel of traditional wooden pins. This transition was driven by a desire for increased durability and consistency in performance.

One key challenge with using these new materials was replicating the sound that real wood made when struck by a bowling ball. Additionally, synthetic pins often failed to provide the same scoring range as their wooden counterparts, leading to inconsistencies in gameplay.

Despite these drawbacks, advancements in manufacturing technology eventually allowed synthetic pins to closely mimic their wooden predecessors’ characteristics while offering improved longevity and resilience over time.

Understanding Bowling Pinsetters

are bowling pins on strings

Automatic Pinsetters And Pin Spotters

Automatic pinsetters and pin spotters have revolutionized the bowling industry since their inception, providing players with a seamless experience. These innovative mechanical devices work in tandem to reset pins in their original positions and return bowling balls back to the participants swiftly.

Typically utilizing 20 pins, double the amount needed for a standard 10-pin arrangement, automatic pinsetters operate through cycles of predetermined procedures.

Efficiency is key when it comes to automatic pinsetters and pin spotters, as these machines streamline gameplay while reducing manual labor previously required at bowling alleys.

As a result, they are considered essential components within modern entertainment centers, community hubs, and resorts that offer this classic pastime.

Manual Pinsetters

Before the advent of modern automatic pinsetters, bowling alleys relied on manual labor to keep games rolling. Manual pinsetters were hired to reset pins after each frame, a process that was both time-consuming and physically demanding.

These workers stood behind trenches at the end of each lane and had to manually replace each fallen pin in its proper spot.

Today, manual pin setting is rarely seen in modern bowling alleys as it has been replaced by reliable mechanical devices like free fall or string pinsetters. However, some older alleys may still have manual setups for nostalgic purposes or special events where vintage equipment is used.

String Pinsetters: How They Work And Advantages/Disadvantages

String pinsetters, also known as string machines, use a thin string to set up the pins instead of physical-mechanical parts. The strings attach to each standing pin and pull them down when knocked over by a ball.

This type of system utilizes fewer parts compared to traditional free-fall pinsetters, leading to easier repairs and less downtime for maintenance.

However, differences in pin action on a string machine versus a free fall machine are more likely due to kickbacks and backend construction rather than the type of mechanism used for setting pins.

Future Of Bowling Pins And Pinsetters

Innovations In Pin Racking Technology

With the shift towards string pinsetters, there have been various innovations in pin-racking technology that has made the game more efficient and cost-effective. One of the latest advancements is the use of automatic scoring systems which allow for real-time scorekeeping and analysis.

Another innovation in pin-racking technology is the ability to customize pin placement based on league play or individual preferences. With modular pin deck designs and programmable controls, players can set up pins in any configuration they desire, making it easier to tailor practice sessions or prepare specific shots for tournaments.

Potential Advancements In String Pinsetters

The advent of string pinsetters has brought significant changes to the bowling industry. While traditional free-fall pinsetters continue to dominate most alleys, string pinsetters have fast gained popularity among bowling enthusiasts seeking a new experience.

As technology advances, potential advancements in string pinsetter may become available soon. For instance, manufacturers could develop more sophisticated software that offers greater control and customization of how pins are set up.

Additionally, improvements in material quality could enhance the durability and longevity of the component parts used in these machines.


In conclusion, the debate over whether bowling pins should be on strings has brought up interesting perspectives from both sides.

While string pinsetters may offer benefits such as durability and require less space, preliminary research suggests they may yield a lower strike percentage and leave a higher percentage of multi-pin spare combinations.

Last updated on May 1, 2023