What Exactly Is Candlepin Bowling?


Candlepin bowling is a type of ten-pin bowling popular in the Northeastern United States. Although it’s less widely known than its more famous cousin, candlepin bowling has been around since the 1880s and is still strong today.

Let’s take a closer look at this unique sport and why it’s so popular. 

What Is Candlepin Bowling? 

Candlepin bowling is a style that uses smaller-sized pins and balls, which makes it different from regular tenpin bowling, where bigger pins and balls are used.

The game requires skill, as the pins are difficult to knock down with small balls, but they also involve a little luck due to their slim shape. Players must master delicate control to get a strike or spare.

Who Invented The Game?

Candlepin bowling is a variation of the sport that is popular in New England and parts of Canada. The game is played on a regular bowling lane but with smaller pins and balls. The first recorded mention of candlepin bowling was in 1879 in a Boston Globe article about a new trend in the city. However, the game likely originated earlier, in the 1840s or 1850s.

Early versions of the game were probably played with skittles, a type of small pin that was popular then. It wasn’t until later that the game took on its modern form, with larger pins that resembled candles.

Today, the game remains a popular pastime in the region; even in professional leagues, whether a casual player or a competitive athlete, candlepin bowling is a fun way to spend an afternoon.

The Rules of Candlepin Bowling 

The rules for candlepin bowling are fairly simple. Each player has three chances to knock down all the pins on each frame, with a maximum score of 30 points per frame (a strike counts for 10 points). At the end of the game, the player with the highest score wins.

There are also special rules for scoring spares—when a player knocks down all but one pin on their first roll—and splits—when a bowler knocks down some but not all of the remaining pins on their second or third rolls. 

Why Is It So Popular? 

Part of this resurgence can be attributed to its fast pace; games typically last around 20 minutes compared to an hour or more for ten-pin games. This means that you can squeeze in more games during your visit to the lanes.

It also requires less energy than traditional bowling, making it easier for kids and seniors to participate without getting too tired or sore afterward.


Candlepins have been around since 1879, but only recently have they started gaining popularity outside their traditional New England base. With its fun gameplay and exciting ruleset, there’s no wonder why candlepins have become such a hit among bowlers everywhere.

It’s fast pace and an excellent choice for people looking for something new or different from regular ten-pin bowling. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting in the sport, candlepins offer something unique and enjoyable for everyone who takes part in this classic pastime.

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