You are currently viewing Ultimate 9 Pin Tap Bowling Guide: Mastering This Thrilling Bowling Variation

Ultimate 9 Pin Tap Bowling Guide: Mastering This Thrilling Bowling Variation

  • Reading time:10 mins read

If you’re a bowling enthusiast looking for a fresh challenge or a newcomer seeking an exciting twist on the traditional game, 9 pin tap bowling might be just what you need. This unique variation of bowling has gained popularity worldwide, offering an engaging and skillful experience for players of all levels.

In 9 pin tap bowling, the objective is to knock down nine pins instead of the traditional ten, with a small pin known as the “tap” positioned in the center of the setup. This subtle change introduces a whole new dimension of strategy and precision, making it an exhilarating game for those seeking to hone their bowling prowess.

Whether you’re a seasoned bowler or a complete beginner, this guide will provide you with a comprehensive understanding of 9 pin tap bowling, covering everything from the rules and gameplay to strategies, techniques, and resources for improvement.

What is 9 Pin Tap Bowling?

9 pin tap bowling, also known as “9 pin no tap” or simply “9 pin,” is a variation of traditional bowling that originated in the early 20th century.

While the basic premise of rolling a ball down a lane to knock down pins remains the same, the key difference lies in the number of pins and the presence of a small, centralized pin called the “tap.”

Instead of the standard 10-pin setup, 9 pin tap bowling features nine full-sized pins arranged in a diamond formation, with the tap placed in the center.

The objective is to clear all nine pins, including the tap, to score a strike. If any pins remain standing after the first roll, players have a second chance to knock them down for a spare or open frame.

Rules and Gameplay:

9 pin tap bowling follows a similar format to traditional bowling, with a few unique rules and scoring variations:

  1. Number of Frames and Rolls: Like standard bowling, a game of 9 pin tap consists of 10 frames. In each frame, players have two rolls to knock down all nine pins, including the tap.
  2. Scoring System:
    • Strike: If a player knocks down all nine pins, including the tap, on the first roll, it’s considered a strike, and they score 30 points (10 pins + the value of the next two rolls).
    • Open Frame: If a player fails to knock down all nine pins after two rolls, their score for that frame is the total number of pins knocked down.
    • Spare: If a player fails to knock down all nine pins on the first roll but clears the remaining pins on the second roll, it’s a spare, and they score 20 points (10 pins + the value of the next roll).
  3. Unique Rules:
    • If the tap is the only pin left standing after the first roll, it automatically counts as “knocked down,” allowing players to score a spare on the second roll.
    • In some variations, the tap may be worth an additional point if knocked down last.

Equipment and Setup:

9 pin tap bowling utilizes the standard bowling equipment and lane specifications found in traditional bowling alleys. However, there are a few key differences in the pin setup:

  1. Pin Configuration: Instead of the traditional 10-pin triangle, 9 pin tap bowling features nine full-sized pins arranged in a diamond formation.
  2. The Tap: At the center of the diamond formation sits a smaller pin known as the “tap.” This pin is typically shorter and lighter than the full-sized pins, adding an extra challenge to the game.
  3. Lane and Ball Specifications: The lane lengths, oil patterns, and bowling ball specifications remain the same as in traditional bowling. Players can use any approved bowling ball and follow the standard rules and regulations for equipment.

Strategies and Techniques:

Mastering 9 pin tap bowling requires a combination of precision, strategy, and proper technique. Here are some tips and strategies to help you improve your game:

  1. Aiming and Targeting:
    • Focus on hitting the pocket (the area between the 1 and 3 pins or the 1 and 2 pins for right-handed bowlers) to increase your chances of knocking down all nine pins, including the tap.
    • Aim for the tap when attempting to pick up spares or clear the remaining pins after your first roll.
  2. Spare Shooting Strategies:
    • When shooting for a spare, adjust your target based on the remaining pin configuration.
    • Practice picking up different spare combinations to improve your accuracy and consistency.
  3. Ball Rotation and Release Point:
    • Proper ball rotation and a consistent release point are crucial for achieving desired pin deflection and carrying power.
    • Experiment with different release points and roll trajectories to find what works best for you.
  4. Maximizing Scores:
    • Always aim for strikes, as they offer the highest potential score (30 points).
    • When a strike or spare is not possible, focus on knocking down as many pins as possible to minimize open frames.

Benefits and Challenges:

Playing 9 pin tap bowling offers several unique benefits and challenges compared to traditional bowling:


  • Improved Accuracy: The smaller target area and the presence of the tap require greater precision, helping bowlers develop better accuracy and control.
  • Technique Development: Mastering the nuances of 9 pin tap bowling can lead to improved overall bowling skills, such as ball rotation, release point, and spare shooting.
  • Added Challenge: The game’s unique setup and rules provide an engaging and stimulating challenge for bowlers seeking to push their skills to the next level.


  • Adjusting to the Pin Setup: Transitioning from a traditional 10-pin configuration to the diamond formation and tap can take time and practice to adapt.
  • Increased Precision Required: Knocking down the tap and clearing all nine pins consistently demands a high level of accuracy and control.
  • Mental Focus: The added challenge of 9 pin tap bowling requires heightened mental focus and concentration to execute shots successfully.

Where to Play:

While 9 pin tap bowling may not be as widely available as traditional bowling, many bowling alleys and centers around the world offer this exciting variation. Here are some tips on where to find and play 9 pin tap bowling:

  1. Local Bowling Alleys: Check with your local bowling alleys or centers to see if they offer 9 pin tap bowling lanes or leagues.
  2. Regional or National Tournaments: Several regional and national tournaments are dedicated to 9 pin tap bowling, providing opportunities for competitive play and exposure to the game.
  3. Online Resources: Utilize online directories, forums, or social media groups to locate bowling alleys or centers in your area that host 9 pin tap bowling events or leagues.
  4. Bowling Associations: Contact your local or national bowling associations for information on 9 pin tap bowling venues and competitions.

Resources for Learning and Improving:

Continuous learning and practice are essential for mastering 9 pin tap bowling. Fortunately, there are numerous resources available to help you improve your skills and stay up-to-date with the latest techniques and strategies:

  1. Instructional Videos and Tutorials: Online platforms like YouTube offer a wealth of instructional videos and tutorials from experienced bowlers and coaches, covering everything from basic techniques to advanced strategies.
  2. Coaching and Lessons: Consider taking private or group lessons from a certified bowling coach or instructor who specializes in 9 pin tap bowling. Their expert guidance and personalized feedback can significantly accelerate your learning curve.
  3. Bowling Communities and Forums: Join online bowling communities and forums dedicated to 9 pin tap bowling. These platforms provide opportunities to connect with fellow enthusiasts, ask questions, share tips, and stay informed about upcoming events or tournaments.
  4. Books and Publications: While not as abundant as resources for traditional bowling, there are still several books and publications available that cover the intricacies of 9 pin tap bowling, offering valuable insights and strategies.
  5. Practice and Repetition: Ultimately, consistent practice and repetition are key to improving your 9 pin tap bowling skills. Regularly hitting the lanes and experimenting with different techniques and strategies will help you develop muscle memory and refine your game.


9 pin tap bowling offers a unique and thrilling twist on the classic game of bowling, challenging players to push their skills to new heights. With its distinct pin setup, the presence of the tap, and scoring variations, this variation demands precision, strategy, and a commitment to continuous improvement.

Whether you’re a seasoned bowler seeking a fresh challenge or a newcomer eager to explore the world of bowling, 9 pin tap bowling promises an engaging and rewarding experience. By mastering the techniques, strategies, and mental focus required, you’ll not only enhance your overall bowling prowess but also experience the excitement and satisfaction of conquering this captivating variation.

So, why not step out of your comfort zone and give 9 pin tap bowling a try? Embrace the challenge, immerse yourself in the learning process, and enjoy the journey of becoming a master of this unique and exhilarating game.