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Turkey in Bowling: A Comprehensive Guide to its Origin and Tradition

  • Reading time:10 mins read

Bowling a turkey means scoring three consecutive strikes in a single frame. While turkeys may seem common for good bowlers, the phenomenon has a long and storied tradition tied to the sport of bowling.

In particular, bowling a turkey has become a popular Thanksgiving tradition for many bowling alleys and families. The Turkey Bowl event offers bowlers chances to win free turkeys or other prizes for stringing together multiple strikes in a row.

In this article, we’ll dive into the history and origins of turkey bowling. We’ll also explore some tips and techniques any bowler can use to increase their chances of bowling the best turkey possible.

After reading, you’ll be well-prepared to participate in a Turkey Bowl event or simply impress your family by bowling well this Thanksgiving.

History and Origins of the Turkey Bowl

The exact origins of using the term “turkey” for three consecutive strikes in bowling is unclear, though there are a few leading theories.

One theory points to amateur bowlers in the early days of the sport. Bowling three strikes were relatively rare for amateurs, so stringing together a turkey felt as valuable as winning an actual turkey prize.

Another theory suggests professional bowlers in the 1960s and 70s helped popularize the term. Getting three strikes in a row was more common for pros. When they accomplished the feat, fans would cheer that they had “bowled a turkey”.

There are also references to bowling three strikes being called a “full house” in the early 20th century. But turkey became the more popular term.

Using turkey as bowling lingo likely emerged simply because bowling three strikes in a row were considered similar to getting a turkey in cards – a very good hand!

But whatever the exact origin, bowling alleys themselves helped cement Turkey as the perfect bowling achievement.

Back in the 1960s and ’70s, alleys began running Thanksgiving promotions offering free turkeys to any bowler who could roll three strikes in a row. This popularized “turkey bowling” as a fun Thanksgiving tradition.

As early as the 1970s, some centers even sponsored full “Turkey Bowl” tournaments as part of their holiday promotions. Teams competed to bowl the highest score and win turkeys.

Over the decades since turkey bowling has become ingrained as an iconic Thanksgiving tradition for many bowlers. Alleys nationwide run Turkey Bowl promotions every November. And families often hold turkey bowling practice leading up to Thanksgiving dinner!

The Annual Thanksgiving Turkey Bowl

The basic turkey bowling contest remains largely the same today as those early promotions in the 60s and 70s. Here is an overview of how a typical Turkey Bowl event works:

  • The bowling alley offers the promotion for a set number of days around Thanksgiving
  • Bowlers pay normal prices for their games during this time
  • Any bowler that rolls three strikes in a row in one frame wins a turkey
  • Bowlers are limited to one turkey. So they must keep bowling to try winning again!
  • The alley provides turkeys to winners daily while supplies last
  • Some alleys give bonus prizes for stringing together more turkeys (4+ strikes in a row)

Of course, not everyone wins. But bowling centers typically give over 100 turkeys each day of the promotion. So your odds of taking home a turkey are pretty decent if you can consistently bowl strikes.

Many local bowling alleys also sponsor charity Turkey Bowl tournaments. These bring in dozens of teams competing to win turkeys donated to local food banks. Most centers donate a turkey for every strike bowled during the tournament games.

Outside of organized promotions, turkey bowling has also just become a fun tradition for family and friends getting together over the Thanksgiving holiday. Trophies or prizes might be on the line during these informal turkey bowling games as well!

Tips and Tricks for Bowling Your Best Turkey

Mastering the turkey in bowling requires solid fundamentals and some focus on stringing strikes. Here are some tips any bowler can apply to increase their chances of that coveted turkey:

Practice the Basics

  • Use proper bowling form – consistent stance, steps, backswing, release, and follow-through
  • Aim for the pocket – 1-3 arrows for right-handers, 1-2 arrows for lefties
  • Match ball speed to lane oil – adjust speed for wet/dry conditions
  • Minimize curve for straight-on pocket hits
  • Generate power from your legs and swing motion

Aim for Consistency

  • Focus on repeating your ideal technique each throw
  • Use visual landmarks for targeting consistency
  • Maintain the same number of steps in your approach
  • Follow through directly toward your target
  • Adjust your starting position as needed

Target and Adjust Your Roll

  • Start by targeting the 1-3 pocket (1-2 for lefties)
  • Make minor adjustments left or right to adjust to your ball’s motion
  • Watch how the ball enters the pocket and the pins scatter
  • Make incremental moves or speed changes as required
  • Consider switching balls if unable to get good pin action

Strengthen Your Mental Game

  • Use preshot routines to lock in focus and rhythm
  • Visualize each strike before you throw
  • Focus only on your next shot, not past mistakes
  • Stay calm and controlled throughout the frames
  • Celebrate briefly after strikes to build momentum

Optimize Your Equipment

  • Match ball weight and finger hole fit to your hands
  • Ensure proper ball surface preparation and cleaning
  • Use a high-quality ball designed for straight shots
  • Stick to well-maintained house balls
  • Or invest in your custom ball and accessories

With the right blend of skill, strategy, and focus, you can absolutely increase your turkey bowling abilities this Thanksgiving. Apply these tips to give yourself the best shot at some turkey winnings!


Bowling a turkey has become a time-honored tradition for passionate bowlers. Though the origins of the term may be unclear, bowling alleys helped popularize turkey bowling contests around Thanksgiving in the 1960s.

Today, bowling centers nationwide continue the turkey bowling tradition with fun contests awarding free turkeys and prizes to bowlers. Many local tournaments are charity events raising turkeys for food banks as well.

Beyond organized promotions, turkey bowling is also a beloved tradition for families spending Thanksgiving together at the bowling alley. With the right skills and focus, bowlers of all skill levels can work to improve their chances of bowling a turkey this season.

We hope this article has helped explain the history of turkey bowling and provided some useful tips. As you enjoy Turkey Bowl events and friendly games this season, remember to stay focused on having fun and making memories. Tracking those turkeys is just the icing on the Thanksgiving bowling cake!

Let us know if you have any other turkey bowling stories or advice to share from your own memorable turkey bowling experiences over the years. Keep chasing those turkeys and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are 3 strikes in bowling called a turkey?

There are a few theories on why 3 strikes are called a turkey in bowling. One is that amateurs saw it as rare as winning an actual turkey. Another is that fans cheered “Turkey!” when the pros got 3 strikes. It also resembled getting 3-of-a-kind turkeys in card games.

What are 5 strikes in a row called?

In bowling, 5 consecutive strikes in a row is called a quintuple turkey or sometimes high five. It takes great skill to string together this many strikes.

What is the meaning of a turkey bowl?

A turkey bowl refers to a Thanksgiving bowling event or contest where prizes of whole turkeys are awarded to bowlers who can roll 3 strikes in a row. Turkey bowls are a long-running tradition at many bowling alleys.

What is 4 strikes in a row called?

When a bowler gets 4 strikes consecutively, it is referred to as a double turkey. Some alleys offer bonus prizes for bowling a double turkey during turkey bowl contests.

What are 8 strikes in a row called?

8 consecutive strikes in bowling is known as an octo-turkey. It is a very challenging feat reserved for advanced players at the top of their game.

What are 9 strikes in a row called?

In bowling lingo, 9 strikes in succession is called a nona-turkey. It requires near perfection and very few bowlers can claim this achievement.

What is 10 strikes called?

When a bowler achieves 10 strikes back-to-back in one game, it is called a deca-turkey. This is the maximum possible number of consecutive strikes.

What is a sparrow in bowling?

A sparrow refers to bowling 3 strikes in a row but not in the same game. For example, ending one game with a strike and starting the next game with 2 strikes.

What is a dinosaur in bowling?

Dinosaur is bowling slang for 6 strikes in a row (2 turkeys). The terminology compares the rarity of such a long string of strikes to finding a dinosaur.