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Bowling has a unique scoring system which keeps track not only of the current pinfall in a frame, but also strikes and spares which allow for the value of subsequent pinfall.Effectively, there are three kinds of marks given in a score; a strike (all ten down in the first ball), a spare (all ten down by the second ball), and an open (one or more missed pins still standing after the second ball).The pins are arranged in a triangular position by an automated machine.While professional ten-pin bowling tournaments are held in numerous countries, the sport is commonly played as a hobby by millions of people around the world.

Behind the foul line is an "approach" approximately 15 feet (5 m) long used to gain speed and leverage on the ball before delivering it.

In Canada, the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia, the game is commonly referred to as just "bowling".

In New England, "bowling" is usually referred to as "ten-pin bowling" or "big-ball bowling", because of the smaller diameter, lighter weight ball used in the Worcester, Massachusetts-conceived sport of candlepin bowling from 1880, and the similarly "small-ball" sport of duckpin bowling (conceived in 1895), popular in the Northeast United States, as well as Canada's own sport of five-pin bowling, all three of which use smaller diameter, lighter weight bowling balls when compared to tenpin bowling, without the necessity for finger holes in them.

Open frames count the value of the pinfall in that frame only.

(Example: if a player knocks down 5 on their first ball and 3 on their second, the open frame would be worth 8 pins.) The maximum score in ten-pin bowling is 300.