Bowling Scoring Rules

bowling-scoring

How does scoring work in bowling?

In a single game of bowling each bowler gets 10 frames. A frame is made up of two bowls, so the bowler gets to throw the ball down the lane at the pins twice per frame.

Some other basic concepts to bowling that you should know are:

  • There are 10 pins set up at the back of a lane.
  • If you knock all 10 pins on the first bowl it's called a strike.
  • If you knock all 10 pins on the second bowl of the frame it's called a spare.
  • If you fail to knock down all 10 pins then it's called an open frame.
  • It is possible to score a maximum of 300 points in a game of bowling.
  • On frame #10 - the bowler gets an additional roll if a spare is earned and two additional rolls if a strike is earned.
  • On frame #10 - the total number of pins knocked down are added to the running total.

What's the most you score in bowling?

The minimum score for a single match is 0 and the maximum score is a 300. For each frame, a person gets two attempts to knock over all of the pins. A perfect score would be a strike for every frame.

bowling-perfect-score

Bowling Symbols and Notations

In the following scoring tables we will use the following symbols and notations:

Symbol

Meaning

Example

X or x

Strike

X

-

/

Spare

8

/

-

No pins knocked down

9

-

5

4

1st roll versus 2nd roll

4

3

Bowling Scoring Example

Frame:

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

Pins:

5

4

4

/

7

-

X

-

X

-

X

-

5

3

6

/

4

/

X

X

X

Score:

9

26

33

63

88

106

114

128

148

178

  1. Frame #1: The bowler rolls a five and four for a total of 9 points.
  2. Frame #2: The bowler knocks down four pins and then the remaining 6 pins for a spare. We wait to calculate the running score until the first roll of frame #3 is done
  3. Frame #3: The bowler rolls a 7 - bringing the running score to 26 in frame #2. Remember, when a spare is earned you add on the next roll the running total. The bowler then knocks 0 pins down in the second roll. The total is 33 points.
  4. Frame #4: The bowler knocks all 10 pins down for a strike. We wait to calculate the running total because the next two rolls are added to the score after a strike.
  5. Frame #5: The bowler earns another strike. We still need to wait to calculate the running score for frame #4 and frame #5.
  6. Frame #6: The bowler earns another strike. We can finally calculate frame #4 - we take 33 from frame #3 and add +10 +10 +10 for 63. We do this because on a strike we always add the next rolls.
  7. Frame #7: The bowler rolls a 5 on the first roll. We can calculate frame #5 by taking the running score from frame #4 (63) and adding +10 and +5 for 88. On the second roll, the bowler rolls a 3, so we can calculate frame #6 by adding 88 +10 +5 +3 for 106. Frame #7 total score is 114.
  8. Frame #8: The bowler rolls a 6 and then a 4 for a spare! We wait to calculate the running total until the next roll is done.
  9. Frame #9: The bowler rolls a 4. The score in frame #8 is 114 + 10 + 4 = 128. The bowler makes another spare, but we wait to calculate the running total for frame #9
  10. Frame #10: The bowler rolls a strike. We can calculate frame #9 by taking frame #8 + 10 +10 for 148. Since the bowler got a strike they get to roll two more times. The score in frame #10 is always the total number of pins knocked down. The bowler rolls 3 strikes in frame #10 wow!

Open Frames

Whether a person gets a strike, spare or neither, depends on how many pins they knock down and in how many tries they knock those pins down. If after two attempts, a person does not knock down all of the 10 pins, it is called an open frame.

An open frame is the most common for amateur players and is scored by simply adding up the sum of the amount of pins that were knocked over on both tries.

Example of an Open Frame

If a person were to knock down 2 pins in their first attempt and then 6 pins in their second attempt their total score for that frame would be an 8. Once a single frame is completed the next score is added to that previous score.

In a game where there are no strikes or spares thrown, the score is kept by adding the score of each consecutive frame together until all 10 frames have been filled out.

Spares and Strikes

Scoring for a match where just open frames are scored is pretty simple, but scoring gets a little more complicated when there are spares and strikes involved.

Spares

A spare (indicated by a slash / on a scorecard) occurs when a person knocks down all 10 of the pins in both of their roll attempts.

To earn a spare the bowler must knock all 10 pins during their second frame. It doesn't matter how many pins are knocked down during each frame as long as all 10 fall down.

When a spare is earned, it is used to calculate the score on the next frame.

Strikes

To score a strike (indicated by: X on the scorecard), it is similar to how a spare is scored but with a little twist. A strike is also worth an initial 10, but instead of taking the score of the first roll of the next frame, the total score of the next two rolls is taken.

The Strike Rule

Both the strike rule and the spare rule stay consistent throughout the entire match, regardless of whether consecutive strikes and spares are rolled. Using these rules, you score a strike and a spare the same time every frame.

For example, if a person were to roll three strikes in a row (turkey), their score would be a 30 for that frame. The initial 10 would come from the strike, plus the second 10 which comes from the second roll which was another strike, plus the final 10 which comes from the third roll which was again a strike. Strikes always are scored by adding the initial 10 plus the next two rolls, and spares are scored by adding the initial 10 plus the next roll.

Final Frames

The only time in which a person can roll more than twice in a frame is on their final frame. If a person rolls a strike or a spare. If a person rolls a strike on the last frame, two more shots are rewarded in order to calculate the final score (initial 10 + sum of the next two rolls).

If a person rolls a spare on their two rolls of the final frame, they are rewarded a final shot in order to calculate the final score (initial 10 + score of the next roll). If a person were to throw an open frame as their final score, the score will be the same as every other open frame and the game will end after two rolls.