Bowling Split

A split is one of the most well-known terms in bowling, and also one of the most disliked, but what is a split? In order to learn about what a split is and how to handle one in bowling, we must first know a few key things, such as the numbering and positions of the pins in bowling. Read on to learn all about splits, and the different forms they can take!

What is a Split in Bowling?

A split in bowling refers to the arrangement of pins left standing after one or more of the original 10 pins have been knocked down by the bowler’s first throw. In bowling, the pins are arranged in a triangular shape at the end of the lane, with one pin to start, followed by a row of two pins, then a row of three pins, and finally a row of four pins at the back. These pins follow a numbering system which is as follows:

  • First Row (Closest to the Bowler): Number 1 Pin
  • Second Row: Number 2 Pin, Number 3 Pin
  • Third Row: Number 4 Pin, Number 5 Pin, Number 6 Pin
  • Fourth Row: Number 7 Pin, Number 8 Pin, Number 9 Pin, Number 10 Pin

A split in bowling is a situation that occurs when a player throws a bowling ball and knocks down a portion of the pins, but not all 10. This typically leaves the bowler with a hard second throw, which needs to be calculated correctly in order to knock down the remaining pins.

How Do You Knock Down a Split?

The results of a bowler’s first shot often dictate the bowler’s strategy on the second shot. Ideally, a bowler would like to knock down all 10 pins with the first shot, negating the need for a second shot. However, when the first shot leaves one or more pins left standing, the bowler will then look to achieve a “spare” with the second shot. 

Typically, a bowler will look to knock certain pins into each other based on the type of split. The bowler may use different spin techniques to adjust the angle at which the ball will hit the initial pin(s).

More often than not, a bowler will fail to achieve either a strike or a spare due to the remaining pins left in a split. In this case, the bowler will look to salvage as many points as possible, often aiming for adjacent pins in situations where there might be two or more pins next to each other while a single pin stands alone on the other side of the lane. The bowler is awarded a point for each pin that is successfully knocked down. For example, if the bowler manages to knock down eight of the original 10 pins over the course of two shots, a score of eight will be recorded.

Types of Splits

Some types of splits that are common in bowling include:

  • Baby Split: Occurs when all pins have been knocked down except for the Number 2 and Number 7 pins, the Number 3 and Number 10 pins, the Number 1 and 4 pins, or the Number 1 and 6 pins.
  • Bed Post: The Number 7 and Number 10 pins remain.
  • Big Four: Describes a shot that leaves the Number 4, 6, 7 and 10 pins standing.
  • Bucket: A four-pin alignment that forms a diamond shape. Right-handed bowlers tend to leave the Number 2, 4, 5 and 8 pins remaining, while left-handed bowlers tend to leave the Number 3, 5, 6 and 9 pins remaining.
  • Fast Eight: The bowler knocks down eight pins, leaving the Number 4 and 7 or 6 and 10 pins left standing.
  • Double Wood/Sleeper: The two pins left standing are directly behind one another, such as the Number 2 and Number 8, the Number 3 and Number 9, or the Number 1 and Number 5.
  • Greek Church: Three pins are left on one side, while two pins are left on the other side. The pins usually left standing are pins Number 4, 6, 7, 9 and 10.
  • Lily/Sour Apple: A 5-7-10 split. Pins Number 5, 7, and 10 remain.
  • Flat: Occurs when the ball is rolled with little velocity or spin, hitting the initial formation with minimal impact and leaving the Number 5 and Number 7 pins, or the Number 8 and Number 10 pins, remaining.
  • Picket Fence: A split where the number 1, 2, 4, and 7 pins are left.

Easiest Splits to Knock Down in Bowling

The “Baby Split” (Number 2 and 7 pins, or Number 3 and 10 pins) and “Double Wood” (Number 2 and 8 pins, Number 3 and 9 pins, or Number 1 and 5 pins) are generally the easiest splits to aim at, as the pins are aligned relatively close to another and thus provide the opportunity for the front pin to knock down the back pin as it falls.

Hardest Splits to Knock Down in Bowling

The “Greek Church” (Number 4, 6, 7, 9 and 10 pins remain), “Bed Post” (Number 7 and 10 pins remain), and “Lily” (5, 7 and 10 pins) are widely considered to be the most difficult splits in bowling, as each alignment leaves a significant amount of space between the pins left standing and thus requires a masterful shot with lots of spin placed on the ball.

3-10 Split

The 3-10 split is the most commonly bowled spare type. Also known as a Baby Split, this occurs when the bowler knocks down every pin except for the Number 3 pin, which is located on the right-hand side of the second row of pins (from the bowler), and the Number 10 pin, which is on the far right of the last row of pins. Due to the way the ball rotates, this is more common for right-handed bowlers.

2-7 Split

A 2-7 split, also known as a Baby split, occurs when the bowler knocks down every pin except for the Number 2 pin, which is located on the left-hand side of the second row of pins (from the bowler), and the Number 7 pin, which is on the far left of the last row of pins. This is more common for left-handed bowlers.

5-7-10 Split

Referred to as a “lily” or a “sour apple,” the 5-7-10 split occurs when the Number 5 pin, found in the middle of the third row, the Number 7 pin, found at the far left of the last row, and Number 10 pin, found at the far right of the last row, are all left standing at the end of the first throw.

1-7 Split

In a 1-7 split, the Number 1 pin and the Number 7 pin remain. In this example, a player would move to the far right, and throw the ball through the first pin, trying to hit both pins with the ball.

6-7 Splits

There are also more difficult possible splits. With these splits, the bowler must hit one pin into the other pin. For example, consider a 6-7 split. The bowler must stand all the way to the right, and hit the right side of the Number 6 pin. Hopefully, they will hit the pin at the right angle to launch it towards the Number 7 pin.

Greek Church Split

The Greek Church split occurs when there are three pins on one side of the formation left standing and two pins on the opposite side left standing. This type of split  is often referred to as one of the most difficult spares to achieve in bowling, with a 0.3% spare rate.

Picket Fence Splits

“Picket Fence” splits are so named because of the fence-like appearance of the pins left standing. The 1-2-4-7 pins line the left side of the pin formation like a fence, while the 1-3-6-10 pins line the right side of the pin formation in the same way. If either of these combinations is left standing, the split is referred to as a “picket fence.”

Impossible Splits

Impossible Splits are splits in which the remaining pins are in a horizontal line. An example of this is if the Number 7 and Number 9 pins are remaining. While it is not impossible to hit all the remaining pins, there is no specific strategy for these splits because it takes a lucky bounce to hit the shot. An example of a lucky bounce would be if one of the pins ricocheted off of the back wall and hit the other pin. These types of bounces are extremely unlikely, thus leading to the name impossible splits.


What is the hardest split in bowling?

The hardest split to knock down in bowling is the 7-10 split, also known as the “bedpost split.” The 7 and 10 pins are the two outermost pins in the pin formation, which makes it nearly impossible to knock both down with one throw. A bowler must throw the ball to the outside of one of the pins in a tight window to send it flying into the other.

What is the easiest split in bowling?

The easiest split to knock down in bowling is a 2-7 split or a 3-10 split, both of which are known as a “Baby Split.” These two splits are easiest to deal with because the pins involved are located diagonally from each other and only one row apart, meaning that the bowler can roll in one direction and easily use the closer pin to knock down the one behind it.

How many pins are in a bowling split?

A split in bowling is defined as the remaining pins after the bowler has taken their first throw of the frame and knocked at least one pin over. Therefore, there may be up to nine pins in a split. If the bowler fails to knock over any pins on the first throw of the frame, the formation remaining is not considered a split.