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Bowling Split

Table of Contents


Welcome to an overview of bowling splits. We'll start by learning about the most common bowling pin alignments and how many points are awarded to the bowler for achieving each kind of split.

What is a Bowling Split?

A bowling 'split' refers to the arrangement of pins left standing after some or all of the original ten pins have been knocked down by the bowler's first shot. Below is a diagram of the starting pin formation and the number that is assigned to each pin.

Bowling Pin Numbers

Types of Splits

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

Split Strategy

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 ten pins with the first shot, negating the need for a second shot. This is called a "strike" and results in ten points being added to total the number of pins knocked down during the bowler's next turn.

When the first shot leaves one or more pins left standing, the bowler will then look to achieve a "spare" with the second shot. A spare occurs when the bowler requires both shots to knock down all of the original ten pins. Spares award a bowler ten points plus the number of pins knocked down during only the first shot of the bowler's next turn. In order to achieve a spare, the first shot must usually leave the bowler with one of the following scenarios:

  • One singular pin remains standing
  • Several pins remain standing, however, they are in close proximity to one another

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 ten pins over the course of two shots, a score of eight will be recorded.

Most Difficult Splits

The "Greek Church," (4, 6, 7, 9 and 10 pins remain) "Bed Post," (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.

Easiest Splits

The "Baby Split" (2 and 7, 3 and 10 pins) and "Double Wood" (2 and 8, 3 and 9, 1 and 5 pins) are generally the most 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. The "Tap" alignment is also a relatively simple shot, requiring the bowler to worry about aiming at only one pin.


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