What Is A Spare In Bowling?

A spare is achieved by a bowler when they knock down all ten pins in just two throws, and this common situation comes with its own rules and terminology. Read on to learn all about spares!

What are Spares?

Spares occur in bowling when all ten pins are knocked down in two throws, which make up one of ten frames in a game. Spares differ from strikes because they require two throws to knock down all ten pins, not just one. They are traditionally marked by the “/” symbol in official scorekeeping.

Spares can be earned by knocking down any combination of pins that add up to ten. A player can knock down five pins with the first ball and five with the second, or one pin with their first ball and nine with their second. Both of these combinations and any others would be considered spares.

How Many Points Is a Spare in Bowling?

When a bowler bowls a spare, they earn ten points for knocking down all pins in that frame, plus the earned number of points from the first ball in the next frame. For example, if in the first frame, the bowler knocks down seven pins with the first ball and then three pins with the second, they have rolled a spare. In their next frame, they knock down four pins in their first throw and two in their second. They earn 14 points for their first frame (7+3+4=14) and six points for their second frame (4+2=6). Their total score would be those two frames combined (14+6=20); this is the score that is displayed in the second frame.

Tenth Frame Spares

If a bowler bowls a spare in the tenth and final frame, they are awarded one bonus ball to earn extra points. This extra ball is referred to as a “fill ball.” The maximum number of points a bowler can earn is 300, achieved by bowling strikes in every single frame. This is referred to as a “perfect game.”

Spare Terms and Lingo

Here is a list of terms related to spares in bowling:

  • Blow: failing to score a spare (other than a split) by leaving pins remaining after the second ball is thrown.
  • Chop: to knock down a single pin of a spare leave while the other pin remains upright.
  • Count: the number of pins that are knocked down in the next frame that apply to a spare or a strike.
  • Dutch 200: a game in which a bowler alternates between scoring strikes and spares in each frame.
  • Fill Ball: the ball that is thrown after a spare in the 10th frame.
  • Open Frame: a frame having neither a spare nor a strike.
  • Tap: when the ball seems to hit the pins perfectly for a strike, but one pin is left upright for the possibility of a spare.


How many points is a spare worth in bowling?

A spare in bowling is 10 points plus the points earned on the next roll, which is the first roll of the following frame. Thus, if a player rolls a spare and then knocks down five pins on their following roll, they earn 15 points for the frame containing the spare. Rolling a strike following a spare earns 20 points.