What Is A Spare In Bowling?

How does one bowl a spare? A spare is achieved by a bowler when they knock down all ten pins in just two throws. Learn all about the rules below!


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.

Points for Spares

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 bowl and two in their second bowl. They would earn fourteen points for their first frame (7+3+4=14) and seven points for their second frame (4+2=6). Their total score would be those two frames combined, totaling twenty (14+6=20); this is the score that is displayed in the second frame.


A blow refers to failing to score a spare (other than a split) by leaving pins remaining after the second ball is thrown. 

Bowling a Spare in the Tenth Frame

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 frame. This is referred to as a “perfect game”.

Dutch 200

A Dutch 200 refers to a game in which a bowler alternates between scoring strikes and spares in each frame. This would score the bowler exactly 200 points.


A tap occurs when the ball seems to hit the pins perfectly for a strike, but one pin is left upright for the possibility of a spare.

Pin Combinations for Spares

Spares can be earned by knocking down any combination of pins, with two balls, 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.