In this day and age the majority of bowling alleys in the United States have automatic score keepers, thus removing the need for bowlers to keep score of their game. If you’re serious about bowling and want to get a better understanding of how the scoring system works you need to learn how to score bowling. I’ve put this how-to guide together to teach you how to keep score of a bowling game. If you decided you don’t want to use an automatic score keeper you can download one of my printable bowling score sheets or use my online bowling score calculator.
- The Basics of Keeping Score at Bowling
- Understanding Strikes, Spares and Open Frames
- How to Score a Strike in Bowling
- How to Score a Spare in Bowling
- How to Score an Open Frame in Bowling
- How to Score Strikes, Spares and Open Frames Together
- Understanding the 10th Frame
A single game of bowling consists of 10 frames per bowler. Each bowler can score a minimum of 0 or a maximum of 300 in a single bowling game. In each one of the 10 frames a bowler gets 2 chances to knock down all ten bowling pins; each bowling pin is worth 1 point of your bowling score.
In a single frame the best outcome for a bowler is to knock down all 10 bowling pins on their first throw for that frame, which is called a strike. The second best outcome is for a bowler to knock down all 10 bowling pins, or the remaining bowling pins, in their second throw for that frame. This is called a spare. An open frame is when a bowler fails to knock down all 10 bowling pins in both throws for a single frame.
In bowling, 1 point of the bowlers score is equal to 1 bowling pin knocked down; 1 bowling pin = 1 point. A strike is worth 10 points, plus the value of your next 2 throws. The lowest score you can get in a frame with a strike is 10, which would require the bowler to miss all 10 pins their next frame. The highest score you can get in a frame with a strike is 30, which would require the bowler to get a strike their next 2 frames.
Let’s say a bowler throws a strike the first frame of their game. They wouldn’t have a score until they throw their ball 2 more times. In the next frame, if the bowler knocks down 7 pins the first throw and 2 pins the second throw their first frame score would be 18. It’s confusing when you first start, especially with good bowlers who rarely have open frames, but don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it.
In bowling, a spare is scored almost the same as a strike (see: How to Score a Spare in Bowling), the only difference is a spare is worth 10 points plus the next bowlers roll only. The lowest score you can get in a frame with a spare is 10, which would require the bowler to get a gutter ball on the first. The highest score you can get in a frame with a spare is 10, which would require the bowler to get a strike on their next roll after the spare.
Let’s say a bowler throws a spare their first frame. The points from the first throw of the next frame would be added to the first frame, plus 10 points. If that bowler knocked down 9 pins then their score for the first frame would be 19. If the bowler was to get a strike or another spare on their first throw the total points would be 20.
If a bowler doesn’t get a strike (10 pins on the first throw) or a spare (10 pins in two throws) the total points are the amount of pins knocked down. Let’s say a bowler knocks down 7 pins on their first throw and 2 on their second, their total score would be 8. While it’s easier to score open frames, the majority of a decent bowler’s game will be strikes and spares.
It doesn’t take someone long to understand the basics of bowling scoring but when it comes to adding up everything it’s easy to get confused. The basic reality is that a bowler’s total score is simply the sum of each individual frame using the scoring rules for strikes, spares and open frames. You should treat each frame individually and that will make understanding the whole scoring process a lot easier.
If a bowler gets a strike in the 10th frame they get to throw 2 more bonus throws, if they bowl a spare they only get to bowl one bonus throw. This means a bowler can potential throw 3 times in the 10th frame and this is done for scoring purposes. Remember, you need to add the next throw for a spare and the next two throws for a strike to accurately score the final frame. For a bowler to get a perfect 300 score they need to throw a total of 12 strikes in an entire bowling game.