What is “9-Pin, No-Tap” Bowling?

No-tap bowling is a format common in recreational leagues, pro-am tournaments, and games where the participants want to have some fun with the rules. This type of 9-pin, no-tap game is the most common, and it’s where knocking down at least nine pins counts as a strike, contrary to a regular tenpin bowling game.

Most bowling centers offer it, but it’s rare to see a whole league played in no-tap format. This all comes down to why bowlers turn to no-tap bowling in the first place.


What is the Purpose of No-Tap Bowling?

A long-time bowler might ask, “Why bend the rules to make the game easy for yourself?”

It’s a valid question. But you have to remember that not everyone has the same level of experience when it comes to throwing a bowling ball.

This is what no-tap bowling is for. If you’re that experienced bowler and you’re set to have a tournament with your less-experienced friends, setting the tournament to a nine-pin bowling game creates a level playing field for all of you.

The format also applies in a youth league where kids bowl with the adults in an end-of-year party, or even charity and pro-am tournaments where some of the participants are not so in tune with the game. Some of these events don’t have an entry fee so you’ll find that anyone can join and contribute to the final squad results.

No–tap bowling means an alteration of the rules, which is why you won’t see full leagues played in this format; PBA bowlers competing in a USBC-certified tournament, for example, are familiar enough with the game to not need a pass on the last pin.

How Does Scoring Work in 9-Pin, No-Tap Bowling?

According to the normal USBC rules, knocking down 10 pins on your first ball counts as a strike. 

And if you fail to knock down all of them on the first try, knocking down the remainder on your second ball counts as a spare; if you’ve spent some time in the fringes of the game, you probably know this.

The same thing applies to 9-pin, no-tap bowling, only this time knocking down nine pins is enough for the frame to count as a strike. And if you knock down all ten pins on the first ball, that still counts as a strike.

The same theory works in terms of spare pins. If a person knocks down 6 pins on his or her first ball and knocks down 3 on the second, that counts as a spare. 

If you don’t knock down at least nine pins when your turn is over, that’s an open frame, meaning the next bowlers get their turn. The fresh rack of pins in a 9-pin, no-tap tournament is arranged in a diamond shape.

Compared to the correct average of a regular tournament, the final scores of a 9-pin, no-tap tournament are higher in a normal series of three games. And as you may know, the single pin left standing in your previous tournaments counts for a lot of missed points when put together.

Are There Any Other Kinds of No-Tap Bowling?

Yes. You can have no-tap bowling events set to your chosen pin count.

It can be set at eight-pin bowling, five-pin bowling, and even two-pin bowling! 

But, unless it’s for fun, these tournaments rarely go below the 5-pin threshold (as much as “too hard” kills the game, “too easy” also does the same).

Most of these versions feature further tweaks to the rules to not make the game too easy. But overall, the same theory remains as with 9-pin, no-tap bowling—a hit at or above a certain score is all you need.

Using the example of 7-pin, no-tap bowling, knocking down at least 7 pins on your first try counts as a strike. And if you still have many pins left, knocking them down to the accumulation of at least 7 pins with your second ball counts as a spare. 

Failing to knock down at least seven pins when your turn is over contributes to open frames.

One other popular no-tap tournament is suicide no-tap bowling. This is where you shouldn’t go above a certain score.

While the previous no-tap format makes the game easier, this one focuses on making it harder, resulting in lower bowler averages in comparison.

If you’re playing a suicide 9-pin, no-tap event, the number one no-tap rule is to knock down all but one pin, no more. And if you’re lucky (or unlucky) enough to knock down all ten pins on your first ball, that’s the equivalent of two gutter balls, meaning you get no points and your turn is over.

These no-tap formats all help bring out a certain element of entertainment to a normal bowling game.


If you’re used to throwing a bowling ball, 9-pin, no-tap bowling is a great way to make a fun event even more interesting, just as it’s a great way to induct less experienced bowlers into the game.

If you’re bored of the normal 10-pin bowling game, try and switch it up a little. Maybe play some suicide no-tap and see how you fair. 

And if you’re new to the game, you can bowl scratch and make it easy for yourself by slowly climbing up the ladder.

It’s something that suits everyone, so if you’re looking to get into the game, the no-tap format is one you should try out.