Bowling Scoring

Bowling can be best described as a low-risk sport that can be enjoyed equally by people of all age groups. Thatʼs why it is often categorized as the best recreational sport out there. 

Of course, like all other sports, bowling can be pursued professionally too. However, since millions play this game, there is cut-throat competition in the professional world of bowling.

In todayʼs text, weʼll look into the mechanics of keeping track of bowling scores. 

Sure enough, almost all bowling alleys have scoreboards that help players keep track of their scores. 

However, if you want to take your game up a notch, evaluate your progress, and identify key areas where you need improvement, youʼll need to keep track of your bowling scores over an extended period, like all professional bowlers.

Then, when you have access to the whole picture (stats, such as spare numbers; strike percentage; and average frame score; etc.), youʼll be able to understand your game better and work on areas that require improvement.

Of course, there are useful scoring apps, such as PinPal and Lanetalk, that can also do the job. But, this article is for those who wish to understand the mechanics behind keeping track of scores as per the guidelines of the United States Bowling Congress.

Hereʼs how you can keep track of your score manually in tenpin bowling.

How to Keep Track of Bowling Scores

The main objective of bowling is to knock down as many pins as possible. 

In other words, to beat your opponent, youʼll simply need to strike down more pins than him/her. The score is based on the number of pins you knock down with your bowling ball. 

A single game consists of 10 frames. Each frame gives the bowler two opportunities to knock down 10 pins. With each pin the bowler knocks down, a point is awarded. 

You can score bonus points by bowling “strikes” and “spares.”

With a game consisting of 10 frames, the maximum score you can get is 300 points. This whopping number can only be achieved with multiple strikes.

Strikes and spares

You hit a “strike” when you knock down all 10 pins on the first ball of your frame. On the scorecard, youʼll see that a strike is denoted by an “X.” 

Meanwhile, if you take two shots to knock all 10 pins down, you hit a spare, denoted by a “/”.

What happens when you canʼt knock down all 10 pins even after two tries? 

If you can´t get rid of the remaining pins even after two balls, you get embroiled in an Open Frame situation where only one point is scored for each pin you knock over, nothing more, unlike in strikes and spares.

If you knock down only 4 pins on your first ball and 3 pins on your second shot, you hit an “open frame”, which means you only score 7 (4+3) points.

Scoring strikes

When you hit a strike (knock down all 10 pins in a single frame – nothing is left standing), you get 10 points, plus the value of your next two rolls. 

This is also the least number of points you can get for a strike. At best, you can get 30 points, i.e. if your next two shots are strikes as well.

Let me give you a scenario to clarify how to score. 

Letʼs assume that you get a strike on the first frame. After that, youʼll need to throw two more shots to know your final score. 

In the second frame, if you knock 4 pins down on your first ball and 3 pins on the next ball, your score for the first frame will be 17 (10+4+3).

Scoring spares

In a nutshell, a spare is worth 10 points, plus the value of your next roll. So, at worst, you can get 10 points when you score a spare. At best, you can get 20 points.

Let me show you how to keep track of spares. Letʼs say you are able to hit a spare (knock down all 10 pins in two shots) in your first frame. 

Now, letʼs assume that you hit 6 pins on the first ball of your second frame. Your total score for the first frame will be 16 (10+6).   

Final scores

To get your final score for one game, all youʼll need to do is count the total number of pins knocked down and add the sum of all 10 frames individually.

Frame-by-frame explanation

If you want an explanation of how to score in bowling, read on. 

Frame12345678910
Result  2 7x9 /X2 6xx2 56 /3 4
Frame Score9202018822177137
Running Total92949677597114121134141

First frame: You threw a 2 on your first ball and a 7 on your second ball. Since you threw an open frame, your score for the first frame was exactly the number of pins knocked down – 2+7=9.

Second frame: You threw a strike, which means you scored 10 plus your next couple of shots (9 /). Since you scored a spare on your next frame, your total score for the second frame became 20.

Third frame: You scored a spare, which is 10 points plus your next shot. On your next frame, you scored a strike (10 points), bringing your total of the third frame to 20 points.

Fourth frame: You scored a strike, which means you scored 10 points plus your next two shots (2+6), giving you a grand total of 18 points.

Fifth frame: On this frame, you hit an open frame – 2+6=8 points.

Sixth frame: On your sixth frame, you hit a strike (10 points), plus your next couple of shots (x and 2), enabling you to accumulate a total of 22 points.

Seventh frame: You hit a strike (10 points), plus your next couple of shots (2 and 5), giving you a total of 17 points.

Eighth frame: On your eighth frame, you knocked 2 pins with your first shot and 5 pins with your next shot, giving you 7 points for the eighth frame.

Ninth frame: On this frame, you threw a spare, which is 10 points plus your next shot (3 points), giving you 13 points.

Tenth frame: On your tenth frame, you threw a 3 and a 4, giving you 7 points, resulting in a final total score of 141 points.

*Note: According to the scoring rules, if you had thrown a strike on your final frame, you would have been allowed two more shots to determine the final value of the strike. If you had hit a spare on your last frame, an additional shot would have been allowed to determine the final value of the spare.

Conclusion

Hopefully by now you can count how many pins you knock down and tally your own bowling scores on your score sheet instead of relying on apps or a bowling-score calculator. 

If youʼve understood the intricacies of the scoring system, share your knowledge with other teams or enthusiasts. Or, better yet, share this article with them. 

With that said, itʼs time for me to go enjoy another game of bowling.