Bowling a strike is one of the hardest, most remarkable performances in sport one can achieve. Getting two consecutive strikes in a row is certainly more impressive, but some professional players can get even more strikes in a row!
The highest score in bowling is achieved by hitting eleven consecutive strikes (knocking all ten pins down with the first ball), resulting in a perfect game and thus, a perfect score.
On a professional level, a PBA bowler rolling two strikes or more in a row is up there with scoring a hat-trick in a World Cup final or hitting a buzzer-beater in an NBA game seven (both of which have only been achieved once), and even at the local alley, it makes for a mighty impressive show and score.
However, it is also rather difficult, and therefore relatively rare. It’s important to know other more realistic bowling score outcomes, in case you aren’t quite able to hit the elusive 10-pointer.
What’s a Strike Worth?
A strike by itself is worth 10 points in standard 10-pin bowling as it is one point for each of the pins knocked down, and a strike is a perfect throw of hitting all ten pins in one go. This gives you the opportunity to aim for a fresh group of ten pins with the next ball.
But, it can ultimately add up to be worth 30 points. After scoring a strike, the next roll is added to the 10 points just scored.
This can be quite confusing, but just try to visualize the points of the second frame turning back to be added onto the score of the first frame. If this is also a strike, then the third frame is added too.
So, that’s three strikes in a row.
Hitting three strikes in a row is an incredibly rare and extremely difficult feat known as a turkey in bowling lingo. Getting only two strikes in a row is difficult, so if someone manages to get three in a row, you know you’re playing against an expert with plenty of experience.
These throws are almost unheard of unless you’re playing with professional bowlers, and a typical amateur who can manage this without much training is most likely getting lucky.
So, to recap, a strike on its own is worth 10 points — 1 point per pin you manage to knock down. However, it can lead you to a maximum score of 30.
A common playing method for the average bowler is to always try to aim for spares rather than getting consistent strikes. This method helps to consistently up your score and is much more achievable than bowling a perfect game — remember, every pin counts!
Strikes also require technique and methodology, which you may not have yet. Spares, meanwhile, require much less ability and are a lot simpler.
The Tenth Frame
In a standard game of ten-pin bowling, there are usually 10 frames. The first 9 are made up of two throws, but the tenth and final one gives all players an additional throw, with three each.
This adds up to 21 ball throws per person across the whole game.
The final frame is the most important moment of the game, as it gives you the opportunity to make up some lost points. These extra points, and getting more strikes in at the last minute, can help you beat your opponent if you’re playing extremely well.
Unfortunately, as there is no frame after the tenth, you don’t get the next throw’s points added on like you would during the other bowls. This means that the maximum amount of points caps at 30, like with the other frames.
However, unlike the previous frames, you are guaranteed three throws, so it makes the elusive 30 points much more likely.
The Highest Score Without a Strike
Noting this, the highest score in bowling that can be achieved without a strike is 190. This works out as 19 points per frame, and allows you to use your next roll to throw the ball in an effort to hit any pins you missed the first time.
However, this would be significantly trickier than if you were to, say, land 12 strikes during an otherwise imperfect game. The only way this strategy works is with a considerable level of consistency that is difficult to achieve for even an above-average bowler.
Such outcomes are really only feasible with a very well-honed approach and the correct equipment. Remember to use a bowling ball with a flat or symmetrical core if this is your chosen strategy.
Highest & Lowest Possible Scores
In a perfect bowling game of 10 pin bowling consisting of 10 frames of two throws, you can achieve a maximum score of 300. Also the rarest score, this is achieved by hitting 10 consecutive strikes, from the first ball to the final ball, with the next two throws added on top.
You’re probably thinking it should be more, but remember, there are no bonus pins received in the tenth frame (unfortunately). And if you miss even one strike, your score will not be perfect.
All of the points made here are in accordance with the World Bowling scoring rules, rather than traditional scoring. Traditional scoring is much more complicated and is simplified to help bowling one day become an Olympic sport.
Many believe this is long overdue — bowling is definitely popular enough. Pete Weber has won it all and deserves a Gold medal.
You can probably guess what the lowest score is. It’s 0. If you get this, maybe it’s time you bring out the ramp and put the bumpers up.
Only kidding! Bowling is a notoriously friendly community, and most bowlers are happy to give a few tips to newcomers.
Plus, you still have your first strike to look forward to, and that is one of the best feelings in the world.
The most likely bowling score for a newcomer is 78, while the leisure bowler’s average score usually hovers in the good range between 130–150. On the other hand, a score of 230–240 is considered average for a professional bowler, which is a most startling statistic for many amateurs.
For those with plenty of bowling experience, it’s reasonable to aim for a bowling average score of 160+ points when playing. If you’re new, anything around 100 is very respectable, and a score above 200 is exceptional.
Remember, there may be different rules depending on where you play and who you play with — various bowling alley owners let you alter the game on the machine to customize the entire game for how you want to play (i.e. with extra / fewer frames, pins, bumpers up, etc.).
If you’re seriously committed to getting a perfect run of spares, then the elusive 190 could well be within reach. However, it will take a mighty arsenal of spare bowling balls and an awful lot of drive, determination, and grit — down to the last pin standing.
This article was written in relation to the World Bowling scoring method.