Bowling a strike is one of the hardest, most remarkable performances in sport one can achieve.
On a professional level, it’s 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’s mighty impressive.
However, it is also rather difficult, and therefore relatively rare. It’s important to know other more realistic scoring 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 per pin, and a strike is a perfect throw of hitting all the pins in one go.
But, it can ultimately add up to be worth 30 points. After scoring a strike, the next frame is added to the 10 points just scored.
This can be quite confusing, but just try to visualize the next frame’s points turning back to be added onto the score of the prior frame. If this is also a strike, then the third frame is added too.
So, that’s three 10s in a row.
This is an incredibly rare and difficult feat known as a turkey in bowling lingo. If someone manages this, you know you’re playing against an expert with plenty of experience.
These throws are almost unheard of if you’re not playing at a professional level, and anyone 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 knockdown. However, it can lead you to a maximum score of 30.
I always try to aim for spares rather than getting consistent strikes. This method helps me to rack up the points and is much more achievable than bowling a perfect game.
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 both players an additional throw, with three each.
This adds up to 21 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 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 does cap 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 possible attainable score is 190. This works out as 19 points per frame.
However, this would be significantly trickier than if you were to, say, land 12 strikes during an otherwise imperfect game. This strategy demands a considerable level of consistency.
Such outcomes are really only feasible with a very well-honed approach and the correct equipment. Remember to use a ball with a flat or symmetrical core if this is your chosen strategy.
Highest & Lowest Possible Scores
In a standard game of 10 pin bowling consisting of 10 frames of two throws, you can achieve a maximum score of 300. This is from hitting 10 consecutive strikes 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). 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.
This, in my opinion, 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 we’re glad to have people join it. Plus, you still have your first strike to look forward to, and this is one of the best feelings in the world.
I have plenty of bowling experience, and I always try to aim for 160+ points when I play. If you’re new, anything around 100 is very respectable indeed, and anything above 200 is exceptional.
Remember, there may be different rules depending on where you play and who you play with—some alleys let you alter the game on the machine to customize it for how you want, 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.
This article was written in relation to the World Bowling scoring method.