How Do Bowling Scores Work? (Things to Know)

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Whether you’re a casual bowler or an aspiring professional, understanding how bowling scores work is essential for getting the most out of your game. This blog post will break down the basics of bowling scoring, from strikes and spares to calculating points and maximizing your score.

With these simple guidelines in mind, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a more proficient player.

Let’s take a look.

How Do Bowling Scores Work?

As a seasoned bowler, I’ve come to understand that the foundation of success in this popular sport lies in grasping the basic scoring system. At its core, it’s pretty simple: knock down as many pins as you can and rack up points along the way.

Generally, one point is awarded for each pin knocked down during your turn, which consists of two rolls per frame (unless you score a strike).

Now let me share with you some key aspects of bowling scores beyond just counting pins.

First off are strikes and spares – these are the bread and butter for achieving high scores! When you achieve a strike by knocking down all ten pins on your first roll, not only do you gain ten points but also bonus points equivalent to the sum of your next two rolls.

Similarly, if it takes both shots within a frame to topple all ten pins (earning yourself a spare), then that guarantees ten points plus bonus points equaling the pin count on your very next roll.

Identifying Strikes And Spares

As mentioned earlier, a strike occurs when all ten pins are knocked down with the first roll. This is marked on the scorecard as an “X”. A strike not only adds 10 points to your score but also earns bonus pins for the next two rolls.

For example, if you get a strike in the first frame and then knock down seven and three pins in your next two rolls, your total score for that frame would be 20 (10 + 7 +3).

On the other hand, a spare occurs when all ten pins are knocked down with both shots in a single frame. This is marked on the scorecard using a diagonal slash (“/”). A spare earns you 10 points plus the sum of the next shot.

Adding Up Scores Across Multiple Frames

One of the most important aspects of bowling scoring is adding up scores across multiple frames. Each frame offers two chances to knock down all 10 pins, and a player’s score is determined by their performance in each frame.

To add up scores across multiple frames, it’s important to keep track of both strikes and spares. In the case of a strike, the player will receive bonus points equal to the total pins knocked down on their next two rolls.

For example, if a player gets a strike in their first frame followed by knocking down eight pins in their second roll for the next frame, they would tally 18 points for that particular set (10 for knocking all ten pins with one ball plus an additional 8 other from his second roll).

Common Bowling Scoring Strategies

The Turkey

Personally, I always get excited when I score a “Turkey” in bowling. This term is used when a player scores three strikes in a row. Not only is it a fun term to say, but it’s also great for earning some extra bonus points.

When you score a Turkey, the first strike earns 10 points plus the total number of pins knocked down on the next two rolls (the next frame). The second strike gets you ten points plus the sum of your next roll and your first roll in the following frame (third frame).

The Split

The Split is a term used when the bowler fails to knock down all ten pins with the first roll. It occurs when there are two or more standing pins left, separated by at least one knocked-down pin in between them.

The objective of the split is to try and hit both standing pins with the next shot to earn a spare. However, this can be challenging since the two pins are usually spread apart, making it difficult to hit them both.

In such an event, players must decide how best to approach their second attempt strategically. Some opt for hitting only one pin and relying on luck for its bounce toward other remaining ones while some try maximizing impact force hoping that the rest of any straggling will fall victim too.

The Double

One of the most exciting scoring scenarios in bowling is known as “The Double.” This occurs when a bowler manages to score two consecutive strikes, earning them an impressive 30 points in just two rolls.

The key to achieving a double is consistency and accuracy, as even the slightest shift in technique or approach can cause the ball to miss its mark. However, once achieved, it can provide an incredible boost of confidence and momentum for the rest of the game.

Understanding The Different Types Of Bowling Games

How Do Bowling Scores Work

Traditional Bowling

In traditional bowling, the player rolls a ball down a long, narrow lane toward ten pins arranged in a triangle at the end. The goal is to knock down as many pins as possible using two chances per frame.

Each game consists of ten frames with different scoring scenarios for each one. Unlike other types of bowling games, traditional bowling uses a 10-pin configuration and has specific rules on how the game should be played.

It requires both skill and strategy to play this classic sport efficiently, from selecting the right ball size for your grip to releasing it at just the right angle.

9-pin Bowling

Have you ever heard of 9-pin bowling? This type of bowling is popular in some parts of Europe and involves using only nine pins instead of the traditional ten. The pins are arranged in a diamond shape with one pin at the top, two in the row below, three in the next, and then four on the bottom row.

The scoring system for 9-pin bowling is similar to that of traditional bowling, but due to having fewer pins, it can be more challenging to get strikes and spares. Additionally, players have three rolls per frame instead of two as they do in traditional bowling.

Candlepin Bowling

Some bowlers might prefer a game of candlepin bowling, which is popular in the New England region. In this game, players use smaller and lighter balls, which makes it harder to knock down all the pins.

Additionally, there are three rolls per frame instead of two, and any pins left standing after the first roll stay up for subsequent rolls (unlike traditional bowling).

This means that getting a spare or strike is more difficult in candlepin bowling than in other types of bowling.


Now that you understand the basics of how bowling scores work, it’s time to head to your local bowling alley and put your skills to the test. Remember to keep track of each frame and calculate scores accurately.

With practice, you can improve your scoring strategies and aim for some impressive games. Whether you’re a casual bowler or a pro, understanding the scoring system is essential for reaching your full potential on the lanes.

Last updated on July 3, 2023