Social Bowling – How to Score

Here is a new section for all you social bowlers out there that play maybe once a week for fun or with your families from time to time. In this section we will run a series of articles to explain aspects of the sport from how to score to selecting your own bowling ball. In time this will become a useful resource for anyone wanting to take up bowling as a hobby or sport.

bowling_scores.jpgWhy does my score look like a chemical formula for Coca Cola?

Most bowling centres are equipped with computer consoles and monitors that take care of the scoring for you, but you should still know how the bowling scoring system works. Otherwise, the scores the machine gives you will seem a little confusing.

Bowling-Scoring Basics

One game of bowling consists of 10 frames, with a minimum score of zero and a maximum of 300. Each frame consists of two chances to knock down ten pins. Instead of “points” in football or “runs” in baseball, we use “pins” in bowling.

Strikes and Spares

Knocking down all ten pins on your first ball is called a strike, denoted by an X on the score sheet. If it takes two shots to knock down all ten pins, it’s called a spare, denoted by a /.

Open Frames

If, after two shots, at least one pin is still standing, it’s called an open frame. Open frames will mean your score will be a lot lower than if you were to shoot strikes and spares.

How to Score a Strike

A strike is worth 10, plus the total of your next two rolls.

At minimum, your score for a frame in which you throw a strike will be 10 (10+0+0). At best, your next two shots will be strikes, and the frame will be worth 30 (10+10+10).

Say you throw a strike in the first frame. Technically, you don’t have a score yet. You need to throw two more balls to figure out your total score for the frame. In the second frame, you throw a 6 on your first ball and a 2 on your second ball. Your score for the first frame will be 18 (10+6+2).

How to Score a Spare

A spare is worth 10, plus the total of your next roll.

Say you throw a spare in your first frame. Then, in your first ball of the second frame, you throw a 7. Your score for the first frame will be 17 (10+7).

The maximum score for a frame in which you get a spare is 20 (a spare followed by a strike), and the minimum is 10 (a spare followed by a gutter ball).

How to Score an Open Frame

If you don’t get a strike or a spare in a frame, your score is the total number of pins you knock down. If you knock down five pins on your first ball and two on your second, your score for that frame is 7.

Putting Everything Together

Many people understand the basics but get confused when trying to add everything up. Your total score is nothing more than the sum of each individual frame. If you treat each frame individually, it’s much easier to comprehend the scoring system.

The Tenth Frame

In the sample score below, three shots were thrown in the tenth frame. This is because of the bonuses awarded for strikes and spares. If you throw a strike on your first ball in the tenth frame, you need two more shots to determine the total value of the strike.

If you throw a spare on your first two balls in the tenth frame, you need one more shot to determine the total value of the spare. This is called a fill ball.

If you throw an open frame in the tenth frame, you won’t get a third shot. The only reason the third shot exists is to determine the full value of a strike or spare.

Breaking down a full game

Frame: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
You Bowled X 7/ 7 2 9/ X X X 2 3 6/ 7/3
Frame Score: 20 17 9 20 30 22 15 5 17 13
Running Total: 20 37 46 66 96 118 133 138 155 168

Useful resources

Upcoming articles will include

Bowling for the very first time

Selecting a ball that is right for you

How is your score calculated

Buying your first bowling ball

Joining a league

Become a student bowler

Bowling in your first tournament

Who to ask for advice

Links on each section will appear when they have been posted

Keep checking back for the latest articles