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Bowling: How to Keep Score

Updated on July 13, 2011

Back in the good old days, if you wanted to play a game of ten pin bowling, you had to know how to calculate the score and keep track of it on a scoring sheet. These days, scoring is an automated process handled by a computer at most bowling alleys. Despite this, you may still want to know how to calculate your bowling scores or, at the very least, have a loose understanding of how the scoring system works so that you know what to aim for when attempting to improve your overall game scores.

A game of ten pin bowling consists of ten frames. Each player takes turns to deliver the ball twice for each frame in the first nine frames unless a strike is scored. The score recorded for each delivery depends on the number of pins that were successfully knocked down. For instance, if an individual knocks four pins in the first delivery and three pins in the second delivery, the total score achieved for that frame is seven points.

A strike occurs when an individual succeeds in knocking down all the pins with the first delivery. A strike is denoted as an “x” on the score sheet and the score recorded for a strike is ten plus the number of pins knocked down in the following two deliveries. Therefore if an individual scores a strike, followed by five pins and three pins, the score recorded for the strike would be ten plus eight.

If two strikes are scored consecutively, the score for the first strike is twenty plus the number of pins knocked down in the delivery after the second strike. For example, if the individual knocks three pins in the delivery following the second strike, the score for the first strike will be twenty plus three.

If three strikes are scored consecutively, the score of the first strike will be thirty. Three strikes in a row is also called a “triple” or a “turkey”.

The maximum score achievable in a game of bowling is 300. In order to achieve this, an individual is required to bowl twelve consecutive strikes.

A spare occurs when a player successfully knocks down all the pins in two consecutive deliveries within the frame. For instance, if the player knocks down eight pins in the first delivery and the remaining two in the second delivery, that is called a “spare”. A spare is denoted on the score card with a “/”. The score recorded for a spare is ten plus the number of pins knocked down in the following delivery. Therefore if a player knocks down six pins in the following delivery, the score for the spare is sixteen.

In the tenth frame, an individual is given up to three deliveries if a spare or strike is scored. A failure to knock down any pins is denoted with a “-“. The total score for the game is tallied by adding the individual scores for each frame.

The following is a working example for calculating the score in a game of ten pin bowling:

Frame 1: Strike – (30)

Frame 2: Strike – (57)

Frame 3: Strike – (76)

Frame 4: first delivery – 7; second delivery – 2 – (85)

Frame 5: Spare (first delivery – 8; second delivery – 2) – (95)

Frame 6: first delivery – foul; second delivery – 9 – (104)

Frame 7: Strike – (124)

Frame 8: Spare (first delivery – 7; second delivery -3) – (143)

Frame 9: first delivery – 9; second delivery – 0 – (152)

Frame 10: first delivery – strike; second delivery – strike; third delivery – 8 – (180)

Total Game Score: 180.

Although it is highly unlikely that you would need to tally your own ten pin bowling scores in this day and age, at least you have a basic understanding of the scoring system.


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