Recreational Games

Understanding Scoring in Bowling: A Beginner’s Guide

Bowling is a beloved pastime enjoyed by people of all ages around the world. Whether you’re playing competitively or just for fun, understanding how scoring works can greatly enhance your experience of the game. This beginner’s guide aims to demystify the system of scoring in bowling, breaking it down into simple, understandable terms.

Understanding Scoring in Bowling: A Beginner's Guide

Introduction to Bowling

Before we dive into the scoring specifics, let’s cover some bowling basics. Bowling is played by rolling a heavy ball down a lane to knock down a set of ten pins arranged in a triangle. A standard game consists of ten frames, and each player takes turns to bowl in each frame. The objective is to knock down as many pins as possible.

The Basics of Scoring in Bowling

In bowling, the score depends not just on the number of pins you knock down, but also on how you knock them down. There are three main outcomes for each roll: an open frame, a spare, and a strike, each affecting your score differently.

Open Frame

An open frame is when a player fails to knock down all ten pins in their two attempts in a frame. The score for that frame is simply the total number of pins knocked down. For example, if you knock down 5 pins on your first roll and 2 on your second, your score for that frame is 7.


A spare is when you knock down all ten pins across your two attempts in a frame. This is denoted by a slash (/) on the score sheet. The scoring for a spare is a bit more complex than an open frame. You get 10 points for knocking down all the pins, plus a bonus: the number of pins you knock down on your next roll. For example, if you roll a spare and then knock down 5 pins on your next roll, your score for the spare frame is 15 (10 + 5).


A strike is the most desirable outcome, where you knock down all ten pins with your first ball in a frame. Strikes are denoted by an X on the score sheet. The scoring for a strike includes a more significant bonus than for a spare. You get 10 points, plus the number of pins you knock down in your next two rolls. For example, if you roll a strike and then knock down 4 pins and then 5 on your next two rolls, your score for the strike frame is 19 (10 + 4 + 5).

Advanced Scoring in Bowling: Consecutive Strikes and Spares

The scoring gets more complex and potentially more rewarding when you roll consecutive strikes or spares.

Consecutive Strikes (Double, Turkey)

Rolling two strikes in a row is called a “double,” and three strikes in a row is known as a “turkey.” For a double, you would add 20 points (10 for each strike) plus the number of pins knocked down in the roll following the strikes to the first strike’s score. For a turkey, the first strike is worth 30 points (10 points plus 10 for each of the next two strikes).

Consecutive Spares

If you roll spares in consecutive frames, you add 10 points (for the spare) plus the number of pins knocked down with the first roll of the following frame to each spare frame.

The 10th Frame: A Special Case

The 10th frame in bowling is unique because you can roll up to three times if you score a strike or a spare. If you roll a strike, you get two more rolls; if you roll a spare, you get one more roll. These extra rolls in the 10th frame only count as bonuses for the strike or spare and do not count as separate frames.

Tips for Beginners

  1. Focus on Form: Your score will naturally improve as you develop a consistent bowling technique.
  2. Practice Spares: Spares can significantly boost your score, so practice hitting those remaining pins on your second roll.
  3. Learn from Others: Watch more experienced bowlers and learn from their techniques and strategies.

Understanding scoring in bowling can seem complicated at first, but once you grasp the basics of open frames, spares, and strikes, it becomes much clearer. Remember, the key to improving your bowling score lies in practice, consistency, and, most importantly, enjoying the game. Whether you’re bowling with friends, family, or in a league, keep this guide in mind, and you’ll find yourself appreciating the nuances of bowling scoring in no time. Happy bowling!

To learn more about scoring in bowling and more techniques, check out this book!

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