How to Keep Score in Bowling

Bowling score sheet found at www.bowlersreference.com

Thanks to the advance in technology most bowlers, both frequent bowlers and those who bowl for fun depend on the machine to keep score for them. Knowing how to keep score yourself can be very fundamental. As someone who has been bowling competitively for about 18 years I can tell you knowing how to keep score yourself is a great resource especially in competitions. Learning how to keep score will help you understand how bowling works and it can bring more enjoyment to the game as you anticipate yours and your opponent’s predicted scores basesd on your scoring knowledge.

Bowling keeps track of score by using frames. A frame one box that is sectioned off using two boxes in the top right corner where the rest of the space of the frame is left open to show the total amount of points scored for that frame. The boxes in the top right corner are used to keep the bowler(s) updated on how many pins were hit in the first and second rolls of the frame. Of the two top boxes, the one furthest to the left keeps track of the first ball rolled and the one furthest to the right keeps track of the second ball rolled.

The image above is a frame.

Scoring in bowling is calculated based on 3 possibilities:

  1. Strike — a strike is indicated by a large “X” and is scored when the bowler knocks down all ten pins on the first shot of the frame. When a strike is scored the bowler does not go back to roll the second shot. A strike is worth 10 points. When you hit a strike the “X” will remain on the score board without an updated score until the next two balls are rolled. So in total strikes have the value of 10 points plus the total pin count of the next two rolls.
Notice in the image above the bowler hit a strike in the first frame. The empty box next to the box indicating the strike shows that there was only one ball rolled for the first frame. The total of the following two rolls equals 9. The strike (10) plus the next two rolls (3 + 6) equals 19 making that the total amount of points earned for the first frame. The score in the second frame is determined by adding the total amount of pins scored for the first frame (19) with the total amount of pins hit in the second frame (3 + 6) making the total score of the second frame equal to 28.

2. Spare — a spare is indicated by a “/” and is scored when the bowler knocks down all ten pins by rolling the ball twice. This means that if the bowler was to hit 9 pins on the first ball of the frame, the bowler then used the second attempt at a frame and picked up the last pin standing. A spare is also worth 10 points. When you hit a spare the spare will also remain on the score board without an updated score but only until the next ball is rolled. Strikes allow you to add on the balls, spares allow for one. So in total spares have the value of 10 points plus the total pin count of only the next roll.

Notice in the image above the bowler hit 7 pins on the first shot of the frame. The “/” in the box next to the 7 shows that the bowler picked up the rest of the pins left on the lane. In the 2 frame on the first ball rolled the bowler hit 4 pins. The spare (10) plus the next roll (4) equals 14 making that the total amount of points earned for the first frame. The score for the second frame is determined by adding the total amount of pins scored for the first frame (14) with the total amount of pins hit in the second frame(4 + 2) making the total score of the second frame equal to 20.

3. Open Frame — an open frame is indicated by a “-” or the number of pins knocked down on the second roll of a frame. An open frame means that the bowler has used both attempts to knock down each pin but left 1 or more pins standing on the lane. A bowler receives a “-” on the score board if on the second attempt they do not hit any of the pins that are left standing. They receive a following number if on the second attempt they knock down at least one of the pins that are left standing but not all of them. The number will indicate exactly how many pins were hit on the second attempt. An open frame’s total score is totaled by adding the number of pins knocked down within that frame alone. How many total points are scored for that frame will show immediately as opposed to waiting for the next one or two balls rolled.

The image above displays a full game of bowling. Frames 4 and 8 are both open frames. In frame 4 the bowler hit 7 pins on the first try. On the bowler’s second try they only hit 2 pins leaving one pin standing. The total score for frame 4 is the total amount of pins hit in frame 4 (7 + 2) added with total score from frame 3 (52) giving 61 as the total score for frame 4. In frame 8 the bowler hit 9 pins on the first try. On the bowler’s second try they missed the last pin standing which is indicated by a “-”. The total score for frame 8 was given by the total amount of pins hit in frame 8 (9) and the total score from frame 7 (139) added together, giving the total score for frame 8 as 148.

Special Frame — the tenth frame is a special frame because as you usually only have two attempts in a frame, the tenth frame gives you a 3rd attempt to pull your score up. The tenth frame can act as a regular frame though if on your first two tries you hit an open frame. In this case you will only receive two tries as any other frame. But, if you hit a strike on your first attempt of the tenth frame you have two more attempts at this frame where you can either hit two more strikes, hit a spare, or even hit an open frame. If you hit a spare on your first two attempts of the tenth frame you have one more attempt at the frame where you can attempt to hit a strike. If you do not hit a strike and maybe hit a 7 that seven will be added on to your spare as any other frame. In the image above notice in the 10th frame the bowler used all three attempts given in the 10th frame. The bowler hit a spare on the first two rolls and on the 3rd roll the bowler hit a strike. The tenth frame is scored the same as any other frame.

Fun facts! — If a bowler hits strikes on every roll of the game they will receive the highest possible score of 300! Also, even though strikes are what is aimed for the most just trust me, spares win games!

Happy bowling!