how to keep score

Keeping score in bowling may seem very complicated, but truthfully it is not. The following few examples and rules will help you to keep score during your bowling match. Although at most bowling centers now have computers to do this for you, it is good to know how to score so you can figure out how many pins you need to win a match.

The first step in learning how to score is to understand strikes, spares and open frames.

  • After a bowler gets a strike [all ten pins down on one shot] they will not receive a score for that frame yet. The score for that frame will be ten pins + their next two balls.
  • After a bowler gets a spare [all ten pins down in two shots] they will not receive a score for that frame yet. The score for that frame will be ten pins + their next ball.
  • After a bowler throws an open frame [pins are left after two shots] the bowler will receive a score for that frame, which is their previous frame plus their pin count for that frame.

Here are some examples of scoring so you can understand how each scenario works.

  • Here is an example of how a strike is scored:
    • Frame 1, ball 1: 10 pins (strike)
    • Frame 2, ball 1: 7 pins
    • Frame 2, ball 1: 2 pins
    • Total Score
      Frame one: 10 + (7 + 2) = 19
      Frame two: 7 + 2 = 9
      TOTAL = 28 pins
  • Here is an example of how a spare is scored:
    • Frame 1, ball 1: 7 pins
    • Frame 1, ball 2: 3 pins (spare)
    • Frame 2, ball 1: 6 pins
    • Frame 3, ball 2, 1 pin
    • Total Score
      Frame one: 10 + 6(BONUS) = 16
      Frame two: 6 + 1 = 7
      Total = 23 pins

Click here to see a full ten frames of bowling to get a full idea of how to score.

bowling terminology

Below is some terminology that you will hear as you are in the bowling alley. Some may be obvious, but others may not be so this list will help you better understand what people are talking about.

  • Average - Your average in bowling is like any other average. It is the sum of your games, divided by the total number of games bowled.
  • Clean Game - A clean game is one where all of your frames consist of either a strike or spare. Making your spares will raise your score and average.
  • Dutch 200 - A game consisting of alternating strike-spare-strike-spare frames, which will end up with a final score of 200.
  • Anchor - The final person on a team in competition. This is the bowler who is most likely to do better under pressure.
  • Foul - When a bowler crosses the foul line and delivers the ball. Doing so results in a zero for that ball and then the bowler shoots at a new rack of ten pins.
  • Back End - The last five or six feet of the lane, where most bowlers hope for their strongest hook to happen.
  • Backup - A ball that hooks to the right for a right-handed bowler, or to the left for a left-handed bowler.
  • Washout - When the bowler leaves the 1-2-10 or 1-2-4-10 for right-handers OR when a lefty leaves the 1-3-7 or 1-3-6-7.
  • Turkey - Three strikes in a row.
  • Strikeout - To get three strikes in the three balls of the tenth frame.
  • Strike - To knock down all ten pins on the first ball.
  • Spare - To knock down all ten pins with two balls.
  • Release - The motion of the hand as the ball is put onto the lane.
  • Gutter - The two channels on the end of the lane. If the ball goes into a gutter, the bowler receives a zero for that ball.
  • Open - When the bowler leaves pins standing after two balls. The bowler doesn't strike or spare on that turn.
  • Pocket - The place where a bowler wants to hit and if hit will most likely strike. The pocket is the 1-3 for right-handed bowlers and 1-2 for lefties.
  • Head Pin - The 1 pin of the rack or the pin in the front of the rack.
  • Dead Wood - A pin in the gutter that must be removed before play is continued
  • Double Wood - Two pins, where one pin is directly behind the other. (1-5 or 2-8 or 3-9)