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Bowling Scores: Master Pro Bowling Scoring & Pin Counting Strategies

  • Reading time:12 mins read

Bowling is a popular sport played by over 90 million people across the world. The goal in bowling is to knock down as many pins as possible over the course of 10 frames.

Bowling scores are calculated based on the total number of pins knocked down, along with bonus pins earned by striking and sparing. Knowing how to properly score a bowling game is key to keeping accurate records of your performance.

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about calculating and understanding bowling scores. You’ll learn about the components of a bowling scoresheet, how to score strikes and spares, special considerations for the 10th frame, and tips to improve your bowling scores. With this knowledge, you’ll be able to confidently keep score for yourself or others.

What is a Bowling Score?

A bowling score represents the total number of pins knocked down over the course of 10 frames. Here are some key things to know about bowling scores:

  • Bowling is played on a lane with 10 pins arranged in a triangle shape at the end.
  • Each game consists of 10 frames, allowing the bowler two rolls per frame to knock down all 10 pins.
  • The score for a frame is the total number of pins knocked down over the two rolls.
  • If all 10 pins are knocked down in two rolls, it is called a “spare.” If all 10 pins are knocked down on the first roll, it is called a “strike.”
  • Strikes and spares impact bonus pins that get added to your score. We’ll explain this more in-depth shortly.
  • The final bowling score is the total pins knocked down over all 10 frames, including bonus pins earned.

Now that you know the basics of what a bowling score represents, let’s look at how scoring works in more detail.

How Scoring Works in Bowling

Traditional scoring in bowling is done manually using pencil and paper on a score sheet with 10 frames. Here is a breakdown of how scoring works:

  • There are 10 frames on a bowling score sheet, numbered 1 through 10.
  • Within each numbered frame box, there are two rolls notated, either as “X” for strike or numeric values for pins knocked down.
  • For non-strike frames, the score is the total pins of the two rolls. For example, a 3 and then a 5 would be 8 pins for that frame.
  • If a strike is rolled, indicated by an “X,” no second roll is taken. A strike counts 10 pins plus bonus pins.
  • Any bonus pins earned by strikes or spares are notated with a slash mark in the small box above the frame.
  • As we’ll explain more below, strikes and spares impact the bonus pins added to your score for the next one or two rolls.
  • The score for each frame is totaled to calculate your overall game score at the end.

Now let’s look at how strikes, spares and bonus pins affect the scoring.

Calculating Score for Strikes

When you bowl a strike in a frame, you immediately get credit for knocking down all 10 pins. But you also earn bonus pins on your next two rolls. Here is how strike scoring works:

  • On a strike frame, you get 10 pins for the strike itself, plus the total pins knocked down on your next two rolls as a bonus.
  • For example, if you roll a strike then get 7 pins and 2 pins on the following two rolls, your score for the strike frame would be 10+7+2 = 19.
  • If you roll a double strike, you would get 20 pins for the first strike frame (10 + next two rolls), then be able to apply the bonus again in the second strike frame.
  • For a triple strike, you simply get 30 pins since the third strike frame doesn’t have a bonus to apply.
  • Bonus pins earned from strikes are notated in the small slash box above the frame. This helps you accurately calculate the rolling score.

Calculating Score for Spares

A spare occurs when you knock down all 10 pins using both rolls in a frame. This also earns bonus pins, although applied slightly differently than a strike bonus:

  • When you roll a spare, you get 10 pins for that frame, plus a one-roll bonus of whatever you knock down on your next roll.
  • Always count the next roll after a spare frame, even if it’s the first roll in the following frame.
  • For example, if you roll a spare then knock down 5 pins on your next roll, your score for that spare frame would be 10 + 5 = 15 pins.
  • The bonus pins for a spare are notated in the slash box just like strikes.
  • You only get bonus pins once on the next roll. Spares do not get double or triple bonuses like strikes can.

Final Frame Scoring

The 10th frame in bowling has some special considerations for scoring since it is the final frame:

  • If you roll a strike in the 10th, you get to take two more rolls for potential bonus pins.
  • Rolling a double in the 10th means you get one more bonus ball to determine your final score.
  • This allows you to fully calculate strikes and spares to add those bonus pins into your total score.
  • The 10th frame is the only frame that allows up to three rolls to account for bonuses earned.
  • Make sure to carefully notate strikes, spares and bonus pins in the 10th and add them correctly.

Knowing how to properly score the 10th frame is critical for determining accurate final scores and can get confusing. Take your time, note bonuses clearly, and calculate the total out properly.

How to Improve Your Bowling Scores

Now that you understand how bowling scores are calculated, here are some tips to help improve your scores:

  • Practice consistently to improve your accuracy at hitting the pins. Muscle memory is key.
  • Pay attention to where you should target on the lane. Look for optimal arrow positions.
  • Use the appropriate ball weight to match your strength and avoid excessive strain.
  • Analyze your bowling technique and make small adjustments as needed – release, foot position, etc.
  • Stay focused mentally on each roll. Visualize hitting the pins accurately.
  • Take advantage of bowling aids like bumpers or ramps if available.
  • Start your approach from the same spot each time you bowl for consistency.
  • Avoid overthinking or second guessing your throws and make adjustments slowly.
  • Learn how oil patterns affect your ball’s hook and impact where you should aim.

Improving your bowling scores takes repetition, analysis of technique, and mental focus. But with some dedicated practice, you can consistently raise your scores over time.

Key Takeaways on Bowling Scores:

To recap the key points on calculating and understanding bowling scores:

  • Bowling scores are based on total number of pins knocked over 10 frames.
  • Strikes give you 10 pins plus a two-roll bonus. Spares give a one-roll bonus.
  • Bonus pins are notated with slash marks above the frame boxes.
  • The 10th frame allows up to 3 rolls to record bonuses earned.
  • Careful scorekeeping, especially in the 10th, is vital to accurate final scores.
  • With practice and adjusting technique, you can improve bowling skills to raise scores.

Taking the time to learn bowling scoring intricacies will ensure you have an accurate record of your performance each game. Knowing what impacts your scores empowers you to make improvements too.


We’ve covered everything from the basics of bowling scoring to how to properly calculate pins for strikes, spares and the 10th frame. With this comprehensive guide, you now have the knowledge to confidently keep score for bowling games and understand factors that influence your scores.

Remember to notate bonuses clearly, practice consistent technique, and focus mentally with each roll. Apply these tips to enhance your bowling skills over time. Knowing the nuances of bowling scores will help you track your progress and see your average climb.

Whether you’re a casual bowler or league player, accurate scorekeeping is key to enjoying the sport. Bowling is loved worldwide for its simple concept yet strategic complexity.

Now that you understand bowling scores completely, you can appreciate each pin knocked down and point earned. Grab your ball, lace up your shoes, and let’s hit the lanes!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you count scores in bowling?

Bowling scores are counted by adding up the total pins knocked down over 10 frames. Each frame allows up to two rolls to knock down all 10 pins. Strikes and spares earn bonus pins. The score is the total pins plus bonus pins.

How do you score 280 in bowling?

To score 280 in bowling, you would need to bowl 10 strikes in the first 9 frames. Then in the 10th frame, you could bowl the first two balls as strikes, then knock down 8 pins on the final roll. This would give you 27 strikes worth 30 points each, plus a final 8 pins for a total of 280.

How much is 2 strikes?

Two strikes in a row are worth 20 points each. A strike earns you 10 points for knocking down all 10 pins, plus the pins knocked down on the next two rolls. So back-to-back strikes mean 20 points for the first, and 20 points for the second.

How do you score 300 in bowling?

To score a perfect 300 game in bowling, you must bowl 12 consecutive strikes. This means a strike in all 10 regular frames, plus 3 more strikes in the 10th frame when you earn bonus rolls for strikes. 12 strikes at 30 points each equals a maximum score of 300.

How many points is 3 strikes in a row?

Three consecutive strikes in bowling scores 30 points for the first, 20 points for the second, and 10 points for the third. This equals 60 total points for 3 strikes in a row. The maximum bonuses get applied on the first strike, then decrease.

How many points is a strike?

A single strike without any consecutive strikes earns 10 points for knocking down all 10 pins, plus the total pins knocked down on the next two rolls as a bonus. So a solo strike scores at least 10 points, and up to 20 points with the bonus.

How hard is it to bowl a 300?

Bowling a perfect 300 game is incredibly challenging. It requires precision, consistency, and some luck over 12 straight strikes. Less than 1% of game scores are 300s. It takes high skill and the right conditions to accomplish. Many pro bowlers go entire careers without a sanctioned 300 game.

How much is 5 strikes in a row?

Five consecutive strikes in bowling would score 30 points for the first strike, then 20 points each for the next four. This equals 110 total points for five strikes in a row. The maximum bonus decreases by 10 pins each of the subsequent strikes.

What is 3 strikes in a row called?

In bowling, three consecutive strikes is called a “turkey.” This term is often used for scorekeeping and celebrating when a player gets three strikes in a single game. Four strikes in a row is sometimes called a “hambone.”