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How Many Points is a Spare in Bowling? Understanding Scoring in Bowling

  • Reading time:11 mins read

As any avid bowler knows, a spare is a fundamental element of the game. But do you truly understand the mechanics and strategic importance of this critical scoring play?

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll dive deep into the anatomy of a spare – exploring what it is, how it’s scored, and why it’s so vital to improving your overall bowling performance.

What is a Spare in Bowling?

In the sport of bowling, a spare is achieved when a player knocks down all 10 pins on the second roll of a frame. This is in contrast to a strike, which occurs when all 10 pins are knocked down on the first roll of a frame.

The key difference between a spare and a strike is the number of rolls required to clear all 10 pins. With a strike, the player accomplishes this feat in a single roll. But a spare takes two rolls to achieve the same result.

Despite requiring an additional roll, spares are still highly valuable in bowling. In fact, consistently converting spares is often the hallmark of a skilled bowler. Why? Because spares open the door to earning bonus points, which can dramatically boost a player’s overall score.

Scoring a Spare in Bowling

To fully understand the value of a spare, it’s important to grasp the basic scoring system in bowling. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Each frame consists of up to two rolls.
  • The goal is to knock down all 10 pins.
  • If a player knocks down all 10 pins on the first roll, that’s a strike.
  • If a player knocks down all 10 pins on the second roll, that’s a spare.
  • For every pin knocked down, the player earns that many points.

Now, here’s where the scoring for a spare gets interesting. When a player throws a spare, they earn the number of pins knocked down on that frame, plus a bonus equal to the number of pins knocked down on the next roll.

Let’s look at an example:

  • In Frame 1, the player rolls a spare, knocking down all 10 pins on the second roll.
  • In Frame 2, the player rolls a 7 on the first roll.
  • The score for Frame 1 would be 10 (the number of pins knocked down) + 7 (the number of pins knocked down on the next roll) = 17 points.

The bonus points awarded for a spare can really add up, especially when the player follows it up with a strong next roll. This is why maximizing spare conversions is so crucial to achieving a high overall bowling score.

It’s worth noting that the scoring for a spare applies only to the frame in which the spare was achieved. The bonus points are not added to the score of the frame where the next roll occurred. The bonus is applied solely to the frame where the spare was earned.

The Strategic Value of Spares

So, why are spares so important in bowling? Well, beyond the direct points they earn, spares also provide a valuable strategic advantage. Here’s how:

  1. Spares make up for missed strikes.
    • In the game of bowling, strikes are the most valuable single-roll outcome, earning 10 points plus the total of the next two rolls.
    • However, it’s not always possible to achieve a strike every time. Frames where a strike is missed can significantly impact a player’s overall score.
    • Converting a spare in these situations helps offset the lost strike points and keeps the player’s score on track.
  2. Spares build momentum.
    • Stringing together multiple spares (or a spare and a strike) creates a scoring “run” that can be incredibly difficult for opponents to match.
    • This momentum shift can be a real game-changer, as it puts pressure on the other players and builds confidence for the player making the conversions.
  3. Spares maximize scoring potential.
    • By earning the bonus points that come with a spare, players can maximize their scoring potential in each frame.
    • This is especially important in close, high-scoring games where every point can make the difference between winning and losing.
  4. Spares demonstrate consistency.
    • Consistently converting spares shows a level of skill and control that separates the casual bowlers from the serious competitors.
    • Maintaining a high spare conversion rate is a hallmark of an experienced, disciplined player.

In short, spares are a critical component of bowling strategy and success. Mastering the art of spare shooting can elevate a player’s game and provide a significant advantage over less consistent opponents.

Tips for Improving Spare Shooting

Now that we’ve explored the importance of spares, let’s dive into some practical tips and techniques for improving your spare shooting skills:

  1. Establish a Solid Stance and Approach
    • Start by ensuring you have a balanced, stable stance with your feet shoulder-width apart and your weight evenly distributed.
    • Your approach should be smooth and consistent, taking 4-5 steps before releasing the ball.
    • Keep your eyes focused on your target pins and your body aligned with the intended line of roll.
  2. Adjust Your Aim
    • When shooting for a spare, you’ll want to adjust your aim slightly compared to a strike shot.
    • Instead of targeting the center of the pocket (where the 1 and 3 pins are), aim for the corners of the pins.
    • This “corner-to-corner” approach increases your margin for error and makes it more likely you’ll knock down all 10 pins.
  3. Vary Your Ball Speed and Roll
    • Experiment with adjusting your ball speed and the type of roll (hook, straight, etc.) to find the best combination for your spare shooting.
    • A slower, straighter roll may be more effective for certain spare configurations, while a more powerful hook shot could work better in other situations.
    • Pay attention to how your ball reacts on the lane and make adjustments accordingly.
  4. Practice, Practice, Practice
    • The more you practice your spare shooting, the more consistent and confident you’ll become.
    • Set aside time for dedicated spare shooting drills, focusing on different pin configurations and scenarios.
    • Consider filming your practice sessions and reviewing your technique to identify areas for improvement.
  5. Analyze Your Spare Conversion Rate
    • Keep track of your spare conversion rate, both overall and for specific spare configurations.
    • Analyze your performance to identify patterns and opportunities for improvement.
    • Use this data to inform your practice routines and strategy adjustments.
  6. Stay Mentally Focused
    • Spares can be high-pressure situations, so maintaining mental focus is crucial.
    • Develop a pre-shot routine to help you stay calm and centered as you approach the shot.
    • Visualize the successful completion of the spare before you release the ball.

By incorporating these tips into your bowling practice and game strategy, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a spare shooting master. Remember, consistency is key, so keep refining your technique and stay dedicated to the process.

The Importance of Spares in Competitive Bowling

In the world of competitive bowling, spares take on an even greater significance. At the highest levels of the sport, the ability to consistently convert spares can make the difference between winning and losing.

Consider the following scenario:

In a tight championship match, two skilled bowlers are neck-and-neck heading into the final frames. Player A has been dominant throughout the game, racking up multiple strikes and spares. Player B, on the other hand, has struggled with consistency, missing several key conversion opportunities.

As the match comes down to the wire, Player A continues to deliver, converting a crucial spare in the 9th frame. This not only keeps their score high but also puts immense pressure on Player B, who now needs to match or exceed Player A’s performance in the final frame.

Unable to capitalize on a spare opportunity, Player B falls short, ultimately handing the victory to Player A. The difference? Spare shooting prowess.

In the world of competitive bowling, spare conversion rates are meticulously tracked and analyzed. Top-tier players understand that maximizing their spare shooting ability is essential to winning high-stakes tournaments and championships.

By focusing on developing their spare shooting skills, bowlers can gain a significant competitive edge over their opponents. This attention to detail and commitment to mastering the fundamentals of the game is what separates the true champions from the rest of the field.


In the sport of bowling, a spare is a deceptively simple yet incredibly valuable scoring play. By understanding the mechanics of how a spare is scored, recognizing its strategic importance, and applying proven techniques to improve your spare shooting skills, you can take your bowling game to new heights.

Remember, consistent spare conversion is a hallmark of skilled, disciplined bowlers. Embrace the process of perfecting this critical element of the game, and you’ll be well on your way to achieving higher scores, building valuable momentum, and elevating your overall bowling performance.

So, the next time you step up to the line, keep the value of a spare in mind. With the right approach and a commitment to practice, you can master the art of spare shooting and watch your bowling success soar.