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What is the Highest Score You Can Get in Bowling Without a Strike? We Did the Math on Max Non-Strike Points

  • Reading time:10 mins read

Strikes are the pinnacle in bowling. Knocking down all 10 pins in one throw with that satisfying crash gives any bowler the ultimate rush. Nothing beats the adrenaline that courses through the veins when you see your ball barrel towards the pocket, smashing those pins with reckless abandon.

However, this euphoric feeling doesn’t happen all the time. More often than not, bowlers must contend with tricky spare leaves and stubborn pins that refuse to fall. So games often continue without the momentum of that glorious X mark on the scoresheet.

But the biggest misnomer in bowling is that players need strikes to score high. That is blatantly false. The skilled bowler understands that consistently filling frames through spares and working counts can equate to big points. So for those still chasing their first clean game or 300, don’t lose heart!

This article will analyze the critical basics of bowling scoring and then showcase techniques to rack up the maximum score in a frame without ever throwing a strike. Read on to have your highest non-strike game ever!

Scoring Basics: The Foundation of Bowling Excellence

Before unveiling the best non-strike scoring methods, understanding general scoring principles is key. That knowledge will prove essential to maximize points when the strikes don’t come.

The Game of Bowling

Firstly, regulation bowling consists of 10 frames per game. In each frame, a player gets up to two chances to knock down the ten pins at the end of the lane. The score for a frame is the total number of pins knocked down over one or two throws.

For example, if 6 pins go down on the first ball and then the remaining 4 on the second, the score would be 6+4=10 for that frame. The goal is to score the highest across all 10 frames. Scores are recorded on specialized scoresheets either manually or automatically by the scoring system.


The highest number of pins that can be knocked down per throw is 10 (all of them). When this happens on the first throw, it’s called a strike. Strikes are superior because when a player manages one, they get bonus points.

Following a strike, the score for the NEXT two balls thrown gets added to the strike frame. So theoretically, up to 30 points are possible in a strike frame if the next two throws are also strikes. Strikes lead to big scores in a hurry!

Understanding Spares

If not a strike, then the next best outcome is a spare. This means knocking down all 10 pins but over both throws instead of just one. So if 3 pins fall on the first throw, then the remaining 7 on the next, it constitutes a spare.

The key here is that spares also come with a bonus – just not to the same extent as strikes. A spare earns a bowler 10 points plus a one-time bonus of whatever the next throw scores. So a spare can be worth between 10 and 20 points if the following throw goes strike.

With scoring basics now understood, we turn to constructing high scores WITHOUT either sparing or striking in frames.

The Eight and Nine Leave

The first prime opportunity for non-strikers happens when the first throw knocks down eight pins. This leave sets up nicely for picking up the remaining nine pins on the very next shot. Doing so results in one of the highest frame scores possible without a mark.

Let’s break this down:

  • Throw 1: Eight pins down worth eight points
  • Throw 2: The last two standing pins get knocked down for nine points. Plus one point is granted automatically per frame rules.
  • Total for frame = 8 points + 9 points + 1 point = 18 points

So converting an initial eight-pin leave into nine on the second shot gives 18 total points – respectable.

The key takeaway is that just nine pins down on throw two means no bonus gets added. If the bowler had spared after the eight-pin hit, an additional 10 points would be tacked on. But 18 points still beats lower-scoring options.

Maximizing Points With 3-10 and 6-4 Conversions

Yet even without a spare, bowlers can reach even greater heights by finishing challenging 3-10 or 6-4 leave sets. Scoring 19 points or more in a frame ratchets up pressure on any opponent lacking strikes.

The 3-10 Leave

The first up to analyze is recovering from the nasty 3-10 setup. Getting only three pins on the opening throw definitely frustrates. However, channeling focus into sliding past the 10-pin for a conversion still reaps rewards.

Executing this tricky maneuver goes this way:

  • Throw 1: Only three lonely front pins fall
  • Throw 2: Curving around the 10 pins to connect gives a converted seven pins
  • Points = 3 pins + 7 converted pins + 1 point frame bonus = 11 points

Not earth-shattering until what comes next is factored in. Because the bowler threw converts to follow by throwing only three initially, significant bonus points apply. The next two balls thrown each earn a three times multiplier!

For example:

  • Frame with 3-10 conversion = 11 points
  • Next throw get a solid nine count = 9 points
  • Subsequent shot takes down seven pins = 7 points

Calculating the totals:

  • Current frame (with conversion) = 11 points
  • Next shot earns 9 x 3 bonus points = 27 points
  • Frame after earns 7 x 3 bonus points = 21 points
  • Total for those three frames = 11 + 27 + 21 = 59 points!

And all without a single strike thrown – just clutch spare conversions whenever needed. This allows even games with multiple opens to rapidly escalate in the score when bonus multipliers keep getting applied.

The 6-4 Leave

Very similar to the 3-10 leave situation, picking up just four pins after an initial throw and knocking down six still returns high dividends. Let’s examine why:

The Shot Sequence Goes:

  • Shot 1: A disappointing four pins remain standing after six go down
  • Shot 2: A perfect ball picks up the challenging 1-2-4-6 split conversion for four more (no bonus)
  • Total Points: 6 points + 4 points conversion + 1 point frame = 11 points

Then bonus multipliers amplify further:

  • The next shot throws another six pins = 6 points x 3 bonus multiplier = 18 more points
  • Shot after gets a standard eight-count = 8 x 3 bonus multiplier = 24 more points

Running Total:

  • 6-4 conversion frame = 11 points
  • The next frame boosted to 18 points
  • The following frame elevated to 24 points
  • Grand total = 11 + 18 + 24 = 53 points!

So once again, staying focused to convert tricky late splits immensely grows scoring with bonus multipliers. This allows decent frames early in a game to transform into 200+ totals quite quickly.

Conclusion: Maximizing Non-Strike Frames Leads To Bowling Excellence

The next time frustration builds from a series of ineffective frames, remember the scoring possibilities highlighted in this article. While nothing matches the excitement of throwing strikes, their absence need not cripple scoring efforts.

As discussed and demonstrated, even without stringing strikes, scores near 30 points in a frame stay feasible through solid spare shooting.

Eight-pin leaves finishing with nine down or doing 3-10 / 6-4 conversions keep multipliers active across frames. Staying mentally tough through challenging leaves and maximizing their bonus potential leads to crafty high scores.

So for all bowlers continuing on the path towards bowling prowess, keep this motto in mind:

“I will not quit when strikes betray me but patiently craft high scores through spare shooting consistency.”

By frequently reminding oneself of reliable scoring opportunities without strikes, frustration gives way to a steady focus on the best next step available. The results follow, with scores incrementally and steadily rising. Let the non-strikers embrace these advanced strategies to find bowling excellence!

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is 292 the rarest score?

292 is the rarest score in bowling because it requires getting 11 strikes and 1 eight-spare in the first 11 frames. This exact sequence is very difficult to achieve.

Can you bowl a 300 without all strikes?

No, scoring a perfect 300-game requires getting 12 strikes in a row. Without throwing all strikes, the highest possible score is 299.

What’s the best score you can get in bowling?

The best score possible in a regulation bowling game is 300, requiring 12 consecutive strikes for the maximum points in every frame.

Can you get a 320 in bowling?

No, the scoring system does not allow for scores over 300 in a single game. The maximum possible points per frame is 30 (for a strike), so 12 frames x 30 points = 360 total points. Of that, 60 points are used for fill balls after strikes. So 300 is the highest score possible.

Is it possible to score a 299 in bowling?

Yes, you can score a 299 with 11 strikes and 1 open frame where less than 10 pins get knocked down. This is the highest score possible without a perfect 300 game.

Can you bowl a 300 with spares?

No, scoring 300 requires getting a strike in every frame. If any frames have spares but no strikes, the highest possible score would be 279.

What is 12 strikes in a row called?

In bowling, throwing 12 consecutive strikes for a perfect 300 game is called a “Perfect Game”. This is the highest score and most difficult achievement in bowling.

Has anyone ever bowled a perfect game?

Yes, many bowlers at both professional and amateur levels have bowled certified 300 games throughout history. But it remains an incredibly challenging feat.

What is 3 strikes in a row called?

Throwing 3 strikes consecutively is called a “Turkey”. This refers to getting three strikes in a row in bowling.