How to Keep Score in Bowling? (All About Bowling Scores)

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How to Keep Score in Bowling

If you play a modern game of bowling in urban bowling alleys these days, keeping score is something you don’t really have to worry about. There’s generally a machine that keeps track of the score for you, so all you need to worry about is getting strikes by putting the right amount of hook on your bowling ball. But learning how to score bowling games is part of the fun, and it’s the kind of backup knowledge you need if you ever find yourself without that automatic bowling score machine.

You may be aware that if you wish to achieve a perfect bowling score of 300, you need to do 12 straight strikes in succession. Getting 300 which is the highest score in bowling, isn’t very easy at all, so you may end up with strikes, spares, and maybe even frames that still have some pins standing.

Keeping track of the bowling scoring may seem overly complicated if you’re a newbie, but you need to learn it all the same. Consider it a rite of passage to elevate you from your newbie level. Once you can do this manually, then you can mentally keep track of what you need to achieve if you’re trying to catch up with your competition.

So if you want to learn how to keep score in bowling, here are the steps you need to take.

The Parts of the Score Sheet

Generally, the first column of squares from top to bottom is for the names of the players. The corresponding row has 10 large squares, with 2 smaller squares in the upper right corner. Finally, you have the last column for the final score of each player.

Keeping Score

To help you understand what to do, here are the steps you need to take.

  • On the left square on the upper right corner of the first frame square, right down the number of pins you drop for the first roll. So if you drop 6 pins, write down “6” on that first small square.
  • On your second roll of the bowling ball, note how many pins you drop for that particular ball. So if you have 4 pins left standing after the first roll and you manage to drop 2 of them with the second roll, write down “2” on the second small square.
  • What if on the first roll you get a strike and drop all 10 pins? That’s a strike. You then mark the second small square with an “X”.
  • If you have 4 pins left after the first roll, and then you drop all those 4 remaining pins with your second roll, you get a spare. So the first small square you write down the “6”, but in the second small square you put in a forward slash. That’s a diagonal line from the bottom left going to the upper right of the small square.
  • What if you missed all of the remaining 4 pins? Then on the second small square, put in a horizontal line in the middle of the square. You also do this if you get your roll in the gutter.
  • If you roll twice and have some pins left, you just add the numbers on the small squares to get your score for that frame. So if you get 6 pins on the first roll and then 2 on the second, you have scored 8 for that frame.
  • Now, what if you got a spare on your second roll? Then you get at least 10 points, but you’re not done with the score of the frame. You then get to add the score of the first roll of the next frame. So if you roll a strike for that first roll on the next frame, you score a 20 on the first frame. If you dropped just 7 pins on the first roll of the next frame, you would score 17.
  • What if you get a strike for the first roll? Then you also need to wait and see what you score for your next frame. If you make 2 strikes afterward, then you score 30. If you make another strike and then drop 8 pins on the next roll, that’s a score of 28 for the first frame. If you get a spare for the next frame, that’s a score of 20 for the first frame. If you make 5 on the next frame’s first roll and then drop 2 more pins on the next roll, then you add 7 points to the 10 points of the first frame’s strike, so the first frame gets a score of 17.
  • You simply carry on the scoring from one frame to the next, tallying the current score total for each frame. The more strikes and spares you make, the more times you need to wait for the results of the next frame to get the score of the previous frames.
  • The 10th frame score box is different, as you get 3 small squares on the upper right corner. That’s because you get 3 rolls for this frame. Get 3 strikes and you score 30 for the frame. Have 2 strikes and a 6 for the last roll and you get 26 points. If you get a spare after the first 2 rolls and then get a strike for the 3rd roll, that’s 20 points. If you only drop 8 pins on that third roll after the spare, then you score 18 points for that frame.

All these seem complicated on paper, but keeping score is a skill that’s much like playing the game. The more practice you do, the more it becomes second nature.


So what’s a good bowling score to aim for? Newbies should aim to try to break 100, though that’s very difficult for beginners. In fact, studies show that the average bowling score of leisurely players who are not competitive is actually 78. If you consistently bowl over that score, then you’re better than the average Joe.

The average score of good competitive amateurs can get to 130 to 150 points. It’s all about getting as many strikes as you can, so you can get the best bowling score for the game. After all is said and done, learning how to score bowling is less important than getting those strikes in bunches!

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I'm Jeffrey D. Tillman a Blogger born and raised in North Carolina. Enjoying bowling in leisure time is definitely a good habit that I have kept since 2010. With that experience, I hope you will find some interesting stuff about bowling on this website.

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