Scoring in a bowling may seem very complicated at a first glance and most of us are thankful that there is a computer to calculate and display this for us…BUT back in the old days, you had to do it yourself! Even today it is still useful to know how to calculate scores. A financially beneficial example would be calculating that all important triple X total in order to take the big weekly jackpot. This is something the computer can’t do for us automatically.  Below are some simple guidelines and explanations of how scoring in bowling is done!

There are three main ‘scoring scenarios’ to consider, these are:

An open frame: This is the simplest scenario, basically the number of pins you knock down in a frame (i.e. one of the 10 boxes that make up a game of bowling) is the score you are given for that frame. So for example if you were to knock down 8 pins on your first shot, and one pin on your second, your total for that frame would be 9!

A spare: (sometimes known as a half strike) When you knock down all the pins in the two turns allotted per frame, this is known as a spare. As with the open frame, you get the number of pins you knocked down in your two turns which is always 10 in the case of a spare. However you also get some bonus pins, which in this case is the number of pins you knock down on the first ball of your next frame. So the total for a spared frame is the 10 for all the pins you knocked down plus the number of pins bowled for the first ball of the successive frame. For example, if in frame 1 of a game you got a 9 /,  and on the first ball of frame 2 you hit a 7, then the total for frame 1 would be 17.

A strike: Calculating the total for a frame containing a strike is where most people get confused, however it is very simple. Like a spared frame, you get the 10 pins you knocked down in the frame, however this time your bonus is the sum of your next TWO shots. So for example, if in frame 1 of a game you achieved a strike, and then were lucky enough to get strikes in frame 2 and frame 3, then the total for your first frame would be 30! To break this down; you have knocked down 10 pins in your first frame (which was a strike) and have added on the total of your next two shots, which were both strikes and so are worth 10 pins per strike i.e. 10+10+10 = 30! Another example is if you were to get a strike in frame 1, and then got a 9 / in frame 2 then your total for frame 1 would be 20. This is because your 9 / has taken two shots to complete so only another 10 has been added to your frame containing a strike. Another way to think of it is: 10 pins (for the strike) + 9 pins (for shot 1) + 1 pin (for shot 2) = 20.

The only exception to the scoring rule is the 10th and final frame. This frame is simple as no matter what you fill this frame with, be it all strikes, a spare and 9 pins or even a double miss, the value for this frame is taken as the number of pins knocked down in the frame. This is why you get a third turn in the frame, as this is essentially your bonus pins! So if you get three strikes in the 10th, that frame is worth 30 pins. if you get a spare and 9, the total is 19 and if you get a double miss…well then the frame has a total of zero!

Your Turn
As with most things, the best way for you to understand and learn scoring is to give it a go yourself. Below is a filled game, but the scores for the frames have been left blank. It’s your job to decipher the final score for the game. If you are having trouble, or just to see how well you’ve done then click on the link below where there is a frame by frame explanation of how the score has been calculated.

Frame Number
Final Score
Pins Hit6 -9 /XX8 /9 -7 /XXX 9 -200
Running Total626547493102122152181200200