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How are points determined in bowling?

Bowling points
File photo credit: SportSG

The goal of bowling is simple – to knock down as many pins as possible. The more pins you knock down, the more points you score.

A single game consists of 10 “frames”, with each frame consisting of two chances to knock down ten pins (with the exception of the last frame).

Each pin you knock down earns you a point, while you can also score extra points by hitting “strikes” or “spares”.

Most bowling alleys today come with a computerised system that automatically calculates your score for you. However, in the past, bowlers had to record their score on a piece of paper and calculate it on their own. Today, some bowlers still prefer to write their score on paper, be it to keep track of their progress or in the event that the computer system breaks down.

Strikes & Spares

A strike is when you knock down all ten pins at your first attempt in a single frame. Two strikes in a row are called a double, three strikes in a row are called a Turkey, while four and five strikes in a row are called four/five-bagger(s) and so on and so forth. A strike is commonly indicated with an “X”.

A spare is when you fail to knock down all ten pins at your first attempt in a single frame, but manage to clear the remaining pins at your second attempt. A spare is commonly indicated with a “/”.

Strikes and Spares are scored slightly different from regular frames – 

Spare: 10 points + the number of pins you knock down for your first attempt at the next frame.

Strike: score 10 points + the number of pins you knock down for the entire next frame.

Double:
1st frame – 20 points + the number of pins you knock down in 3rd frame 
2nd frame – same as scoring for strike

Turkey:
1st frame - 30 points 
2nd frame – same as scoring for double
3rd frame – same as scoring for strike

Four-Bagger:
1st frame - 30 points 
2nd frame - 30 points 

3rd frame – same as scoring for double
4th frame – same as scoring for strike

Scoring Your Game

Let’s illustrate this with an example, using the score sheet of “Jack.”

bowling scoresheet

Frame 1:
Jack scores 20 points for his 1st frame, as he had a strike followed by knocking down 10 pins in the next frame.

Frame 2:
Jack only scores 15 points for his 2nd frame, as he had a spare and then knocked down 5 pins for his first attempt at the third frame.

Frame 3:
Jack scores 17 points, as he threw a spare followed by knocking down 7 pins for his first attempt at the fourth frame.

Frame 4:
Jack scores 9 points, as he fails to get extra points from getting a spare or strike.

Frame 5:
Jack scores 30 points for scoring a subsequent turkey.

Frame 6:
Jack scores 29 points for scoring a subsequent double (20 points + pins knocked down two frames later)

Frame 7:
Jack scores 19 points, as he had a strike followed by knocking down 9 pins in the next frame.

Frame 8:
Jack scores 9 points, as he fails to get extra points from getting a spare or strike.

Frame 9:
Jack scores 10 points, as he threw a spare followed by knocking down 9 pins for his first attempt at the next frame.

Frame 10:
The final frame is a special frame. Strikes and spares in this frame scores no bonus points, but do allow you to have an additional shot.

In this scenario, Jack knocks down 9 pins at his first attempt and subsequently makes the spare. He is then allowed to take another shot, which he gains a strike, giving you 20 points (for knocking down 20 pins during the entire frame).

However, if Jack had failed to make the spare, he would not have been allowed to take another shot, giving him only 9 points for the entire frame.

And if Jack had made a strike in his first attempt, he would have been given two more shots. Anything less than another strike would give him the chance to score a spare and earn up to 20 points; while another strike could see him score up to 30 points by having a third and final shot.


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