Are you a bowling newbie? Have you only bowled with a machine doing the scorekeeping for you?

We’re here to shine some light on the bowling score process. From the 1st frame to the 10th frame, this article will help you with keeping an accurate total score for all your future bowling endeavors. Heck, you can even keep score on a separate scoresheet for fun — automatic scorer or not!

Let’s get started by looking at the structure of a bowling game itself.

How is a bowling game structured?

A bowling game consists of 10 frames. They are divided like so:

  • 1st frame
  • 2nd frame
  • 3rd frame
  • 4th frame
  • 5th frame
  • 6th frame
  • 7th frame
  • 8th frame
  • 9th frame
  • 10th frame

The first nine frames consist of two shots and two shots only — a first roll and a second roll if necessary. The object is to clear all ten pins within your two allotted shots. If you don’t knock down all the pins on your first shot and get a strike, you receive another attempt at the remaining pins. If you convert that shot and knock the rest of the pins down, you score a spare on the score sheet (more on that later.)

If the total number of pins knocked down in a given round does not equal ten, that is called an open frame.

A bowling game continues this way until the 10th frame (and final round). This frame also consists of two shots, unless you convert a strike or spare within your first two throws. If ten pins were knocked down in your first shot, you get two chances at converting a spare at the end of the frame. If you get two strikes in a row to start the tenth frame, you get one more shot to finish things up.

How do you score in bowling?

In simple terms, bowling scoring is calculated thusly:

The number of pins knocked each frame with added bonus points awarded for strikes and spares.

If a score in bowling was just the sum of the total number of pins knocked down, using a bowling scorecard and calculating scorecard frames would be much simpler endeavors. In this case, the total score a bowler could achieve would be 120.

However, the pins you knock down are only part of the scoring equation. The highest score a bowler can achieve is actually 300 — meaning there are 170 bonus points that a bowler gets for knocking down all ten pins with either their first ball or their first and second ball together.

When you manually keep score with a bowling scorecard, each scorecard frame is set up to help you calculate these bonus points. At most bowling alleys around the nation, however, an automatic score counter will be keeping score for you.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn how to translate pins you knocked down into an accurate bowling score! You don’t want to cost yourself extra points when you roll a strike and the systems are down.

Frames 1 through 9 are denoted on a scorecard with a box and a smaller box inside it taking up the top right quarter. The frame number is usually located right above. Frame 7 and frame 8 are sequenced next to each other, as you might expect. And, so on.

The tenth frame has a different setup due to the possibility of three different throws. The frame is scored in a box that’s usually just a little wider than the other none. Three small boxes take up the top half of the scorecard frame. These are used to track each potential shot in the frame.

Now that you’ve got an idea of how a bowling scorecard is set up, let’s dive deeper into how point value is assessed and what marks are used to help calculate a bowling score.

Diving deeper into bowling scorecard frames

For bowlers, each shot delivery and each turn has a single aim in mind — to knock down as many pins with as few potential deliveries as possible. The more pins you can knock down in the fewest amount of rolls possible, the more you can score.

The first shot of the frame is notated in small font to the left of the smaller center box, unless you roll a strike. If so, an X is placed in the center box and the frame is complete.

If 7 pins are knocked down on the first roll, it would be notated with a “7” to the left of the smaller box.The results of your second shot are notated in the smaller box — either the remaining pins knocked down or a “/” if a spare is converted.

A running score for the game is kept in the larger space of a scorecard frame beneath the center box.

When you get a spare in bowling, you earn bonus points in that frame equivalent to the pin count of the next shot you take. For example, if you record a spare in your first frame and knock eight pins down with the first shot of the next frame, you’d write “18” as your score for the first frame in the larger space.

When you roll a strike, you earn bonus points in that frame equivalent to the pin count for the next two shots you take. Thus, no score is recorded until these bonus shots are completed. For example, if you get strikes on your first two turns and roll a nine on your third, you’d write “29” as your score in the first frame scorecard box.

And if you converted that as a spare in the third frame, you’d add 20 more to your running total for your second frame score. Thus, it would sit at “49.” That’s because your second strike carries over the bonus of the two shots you took in the first frame. The first strike carries over the bonus of your second strike and the first shot of your third frame.

It may sound confusing at first, but the easy primer below will help people like you get the hang of bowling scoring in no time —

  • Open frame — No bonus points. Finalize your running score and move to the next frame.
  • Spare — Bonus points equivalent to the value of your next roll. Wait to finalize the running score for that frame until you take your next shot.
  • Strike — Bonus points equivalent to the value of your next two rolls. Wait to finalize the running score for that frame until you take your next two shots.

(The exception to this is strikes thrown in the tenth frame. Why they can serve as carryover bonus points for previous frames, each strike in the frame itself is worth ten points and ten points alone.)

Automatic scores and scorecards are all the rage with modern bowling alleys. And you can see why — accurately keeping bowling scores is a bit of work. However, understanding the difference between an “X” and a “/,” and understanding how points carry over, will make it easier for you to translate balls rolled into points.

How many points is 3 strikes in a row?

It depends on when you throw those three strikes. If you throw a strike in frame one, frame two, and frame three, you’d score 30 points for your first frame. That includes the bonus points for your next two strikes.

You’d score at least 20 points in frame 2, with one more shot of bonus carryover for the fourth frame.

You’d score at least 10 points in frame 3, with two more shots of bonus carryover for shots rolled in the fourth (and potentially, fifth) frame.

Known as a turkey in bowling parlance, 3 strikes can earn you as little as 60 points and as much as 90 points depending on the results of other frames. With bonus carryovers factored in, 12 strikes in a row adds up to 300 points — a perfect score.

In short, when you get strikes and how many you convert in a row means all the difference for your final scoring tally!

What is 4 strikes in a row called?

Two strikes in a row is a double. Three strikes in a row is a turkey. Four strikes in a row is called a four-bagger. That’s because you’ve bagged four strikes in a row like a boss!

Five strikes in a row are called a five-bagger. And so on.

How do you score a split in bowling?

A split occurs with the first ball of a frame knocks down the headpin, but leaves two nonadjacent pins standing. On a score sheet, a split is denoted with the number of pins felled surrounded by a circle. Split conversions range from hard to nearly impossible — the hardest of which being the fabled 7-10 split on the back end.

How do you score a foul in bowling?

In bowling, a foul is assessed with any part of a player’s body touches the foul line or goes over it and touches the lane, adjacent equipment, or the structure of the alley itself. A foul is usually tipped off with a buzzing sound.

To manually score a foul, an “F” is written in either the first shot space or center box. It counts as a shot with zero pins knocked down.

What is the average score of a bowling game?

The average score of a bowling game depends on the age and skill level of the bowler. The average bowling score for a casual bowler ranges from around 70 to 100. The average bowling score for a league bowler ranges from around 150 to 180. Top league bowlers usually average anywhere from 200 to 225. And finally, most professional bowlers average from 23o to 260 per game.