If you’re used to the normal scoring methods of ten-pin bowling, the no-tap format makes for an intriguing departure. If you’ve never participated in a no-tap event or no-tap tournament, the scoring system might seem downright wacky. However, the no-tap rule is a fantastic way to let kids bowl with adults and/or put together a bowling tournament prize fund that everyone participating has a chance to win.

How do you score in a no-tap tournament?

It all depends on the rules set up by the no-tap tournament director. In nine-pin no-tap bowling, the scoring rules are relatively similar to that of ten-pin bowling. However, the one major difference is that counts of nine and ten pins both count as a strike on a first ball. Also, accumulating at least nine pins after your second shot is enough to record a spare.

A gutter ball is still a gutter ball. A single pin knocked down is still worth one. Everything else is the same in 9-pin no-tap bowling, except that nine pins will equal a spare or a strike depending on how you reach that total.

It may seem like a small adjustment to some, but that last pin can have a big impact on bowling scores. How many times have you left a single pin standing in a normally scored bowling game? If all of those pins were irrelevant and your picked up spares and strikes instead of open frames, your averages would be through the roof.

Are there different no-tap formats?

Nine-pin no-tap bowling is just one example of the adjusted scoring format. Other no-tap scoring systems operate under the same theory of handicapping overall results, but they add tweaks for different reasons.

Eight-pin and seven-pin no-tap formats mirror the nine-pin game in many respects. However, strikes and spares are awarded for the accumulation of (at least) eight and seven pins respectively.

There’s also suicide no-tap bowling. A much harder version of the no-tap format, suicide no-tap games require bowlers to try and meet a certain score per frame without exceeding it. For example, nine pins count as a strike or spare in a suicide 9-pin no-tap tournament. However, ten pins count as a series of two gutter balls with no points awarded. As you might expect, the highest average in a suicide no-tap tournament is usually much lower than in a regular no-tap tourney.

How does a no-tap average adjustment compare to the correct average for regular ten-pin bowling?

Depending on your skill level, it is much easier to bowl a 300 game in 9-pin or 8-pin no-tap games than in a regular bowling format. Bowler averages skyrocket in no-tap bowling because the degree of difficulty is ratcheted down several notches.

While the maximum series for three games played remains 900, one pin can make all the difference for inflated scoring averages. When you bowl scratch, you get a better idea of what your overall skill level is. And if you’re playing in a USBC-certified tournament or under USBC rules in general, chances are that you’ll be playing under the regular scoring system.

However, a no-tap tournament can be an extremely fun event when you’re trying to bring bowlers of different ages and skill sets together while leveling the playing field.

Why does the no-tap scoring method exist?

Are you a seasoned bowler attending an end-of-year party with colleagues that have never played in amateur tournaments or even recreational leagues? Do you oversee a youth league at one of the bowling centers in your area?

The final squad results of a no-tap bowling tournament are much more even between expert, intermediate, and novice players than when normal USBC rules apply. And if you want to hold a tourney with an entry fee with bowlers of all skill levels participating, it’s easier for a less-experienced player to get a share of the prize money allocated when they put their name on an entry form.

And in Pro-Am tournaments where professional bowlers mingle with regular Joes and Janes, no-tap bowling rules give the amateurs a fighting chance at competing against the best in the world.

When the first ball of eight or nine pins gets a player a strike, players that often feel out of place or shy about competing become invested in the game or tournament as a whole. And when more players care about the goings-on at the alley, it’s a heck of a lot more fun.