The term “split” is essentially a curse word in the world of bowling. Splits are one of the most frustrating occurrences in the game and tend to be the bane of even the best bowlers’ nights at the lanes.

What is a split? How do you turn them from headaches into high fives? Keep reading for a full rundown on all things bowling splits!

10 Common Questions About Splits In Bowling

What is a split in bowling?

Denoted by a circle around the pin count on a bowling scoresheet, a split occurs when a bowler’s first throw leaves two or more groups of one or more pins that are not adjacent to one another. For a split to be counted as such, the headpin must also be felled with the first shot. Splits vary in difficulty and average conversion rates.

How do you knock down a split?

It just depends. Spare conversions for different splits such as the Cocked Hat (2-7-10 or 3-7-10), Baby Split (3-10 or 2-7), or Snake Eyes (7-10 split) require different placement of your spare ball. To knock down a split, the first pin or pins knocked down must be able to track towards the other pin or pins that need to be felled. The angle at which a ball hits the first set of one or more pins will determine whether the split can be picked up.

Do I need a spare bowling ball to convert splits?

Not necessarily. Many bowlers prefer a light-weight ball to pick up spares that are different from the one they use to approach their strike target line. Rather than ripping through the pins with a killer shot based on power and entry angle, split conversions are often about precise placement and a straighter throw trajectory. Thus, a lighter ball with a urethane or polyurethane coverstock is often recommended. But, some bowlers like to approach their splits in the same way that they approach their strikes. It’s just a matter of preference and comfort.

Are all leaves of two or more pins considered splits?

No! It depends on where the pins left standing are situated to one another. And, it also depends on whether or not the head pin was knocked down. For a leave of two pins or more to be considered a split, there must be two or more non-adjacent groups of a single pin or more. In addition to non-adjacent clusters of one or more pins, the headpin must be downed on the first shot for a leave to be considered a split.

What is the difference between a baby split and a normal split?

A Baby Split is much easier to pick up than other splits like the Sour Apple, Greek Church, or vaunted 7-10 split. The Baby Split is a fairly common split and occurs with either a 3-10 or 2-7 leave. Picking up a baby split is slightly easier than some other common splits, and much easier than the most difficult spares in the game.

Should you approach the remaining pins of a split differently than your first shot?

Without the front pin in place, bowling balls are forced to metaphorically shift from wrecking balls to fine art tools. Rather than bludgeoning the pins as a left-handed bowler or right-handed bowler, you need to be much more acute with your ball placement on a split conversion. An understanding of pin width and angles is crucial. Control and a sacrifice of speed for smarts are often paramount, as well.

Should right-handed bowlers and left-handed bowlers approach splits in different ways?

Because of the nature of their shot placements, right-handed bowlers tend to leave some combination of the 2, 4, 5, and 8 pins standing. Left-handed bowlers often leave a combination of the 3, 5, 6, and 9 pins standing on the deck. Because of this, split conversions for bowlers with a different bowling hand often require different approaches. If a lefty leaves the six-pin as part of a split, it will require a different shot than a righty who rarely leaves the six up.

What are the most difficult splits to pick up?

Even the greatest of professional bowling superstars are vexed by nearly impossible splits that lead to dreaded open frames. The most infamously difficult split to pick up in all of bowling is the 7-10 split — also known as Snake Eyes, Goal Posts, Bed Posts, Mule Ears, and Fence Posts. Having one corner pin to pick up in the back row is hard enough. Two corner pins on opposite sides with no buffer is insanely difficult to convert.

Incredibly, two other splits are considered by bowling aficionados to be harder to convert than a 7-10 split — the 4-6-7-9-10 and 4-6-7 split. A 7-10 split has a 0.7% chance of conversion, .1% better than a 4-6-7, and a full 0.4% better than a 4-6-7-9-10.

What are the easiest splits to pick up?

The Baby Split is the easiest split to pick up in bowling. To pick up the 3-10 version, you just need to hit the three-pin straight with a slight angle towards the left. To pick up the 2-7 version, you need to hammer the two-pin straight away with a slight angle towards the right.

Can splits have only one pin left standing?

No. A split must have at least two pins with at least one pin’s worth of space between them. A split can occur with two or more pins in the last row, two or more pins in the third row or second row, or a combination of pins left standing other than the one-pin.

How To Pick Up Splits In Bowling: 5 Insider’s Tips

1) The inside edge is your key to the 7-10 split.

While it’s uncommon to pick up Snake Eyes for a spare, it’s not impossible. To convert a 7-10 split and avoid an open frame, target the inside edge of the 7-pin if you’re a right-handed bowler. If you’re a lefty, aim for the inside edge of the 10-pin. The hope is that you’ll hit it just right so that it slides over and knocks down the pin in the opposite corner.

2) Start from the opposite side of your dominant hand to nail a 7-10.

To get the proper sweeping motion necessary to convert a 7-10 split, your first pin should be on the opposite side of your throwing hand. It doesn’t always work, but it’s the best chance you’ve got.

3) Choose accuracy over power, but don’t drop your speed too much.

Your first throw should be where you unload the heavy artillery. That’s where you throw your best hook with the most oomph you can efficaciously muster. To pick up splits, however, accuracy is everything. If that means you have to dial down a bit, do so. However, try to keep your speed at such a level that you can get the deflections necessary to convert.

4) Lighter balls are better.

Using a lighter ball gives you a bit more speed and straight-line stability, especially at the end of a long bowling session. Most splits tend to occur when a bowler is tired or out of rhythm, so it pays to lessen the load on your throwing arm when trying to pick them up.

5) Each player throws differently, so find your mark.

What works for other bowlers isn’t necessarily going to work for you. While there are rules of thumb for most splits, your body placement and throwing mechanics might vary. Play around with your split conversions to find the right techniques for you.

Closing Thoughts

Don’t fret! Splits are a common problem for bowlers of all skill levels. With the right mentality and good form, you can turn more and more splits into crucial spares. And when the chips are down in league or tournament play, split conversions often separate the best from the rest of the field.