How to Keep Score

In almost every modern bowling alley today, scores are calculated by computers and touch screens. There is no longer a need to manually keep score. While this keeps errors to a minimum, it does take away a fundamental part of the game. Nowadays, bowlers just need to enter their names into the computer and start bowling.

But even though computers take care of the scoring, knowing how to keep score yourself is still a good thing to learn and it is very easy. You may want to know how many pins you need to break 200 or if you need a spare or a strike to win the match. Or simply you would like to know how to keep score.  Whatever the reason, learning how to keep score will make the game more enjoyable.

In bowling, each game consists of 10 frames. Each bowler has up to 2 rolls of the ball to knock down all ten pins in each frame. The exception is the 10th frame where bowler has a chance to roll an extra ball under certain conditions. More on that later.

So for each frame a bowler can score one of three possibilities:

A strike
is scored when all ten pins in the frame is knocked down in the first roll of the ball of the frame. The bowler does not roll the second shot. On the score sheet, a strike is marked with an ‘X’ in the small box located at the top right corner of each frame and has the value of 10 points plus the pin count on the next 2 rolls of the ball.
A spare
is scored when all ten pins are knocked down with both shots for the frame. On the score sheet, a spare is marked with a “/” in the small box located at the top right corner of each frame and has the value of 10 points plus the pin count on the next roll of the ball.
An open frame
is scored when both rolls of the ball are completed but pins still remain standing. On the score sheet, an open frame is marked by writing in the number of pins knocked down for each roll of the ball. The pins knocked down on the first ball is marked in the blank space to the left of the small box. The pins knocked down on the second ball is marked in the small box at the top right corner of the frame. If pins fail to be knocked down, this is marked by either a “0” or “-“.

At the bottom of each frame is the space where the running total is placed for up to and including the current frame. So, as each frame is completed, the score is totaled. The exception is for strikes and spares. These can only be tallied when the next ball for a spare and the next 2 balls for a strike are rolled.

The 10th frame is a special frame because it contains an extra potential roll of the ball. This extra roll is only allowed when first 2 rolls does not result in an open frame.