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Understanding the Bowling Scoring System

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for beginner bowlers seems to be the point system, and if you’ve ever seen a scorecard, you can probably guess why. The combination of numbers and symbols can seem overwhelming at first (especially if math wasn’t your subject in school), but once you break it down, it’s actually quite logical and easy to understand. Thankfully, most bowling alleys now use an automated scoring system so you’ve got more time to focus on your game, but if you find yourself in a situation where you must manually figure out points, use this article as a guide for getting things right.

The Basic
In a game of bowling, you’ll bowl a total of ten frames of two or three (for the tenth frame only) tries each. Your score can range anywhere from 0 to 300, and is based on how many or how few pins you knock down during each frame. Most of the time, bowlers will refer to their score in terms of pins, but most people will know what you’re talking about if you refer to them as points.

Strikes are normally worth the most points and are the easiest score to notate. To indicate one, simply make an X in the small box contained within each frame on the scorecard. When you make a strike, you can be sure of receiving at least ten points for this; however, how you bowl your next frame will also help determine a strike’s worth.

For example, if you bowled a 5 and a 2 in your next frame, your strike would be worth 17 (10+5+2). At most, your strike will be worth 30 points (assuming that you bowl two other strikes after it—10+10+10).

Similarly to strikes, spares are indicated by a single slash (“/”) in the small box. A spare is initially worth ten points; however, unlike with a strike, only your next ball will count towards the grand total. For example, if you bowl a spare in your first frame and then knock down 6 pins during the first try of the second frame, your score for that spare would be 16 (10+6).

Open Frames
An open frame is any frame that you don’t score a strike or a spare in. Their scoring is fairly straightforward—simply count the total number of pins you knocked down. Future frames have no influence over the scoring for an open frame.


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