Keeping Score In Bowling: Fully Explained For Beginners

Bowling is a sport, as well as usual recreational activity. Do you need help with keeping score in bowling? This guide will help you to understand the score calculation in bowling and the techniques in the process. 

At present, participants of this sport use an automated mechanism to keep track of their scores. Of course, automation is a highly convenient way to keep score in bowling. However, this was not the situation initially. Previously, the players used a manual method to calculate their scores.

This method will aid you in maintaining your score if and when there is an issue with the automated system. It will also help you to calculate your following moves well in advance and beat your opponent. Some basic information about bowling is present below.

The Basics of Bowling

The game of bowling falls under a category of sports called target sports. Target sports usually judge the ability of the players’ capacities of concentration and calculation. 

You can classify bowling into two broad categories:

Pin Bowling

This type of bowling is the most common variant. It is famous in North America primarily. Apart from this, pin bowling is also widely played in the eastern U.S.A and Canada regions. Since this game is majorly favorite in the U.S.A, you can check out some of America’s best bowling alleys as well. 

Pin bowling comprises several variations that are prominent in different regions of the world. The sub-categories of pin bowling include:

  • Ten Pin Bowling: This is the most common version. It uses the heaviest pins while comparing with the other formats. The bowling ball will have three holes to hold it.
  • Nine Pin Bowling: In this version, the pins come attached to strings. The bowling ball does not have finger-holes
  • Candlepin Bowling: It uses the tallest pins while comparing with all other formats of pin bowling. The ball weighs lighter than all of the different ball types.
  • Duckpin Bowling: Duckpins are more short and squat than the pins used in ten-pin bowling. The ball does not have holes. It is slightly bigger than the ball used in candlepin bowling.
  • Five Pin Bowling: The pins used in this type of bowling are taller than duckpins. Players use a handheld ball to bowl the pins.

Target Bowling

It is a different form of bowling that players play outdoors. Players select a particular slot as the point of target. An example of target bowling is the Italian lawn game. You can learn more about the Italian lawn game and the history associated with it. 

The next crucial aspect of bowling that you will have to consider is the equipment in the game. A detailed guide about the different pieces of equipment is as follows.

Equipment in Bowling

The several pieces of equipment in bowling include bowling balls, bowling pins, and shoes. Now, you can look at each of these categories and analyze which ones suit you the best.

Bowling Balls

Different varieties of bowling balls are available according to the multiple variations in the sport.

The general specifications regarding the dimensions of a bowling ball are available in the table below.

SpecificationTen Pin BallNine Pin BallCandlepin BallDuckpin BallFive Pin Ball
Diameter8.50 – 8.59 inches5.5 – 6.3 inches4.5 inches4.75 – 5.00 inches4.75 – 5.00 inches
Weight≤ 16 pounds (7.3 kg)2.9 – 6.3 pounds (1.3-2.8 kg)2 pounds (1 kg)3 pounds (1.5 kg)3 pounds (1.5 kg)
Presence of HolesYesNoNoNoNo
Number of Holes3N/AN/AN/AN/A

Choosing the best bowling ball from the numerous brands in the market can be a daunting task. Moreover, you might face difficulties in finalizing a particular variant that suits your needs best. Hence, a compilation of the best bowling balls reviews is accessible for your reference.

Bowling Pins

The bowling pins serve as the target to hit with the bowling ball by aiming perfectly. Different styles of bowling use various designs of pins. However, you can observe a typical pattern among all kinds of pins. They are narrow at the top region and become wider towards the base.

Maple wood is the primary constituent in the manufacturing of bowling pins. Initially, the makers join several pieces of maple wood using glue. Subsequently, this equipment undergoes a further transformation in a lathe.

The lathe coats the pins with plastic and ensures that a glossy finish is present in the end product. Another variant of bowling pins is in the form of synthetic pins. It is due to the shortage of wood. 

You can obtain further details about them from the table below.

SpecificationsTen PinsCandlepinsDuckpinsFive Pins
Height15 inches15.75 inches9.4 inches12.5 inches
Weight3 pounds (1.6 kg)2 pounds (0.9 kg)1.5 pounds (0.68 kg)2.45 pounds (1.11 kg)
Dimension of Widest Part4.75 inches2.15 inches4.12 inches5 inches
Availability of Synthetic PinsNoYesYesYes

Bowling Shoes

You can observe the unique design in bowling shoes that provide you with enough traction to hold control. Manufacturers use a flat and smooth material to design the base of the shoe. 

It is of utmost importance to maintain the shoes as cleanly as possible. Dirty or wet soled shoes can disrupt your stance while positioning yourself for the throw.

You can have a look at the best bowling shoe reviews to get a clearer idea about the best option that will suit you.

Keeping Score in Bowling – A Comprehensive Guide

Trying to keep track of your score in bowling might seem confusing initially if you do not have prior knowledge. However, you can go through this guide to clear all your queries regarding the score maintenance in bowling.

Each player gets two chances to bowl in each attempt. However, there is a slight change in this condition in the tenth frame. 

In the tenth frame, if you score a spare initially, you will get a bonus delivery. If you score a strike in the tenth frame, you will receive a total of 3 deliveries now.

First, it is essential to gain insight into the unique terms in this topic. It will help you to grasp all the following steps effectively quickly.


When you knock all the pins in the frame in a single throw, it is a strike. Under this category, several different types are present.

  • Two consecutive strikes: A double
  • Three consecutive strikes: A turkey
  • Four consecutive strikes: Four baggers

The term ‘baggers’ is usually a suffix along with the frame for every successive strike.

A strike has a usual mark with the X symbol.

The score calculation for a strike is as follows: 10 points + The number of pins you manage to knock in the next frame entirely.

It will continue in a chain-like fashion for all the remaining types of strikes.

  • Double: 

Frame 1: 20 points + Number of pins you knock in the third frame

Frame 2: Repeat the same calculation as for strike.

  • Turkey:

Frame 1: 30 points

Frame 2: Repeat the same calculation as for double.

Frame 3: Repeat the same calculation as for strike.


If you fail to knock down all the pins in the first throw but manage to clear the rest of the standing pins in the second throw, it is a spare. 

A spare typically has a mark with the / symbol.

The score calculation for a spare is as follows: 10 points + The number of pins you knockdown in the first set of the next frame.

Other Symbols

  • Foul: The symbol F represents a foul. When you step past the foul line, you should enter this symbol in the scorecard.
  • Dash: The mark – indicates a dash. When you miss the pins entirely, you should enter this symbol in the scorecard.

Tallying Your Score

The last part of keeping score in bowling is the actual process of noting down the scores in the card. You can take a look at how it is done here by considering the following scenario.

For example, if you have scored a strike in your first turn, followed by a knock of 2 pins and 7 pins in your second turn, your score for turn 1 would be:

10 + 2 + 7 = 19

Next, you will add 2 and 7 to this current score calculate your score for turn 2:

19 + 2 + 7 = 28

Now, if you score a spare in turn 3, by knocking 6 pins followed by the remaining 4 pins, the score calculation is as follows:

28 (Previous score)  + 10 (Score for a spare) + 6 (Pins knocked in the first frame) = 44

You should repeat the same procedure till the end. The player with the highest score total is the winner!


This guide will help you in keeping score in bowling, especially if you are a beginner. You can have backup knowledge about the manual method in case of emergencies.

The process might seem pretty elaborate at first. However, you can quickly master it with proper understanding.