Scores in Bowling: What is the Scoring in Bowling?

The scoring in bowling is the way that players are able to keep track of their own scores when playing a bowling game.

Bowling has always been played by keeping score on paper, but after awhile it became common for automatic scoring systems at bowling alleys to be used in competition play of ten pin bowling to keep the total score, since it’s quicker and more accurate to calculate.

There are still some professional bowlers left, who count points on paper as well, in case the computer breaks down, especially in professional tournaments.

In the following guide, we are going to discuss some of the most important scoring rules in bowling.

Basic Bowling Scoring Rules

The most important bowling scoring rules are as follows.

A player’s score in bowling is the sum of the pins knocked down during a turn at the lane. This turn is called a frame in bowling terms.

In each frame, a player tries to knock down as many pins as possible by rolling a bowling ball down the lane and knocking over bowling pins that are positioned at the far end of the lane. Players get two balls – two throws – to knock down all ten pins in each frame.

When a player throws the bowling ball, it is called a delivery.

If one team plays against other teams, you count the total number of pins you knock down together with your team members.

A strike in bowling occurs when all of the pins are knocked down with the first delivery.

If the pins are knocked down with two rolls in a frame, that’s called a spare.

Bowling balls that go inside the gutters don’t knock down any pins, so no points are received for those.


How Much is a Strike Worth?

In bowling, a strike is worth 10 points, which makes the maximum score for a single bowling ball. The ten pins are knocked down with the first ball – when all ten pins are hit such way, it is often shown as an “X” on a score sheet.

A Spare in Bowling

If there are no pins left standing at the end of the frame, but the pins are knocked only with the second ball and not your first shot, it is called a spare. That is marked with a “/” on the score sheet.

Open Frame Scoring

In ten pin bowling, an open frame is a frame in which the player neither makes a strike nor a spare.

Bonus Points Scored

There are also bonus points awarded:

  • when a bowler scores a spare, using both rolls to knock down all 10 pins, double points are earned for the first roll of the next frame.
  • when a bowler scores a strike, using a single shot to knock down all 10 pins, double points are earned for the next 2 rolls of the next frame.
  • in case of multiple strikes, the double points rules is applied for all scored strikes and each next 2 rolls.

The Tenth Frame or the Last Frame

The 10th frame or the final frame is special in respect that it is the last frame of the game.

In this case, the strikes and spares do not provide any bonus points, but they do allow you to take another shot, a third roll, so there are three shots in this frame, and you can have three strikes in a single frame.


FAQs About Total Score in Bowling

The following questions are frequently asked about bowling scores.

What’s a Good Bowling Score for a Beginner?

A true bowling enthusiast should know what are the average scores that players with different bowling skills achieve.

Newcomers to bowling will generally want to aim for a bowling score between 120 and 160 in each game.

An intermediate player should score somewhere between 150 to 190.

For an advanced player or a professional bowler, a score of 200 to 260 is considered a normal amount.

Shooting as many pins as possible in each game is essential for a good bowling performance and a higher team score as well.

What are Good Bowling Scores?

Good bowling scores are typically found among experienced bowlers.

When using standard 10-pin bowling rules, the perfect score to win a game is 300 points – this makes 200 a generally accepted “good” score for a player.


How to Score Over 200 in Bowling?

When bowling, keep the pace of your bowling game at a good level. Good scores are dependant on not rushing through your turns and making sure you take time to line up each shot correctly.

Make sure you are using the most efficient bowling technique for your release point so that all 10 frames are consistent.

Can You Get a 299 in Bowling?

The only way to bowl a 299 (or any score greater than 290) is for your first ten balls to be strikes, and then for you to miss your final ball of the frame. If you have a bowling game with 11 strikes and no spare in the first frame, you’ll end it with a 290.

Maximum Score: What is a Perfect Score in Bowling?

You ask yourself what is the highest score you can get in ten pin bowling? How many pins do you have to knock down?

A perfect game score in bowling is 300. Perfect scores are not typical, even among the professional bowlers, but they do happen.

A perfect game means you did not miss any pins and got strikes in every frame, meaning that you hit all the pins possible. This means twelve strikes in a row in a single game (with 3 consecutive strikes in the 10th frame).

There’s even a USBC-sanctioned 300 ring received for professional bowlers who achieve such a score.

In other types of bowling like five pin bowling (not ten pin), the highest score, a perfect game can be 450, since they are calculated differently.

Pins Knocked Down – Score Symbols

Each modern bowling alley nowadays has an automated score calculator for all bowling lanes, counting the score with each next roll.

On the bowling screen, the following symbols will flash by, and on a score sheet the same symbols are written, indicating the current score on a frame, depending on the number of pins knocked down.

You should be familiar with these symbols:



X or x

a strike


a spare


There are no pins knocked down.

3 6

It's a first against a second roll.

If you write your score, you have to write the appropriate symbol of action into the small box of each given frame. It is good to do that before taking the next shot, so you wouldn’t forget.


Knowing scoring in bowling is one of the most important factors to getting a strike, and to win, making it an essential skill for all bowlers.

If you are new to bowling or have taken some time off from the lanes and want help re-learning how scoring works, we’re here to help!

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