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How to Keep Score When Bowling

By Jennifer Mueller

An estimated 95 million people in more than 90 countries bowl, both competitively and recreationally. However, since almost all American bowling centers have scoring computers that calculate the bowlers' scores automatically, many avid bowlers remain unsure how to keep score manually when bowling.

Frame by Frame

Each bowling game consists of ten frames, also called a line. Each bowler gets one turn per frame, or two chances to knock down all ten pins by hurling the bowling ball down the lane. A scoring sheet has ten boxes, one for each frame. Write down the number of pins knocked down with each throw at the top of the frame, keeping a running total score below. On open frames where pins are left standing after both turns, your score for each frame is the number of pins you knocked down. For example, if on the first frame you knocked down two pins on your first throw and four pins on your second, your score for that frame would be six.

The Strike

If you knock down all ten pins on the first shot of any frame, you write an "X" at the top of the frame for that turn, but you have to wait until the next frame to calculate the score for that frame. If you bowl a strike, your score for that frame will be 10 plus the number of pins you knock down in both shots of the next frame.

The Spare

If you only knock down some of the pins on your first turn, but on your second you knock down the rest of them, you've bowled a spare. A spare is indicated by a "/" in the box for the second turn at the top of the box for the frame. The score for a spare consists of 10 points plus the number of pins knocked down in the first turn of the next frame.

The Final Frame

The tenth and final frame of a bowling game proceeds somewhat differently from the previous nine. If you bowl a strike on your first turn in the tenth frame, you're given two more turns so that your final score for the strike may be calculated. If you bowl a spare, you get one more turn. No one ever gets more than three turns in the tenth frame, although if you leave pins standing after your second turn your game ends without an extra shot.

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