Bowling Scoring Explained

Bowling is a fun sport. However, if you are new to the game, bowling scoring rules may seem a little confusing. From the first frame to the last frame, we plan to help you understand exactly what is going on with your total score.
Bowling Scoring Explained

Hopefully, by following some of the tips in this post you can get your maximum score in bowling up as high as possible. If you are just starting out with the scoring system, please know that even some professional bowlers have had arguments about marking the proper score.

bowling pins on grey background - pin bowling scoring

Let’s Start With the Scoring Basics

In the first frame, there are 10 bowling pins that you need to knock over. You get 2 throws per frame. If you don’t knock down all ten pins on the first ball of the first frame, you can try again on your next roll.

Plainly put, the more bowling pins knocked down, the higher your score will be. It’s not quite that simple though, as there are other nuanced scenarios that can affect a player’s score sheet.

Bowling wooden floor with lane - tenth frame

The More Pins Knocked Down the Better!

Well duh. I mean that’s just common sense… right? Knockdown as many pins as possible, right? Well, hang on it’s not that simple. There are ten frames and every single frame adds to your score, but in the 10th frame, you can get a strike and add another shot to your bowling game.

Total Number of Pins – Maximum Score

In general, you score one point for each pin that you knock down. So if you knock over three pins with the first shot, then six with the second, you would get a total of nine points for that frame. The number of pins knocked down on each frame is calculated, but there are also other factors.

Strikes or Spares Increase Points

If you either knock down all ten pins (strike) in one shot or all ten pins in a combo of two shots (spare), then the points carry over to your next roll and start to add up cumulatively as you progress through each frame.

At the bowling - initial strike on the open frame

Let’s Break it Down

One point is scored for each pin that is knocked over. If less than all ten pins are knocked down in two rolls, then the frame is scored with the total number of pins knocked down. However, if all ten pins are knocked down with either the first or second roll of a frame, then bonus pins are awarded.

So basically, If you knock over some pins with your first roll, and then knock over the rest of the pins with your second roll, you get 1 point for each pin. If you knock over all the pins in one go, you get bonus points.

Bonus Pins Awarded For A Strike Or a Spare.

A strike or a spare on your next roll can greatly change the momentum of the scoring system and increase your total score by a lot.


When all ten pins are knocked down on the first roll, you earn 10 points plus a bonus of pinfall on the next two rolls. After a strike, the frame is over and it is another player’s turn. If you get a strike in the tenth frame, you get two extra rolls for bonus pins. This means that in the tenth frame your first roll is very important.

Professional bowlers spend years practicing how to get a strike on the first ball. It increases confidence for the second roll, the third frame, and so on…


If you need to knock down all the pins in a frame, and you have already knocked down some of them, you can try to get a spare. Luckily you get an extra roll to try and knock down the remaining pins.

If you do this in the last frame of a game, and you have already knocked down some pins in that frame, then you will get an extra roll to try and knock down the remaining pins plus bonus pins for getting a spare in the last two rolls.

A Strike Increases the Points in the Next Frame

She's getting better at bowling - first ball, second ball, third roll - ten pin bowling

After a bowler achieves a strike, another round of calculations is required. In bowling, a strike occurs when the bowler knocks down all ten pins in a single roll.

In this situation, the bowler gets 10 points for knocking down all 10 pins. They also get 20 points for their next two rolls.

First Ball

If a bowler knocks down all 10 pins on their first roll in Frame 1, they get 10 points. If they knock down 5 pins on their first roll in Frame 2 and 4 pins on their second roll, then they get 19 points in total for Frame 1 (10 from the strike + 9 from the sum of the next two rolls).

Second Ball

The bowler is also awarded 9 points for knocking down 9 pins in frame 2, bringing his total score to 28 through the first 2 frames.

Bowling Score Calculator

Are you still confused? Ok here is a link to our friends at bowling genius. Their calculator will help you.

It’s really simple you can choose each frame and keep adding your score. Start with your first frame and add your score. Then on your next shot, move on to your second frame and see how your score sheet starts to add up.

By your third shot, unless every shot is a strike, you should see how it works.

By the third frame, you will start to see how many points you have racked up. If you add all 10’s to your score sheet, you will not see your final score until the final frame.

We personally think this is the best ten-pin bowling scoring calculator out there. But they also have a duckpin score sheet as well.

In the video above, I was able to roll a maximum score of 300. How many pins did you get on your third shot? How many did you score on your fifth frame?

Reaching the goal. Close-up of bright red bowling ball rolling along bowling alleys - Open Frame in ten pin bowling

What is A Perfect Score in Bowling?

In bowling, a 300 is the perfect game. This means that you get strikes in each of the first nine frames, and three in the tenth. Consecutive strikes are pretty much the holy grail of bowling.

In order to bowl a perfect score in bowling, you will need to practice a lot.

Other conditions that can affect rolling a 300 score may be out of your control. For example, not all bowling alleys keep their lanes in perfect condition. This could certainly hamper your perfect game.

Bowling Ball

All you need for bowling two balls ten pin ball

Another thing that could determine how many pins you knock down will be your bowling ball. If you have a bowling ball that is too heavy for your throw, then you may or may not be able to get a strike.

If you have a ball that is too light, then you may hit a bunch of gutters. Just be sure to find a ball that works for you.

The Foul Line

Bowling - game frame scoring

The foul line in bowling is a line that separates the lane from the approach. If you cross or make any contact with the foul line or other parts of the lane during your bowl, it’s called a foul.

Over the Line

If the player crosses the foul line but does not let go of the ball, they won’t get a foul and they can keep going. When players cross the line, their throw still counts but their score for that turn is zero pins.

A Higher Team Score

Let’s face it, we all want to end up at the 10th frame with multiple strikes, and plenty of bonus points. To get your total score up as high as possible, practice on your own, that way when you join your team again, you can dazzle them with your first ball.

Conclusion – Ten Pins Scoring System

You want to get a strike as often as possible. You want to hit as many pins in one roll as possible. If your bowling game is a little off, however, and getting 10 strikes in a row doesn’t seem attainable… (you aren’t alone) then your total score will be based on the total number of pins knocked down from the open frame to the tenth frame.

Your Open Frame

Every single game of bowling scoring will be different. Let us know in the comments which bowling alleys you like the best, and also what your high score is! Here’s to the best of luck on your next frame.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I get a little off the top to help me keep this website running. 

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