Bowling – The Basics (The Game)

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Bowling is a fairly simple game. There are 10 pins and you knock them down on two balls per frame. Here is some basic information about how the game.

The Game

So what comprises a game you ask?

10 Frames (actually 12, but we will cover that later)

So what is a frame you ask?

One or two balls, depending on what happens on your first shot, except the 10th when you may throw three balls.

OK, so 10 frames of 1 or 2 shots, this should be easy right? Nowadays with the electronic scorekeepers it is, but it wasn’t always that way. I actually used to keep score manually for tournaments bowlers, and get paid to do it!


There are 10 frames in a game of bowling, with one caveat. If you get a strike or a spare in the 10th frame, you get another shot. So, up to 3 shots can be thrown in the 10th frame of a game. At the risk of making this more confusing, if you get a spare, you get one extra shot (you have already thrown the ball twice this frame), but if you get a strike, you get 2 extra balls, thus you get 3 balls in the 10th frame if you get a mark (a strike or a spare).

Strikes and Spares

What are those words that you hear pouring out of bowlers mouths like “I got 6 strikes, 3 spares and missed a ten pin for an open!”? Strikes, Spares, Splits, and Opens are the fundamental results of throwing the ball down the lane.

Basically a “strike” is when you get all 10 pins down on the first ball. A “spare” is when you get all 10 pins down on two balls in the same frame. An “open” is when you don’t get all 10 pins down on two balls in the same frame. When you “pick up” a spare, you were able to knock down the rest of the pins on the second ball in the frame (you never “pick up” a strike).

A “Split” is a little more complicated. A split is when you leave at least two pins that are separated by where another pin would have been (see diagram above). So, if you leave the 4 and 5 pins (the 4 -5 split), you would have a split. The worst of the splits is the 7 – 10 split. These are the two pins that are farthest from each other on the lane and is almost impossible to hit.

Keep bowling and having fun!

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