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How to keep score in bowling

By Michelle Mullen

Although the league secretary keeps track of the standings and average, it’s important for you to know how to keep score when you bowl. Most bowling centers have automatic scoring, but you need to understand how scores add up to realize the importance of your pin count in certain situations.

Score is based on a possible two balls per frame. A complete game is 10 frames. The first score is recorded in the upper frame. Use a number to reflect the number of pins knocked down; use a symbol to reflect a strike or spare. A strike (usually indicated by an X) is knocking down all 10 pins in one shot; a spare (usually indicated by a slash) is knocking down all 10 pins in two shots. The score is then added from frame to frame and recorded on the bottom of the frame. Figure 11.2 shows a sample score sheet.

Each frame is figured separately and added to the next frame to keep the score. The values for strikes and spares depend on the pin count on subsequent shots. Once you know how to keep score, you can appreciate how much a strike or spare can be worth depending on how many pins are knocked down on the next shots.

To determine the score for the frame, add the number of pins knocked down for that frame. Strikes are worth 10, plus the total pinfall for the next two shots; spares are worth 10, plus the total pins on the next shot. So, if in the first frame you have 8 and then knock down the remaining 2 pins to spare, that gives you at least 10 for that frame, plus the amount knocked down on the next shot. If you get 7 on your first shot of the next frame, you will add 7 to the spare in the previous frame to score a total of 17 in the first frame. If you get 2 on the next shot, you will receive a total of 9 for the second frame, and add it to the score in the first frame, to have a score of 26 in the second frame. A strike on the next shot will be worth at least 10 in the third frame, depending on the total number of pins knocked down on the next two shots. If in the fourth frame you get 9 and spare, you will add a total of 10 more to the initial value of 10 for the strike, to get a total of 20 in the third frame. Added to the previous frame, that gives you a score of 46 in the third frame. The amount of the fourth frame will depend on the pinfall of the next shot. If in the fifth frame you get 6 and only pick up 3 more, you will add 6 to the spare in the fourth frame, for a total of 16, then add it to the previous total in the third frame. That gives you 62 in the fourth, and for the fifth frame add the total of 9 pins to the fourth frame total, for a score of 71 in the fifth.

During open bowling at the bowling center, practice keeping score. Most bowling centers will have paper score sheets at the control counter. These are either what they used before they installed automatic scoring or what they use when the technology fails. In either case, this old-fashioned method of tracking scores will enable you to compare your scoring to that of the automatic scorer. Compare your sheet to the automatic computer and detect any errors you may have made in your addition.

If your score is different from the automatic score, it may be the number of pins that you recorded for that frame. In that case, it was not your addition from frame to frame, but your recollection of how many pins you actually knocked down on that shot. It is between you and the automatic scorer to determine who was correct!

Once you finish bowling, calculate your average score for the session by adding up your total game score (add the total scores for all the games you bowled), then divide that total by the number of games you bowled. Sometimes, you can access this information on the automatic scoring computer.

If you came to open bowling to practice, you may have been busy working on your skills rather than trying to knock down pins. It is good to bowl to improve your skills without paying much attention to pinfall. Nevertheless, you still can do this average calculation just to learn how to determine your average. The scorer will work, regardless of your practice routine. If you are working on improving your skills and disregarding the pins, remember that this average calculation is just for practice. The average score you get may be significantly less than you are used to getting because you were not trying to knock down the pins.

This is an excerpt from Bowling Fundamentals.

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