Tuesday, 28 May 2024

Glossary of Bowling Terms

Bowling is a fun and popular sport that has its own unique set of terms. Whether you’re a casual bowler or a seasoned pro, understanding these terms is key to improving your game and communicating with fellow bowlers. In this article, we’ll explore some common bowling terms and their meanings. Let’s dive in!


Your average is calculated by dividing the sum of all your game scores by the number of games played. It serves as a measure of your overall performance and can be used to track your progress. Setting a goal to raise your average game by a certain number of pins each season is a great way to challenge yourself and improve as a bowler.



After scoring a consecutive series of strikes, some bowlers playfully refer to them as being collected in a bag. For example, a four-bagger refers to four strikes in a row, while a five-bagger refers to five strikes in a row.

Brooklyn Strike

A Brooklyn strike occurs when the ball crosses over to the opposite side of the pocket intended for their dominant hand. For right-handers, this would be the 1-3 pocket, and for left-handers, it would be the 1-2 pocket. The term “Brooklyn” originated in New York, where people would “cross over” from Manhattan to Brooklyn. Similarly, the term “Jersey side” refers to left-handers crossing over from Manhattan to New Jersey.

Clean Sheet

Making all your spares in a game is referred to as having a clean sheet. Consistently making spares is an essential skill for raising your average and progressing towards becoming a scratch or par bowler.

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Dutch 200

In a Dutch 200 game, strikes and spares are alternated throughout the entire game. This pattern results in a total score of exactly 200. The term is believed to be derived from the concept of going “Dutch” or sharing the cost of a date with another person.


The foul line is a boundary drawn across the lane that separates the approach area from the start of the lane. Stepping over this line during delivery means the shot does not count, and you must re-rack the pins on the first delivery. Foul shots are marked with an “F” on the scoresheet.


A game of bowling consists of ten frames. In each frame, you have two chances to knock down all ten pins. The tenth frame offers a bonus ball if you convert your spare or score two consecutive strikes. A perfect game involves throwing twelve strikes, with nine in the first nine frames and three in the tenth.

Open Frame

An open frame occurs when you fail to knock down all the pins in two shots. It means leaving pins standing after your second shot, resulting in a lower score for that frame.


Consistently making all your spares will likely result in an average score ranging from 180 to 190. As you improve and start stringing strikes together, your score will increase and approach the 200 or 210 range. This level of performance is often compared to being a “scratch” golfer.

Perfect Game

The ultimate goal for any bowler is to achieve a perfect game. Scoring strikes in every frame, a perfect game results in a maximum score of 300. Even professional bowlers, who compete in championships worldwide, rarely achieve multiple perfect games throughout their careers.

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The total score obtained from adding up the scores of all the games played is referred to as the series. Most bowling leagues consist of three-game series. Success in tournaments is often measured by the number of pins a bowler is over or under par. Par usually equates to a score of 200, similar to golf.


When you leave a spare where one pin is positioned directly behind another, the rearmost pin is called the “sleeper.” This situation is also known as a bicycle, double wood, one-in-the-dark, or tandem spare.


If you fail to knock down all the pins with your first delivery, you get a second chance to knock down the remaining pins. This second attempt is known as a spare shot. Successfully converting a spare is marked with a “/” on the scoresheet. The scoring system rewards spares by adding the pinfall from the next ball to the current frame.


A split occurs when two or more pins remain standing with a gap between them. Spares involving splits are generally more challenging to convert since they require precise placement or pin movement. On the score sheet, it is common to circle the pin count to indicate a split.


When a bowler knocks down all ten pins with the first delivery of the ball, it is called a strike. Scoring a strike results in an immediate ten-point increase and offers a bonus. The next two deliveries’ scores are added to the frame in which the strike occurred. Consistently stringing strikes together dramatically boosts your score.

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In bowling terminology, a turkey refers to three consecutive strikes in a row. This accomplishment is highly celebrated among both amateur and professional bowlers. The term originated from a tradition during Thanksgiving or Christmas week, where a live turkey was awarded to the first person on each team who achieved three consecutive strikes.


A washout is a type of split in which the headpin remains standing while the ball hooks by it. It presents a challenging spare opportunity for bowlers.

Wicked Frame

When a bowler scores a strike on their first frame, it is referred to as a wicked frame. It sets a positive tone for the rest of the game and signals a potentially high-scoring match.


  1. How do I improve my bowling average?
    To improve your bowling average, focus on consistent spare shooting, practice regularly, and work on improving your technique. Consider seeking guidance from a certified bowling coach or joining a league to gain more experience.

  2. What is the highest possible score in bowling?
    The highest possible score in bowling is 300, which is achieved by throwing twelve consecutive strikes.

  3. Can I play bowling if I am a beginner?
    Absolutely! Bowling is a sport that welcomes participants of all skill levels. Many bowling centers offer beginner-friendly environments, equipment rentals, and coaching services to help new bowlers get started.


Understanding the language of bowling is essential for anyone looking to excel in the sport. By familiarizing yourself with these terms, you’ll be able to communicate effectively with fellow bowlers and track your progress more accurately. So next time you hit the lanes, remember these bowling terms and enjoy the game!