The first thing anyone needs to understand about keeping score is that a game of fivepin bowling involves 10 frames (turns) in which the bowler will deliver 3 bowling balls in each frame, except where a strike or spare has been bowled, in which case only 1 or 2 balls, respectively, will be delivered in the frame. Also key to understand scoring in the game is the point value of each of the pins. The picture below shows the name and value for each pin.
Now that the point values are understood, the following example picks up a bowler’s progress in the 5th frame of a game. In frame 5 the bowler got 5 points on her first delivery, 2 points on her second shot and 5 on her third, a total of 12 points in the frame. In frame 6 she got 5 points on the first delivery, 3 on the second and a miss (no pins hit) on the third, adding up to a total of 8 points for the frame. These 8 points are added on to the 47 points in frame 5 and give the bowler a total of 55 points in the 6th frame. In frame 7 she knocked down all the pins on her first shot, bowling a STRIKE (marked as “X”). When a Strike is bowled no further deliveries are made in that frame. Although the value of the 5 pins knocked down in the Strike is 15 points, these points are not added in just yet as the strike entitles the bowler to also add in the point value of her next 2 deliveries. The total points are therefore left unmarked for now.
In frame 8 the bowler’s first delivery earns her 5 points. Still we do not add in a score in the 7th frame as a Strike includes the next two deliveries. On her second ball in the 8th frame she knocks down all the remaining pins, bowling a SPARE (marked as “/”). Having Spared the frame a 3rd delivery is not required in the 8th frame. The “5” and “/” are marked in the appropriate first and second ball boxes at the top of the frame. Now with 2 deliveries completed after the strike in the 7th frame we can go back and record the points earned in Frame 7. Firstly a strike in frame 7 is worth 15 points (all pins were knocked down). Added to this is the value of the next two balls (15 points recorded in frame 8… the first ball earned 5 and the spare ensured another 10). So, the strike in frame 7 earned 30 points, which we add to the 55 points in frame 6 for a total of 85 points in frame 7.
Having bowled a Spare in the next frame, frame 8’s score cannot be tallied until the next delivery is made. Spares are worth the total points knocked down in their frame (all pins down equals 15 points) PLUS the value of pins knocked down by the bowler’s next delivery (in the next frame). In our continuing example, the bowler’s first ball in frame 9 only knocks down a 3 Pin. These 3 points are added to the 15 points earned in frame 8 for a total earnings of 18 points on the Spare which, added to the 85 points in frame 7 give the bowler a total of 103 points in frame 8 as illustrated below. Continuing in frame 9 the bowler gets 5 points on her second ball and 2 points on her third, for a total of 10 points which are added to the 103 total in frame 8 for a frame 9 score of 113.
Frame 10 is slightly different than all the other frames. In all cases 3 balls are to be thrown. This ensures that even if the first ball is a strike, the strike will carry the value of 15 plus the next 2 balls thrown. To pick up where we left off, our bowler gets a strike on her first ball in the 10th. The value of the tenth frame can only be tallied once all three balls have been delivered. On her second ball she knocks down a 3 Pin. So far she has 18 points in the 10th. On her third ball (the last of the game) she manages to Spare (knocks down all remaining pins on a second ball after the full rack of pins has been reset). The strike was worth 15 plus the value of the next two balls, which in this case were worth another 15 points. This totals 30 points earned in the 10th frame for a total score of 143. See the following illustration and how the strike and spare are recorded in the 10th frame.
This example of scoring should clarify how fivepin bowling is scored. Keeping score formally is a bit more involved as specific outcomes of deliveries have their own names and symbols used when scoring.
Here are brief explanations of the specific configuration of pins left standing which carry their own names and are recorded with their own symbols:
HEADPIN (marked as “H”)… If on a first ball of a frame a bowler hits only the headpin and leaves all other pins standing, this is called “punching the headpin” and instead of placing a “5” in the score box to denote the value of the pin knocked down, an “H” is recorded instead to specifically denote that it was a headpin-only hit in the frame.
CORNERPIN (marked as “L” or “R”)… A cornerpin leave is recorded when the frame’s first delivery takes out all the pins except one of the 2 pins. If the remaining pin is on the bowlers left side it is called a Left Cornerpin and marked as an “L”. If the remaining pin is the Right Cornerpin it’s marked as an “R”. Either one has a value of 13 points.
ACES (marked as “A”)… “Aces” are recorded when, on a first delivery of a frame, the Headpin and both 3 Pins are knocked down, leaving only both Corner Pins standing. While only an “A” is noted in the score box, 11 is understood to be its value and is used in calculating points earned.
CHOP OFF (marked as “C”)… A Chop Off (or Chop) is the name given to a frame’s first delivery when the outcome is the knocking down of the headpin and one of the “sides” (a 3 pin and corner pin combination on the same side of the headpin). A chop off can be either the headpin with the right 3 pin and right cornerpin OR the headpin with the left 3 pin and left cornerpin.
SPLIT (marked as “S”)… A Split is recorded when the frame’s first delivery takes out the headpin and only one of the 3 Pins. The result is the remaining pins seem to be split up and are therefore harder to spare.