Glossary of Bowling Terms

Your average is the sum of all your games divided by the number of games played. You can use your average as a way of recording your improvement - set a goal of raising your average game, say 10 pins a season, until you reach the level of par bowlers.

After getting a 'turkey', most people start referring to the string of strikes as if they are collecting them in a bag, e.g. four-bagger, five-bagger etc.

Brooklyn strike
This refers to shots that "crosses over" the 1-3 pocket for right-handers and 1-2 for left-handers and produces a strike. It originated in New York where people would "cross over" to Brooklyn from Manhattan. A side term "Jersey side" references left-handers and refers to people crossing over from Manhattan to New Jersey.

Clean Sheet
If you make all your spares in the game it is called a clean sheet. Making your spares is the simplest way to raise your average on the way to becoming a scratch/par bowler.

Dutch 200
Dutch 200 refers to a game in which strikes and spares are alternated (spare-strike-spare strike etc) for the entire game, which results in a score of 200 exactly. The term is believed to be a take-off of "Dutch treat" or going "Dutch" where two people share the cost of a date.

The foul line is drawn across the lane to separate the approach from the start of the lane. Putting your foot over the foul-line means you don't get the score for that delivery: on the first delivery you must re-rack the pins. It is marked on the scoresheet with an "F".

There are ten frames in one game. You have two chances to knock down the ten pins in each frame. The tenth frame rewards you with a final bonus ball if you convert your spare (or make two strikes). You can thus throw nine strikes in the first nine frames and, if you get another two in the tenth, the bonus ball means the most strikes you can have in one game is twelve. This is called a perfect game.

Open Frame
If you fail to make your spare, i.e. knock all pins down in two shots, it is called an open frame

Consistently making all your spares will give you an average in the 180 to 190 range. When you develop your game so that you can start to string strikes together your score will go up and you will start to approach the 200 or 210 mark, which many have likened to being a "scratch" golfer.

Perfect game
Every bowlers ambition, is to some day, achieve a perfect game. By scoring strikes in every frame, the maximum attainable score is 300. Even professional bowlers, who play in championships worldwide, have only a few perfect games in their career.

Adding up the scores from all the games you have played will give you the total series. Most leagues will play three-game series. It is common to use the series as a measure of success. Big tournaments will play many more games and, instead of recording total pinfall, bowlers compare their positions by talking of how many pins over/under par they are, with par usually being 200 (e.g. +20, -10, just like in golf).

If you leave a spare where one pin is standing directly behind another, the rearmost pin is called the "sleeper". In some circumstances this is also called a bicycle, double wood, one­in­the­dark or tandem.

If you leave one or more pins standing after your first delivery, you get a second chance to knock all the pins down, this is your "spare" shot. If you knock all remaining pins down on the second shot you have made your spare. A spare is marked on the scoresheet with a "/". The scoring system rewards you by adding in the pins from the next ball into the current frame. See also split.

This is a spare left when two or more pins remain standing, but with a gap between them. Spares are naturally a little harder to make (since you need to put the ball between two pins, or slide one pin over into another) and bowlers don't like to leave a split. It is common to draw a circle round the pin-count on the score sheet to indicate that it was a split.

When the bowler knocks down all ten pins with the first delivery of the ball it is called a strike. Your score goes up by ten, but like a spare, you get a bonus - your next two deliveries are added to the score. Stringing strikes together will raise your score dramatically (See turkey). A strike is marked on the scoresheet with an "X".

A turkey is bowling lingo for three strikes in a row. Probably, the most famous score for amateur and professional bowlers alike. This is partly due to the fact it has an unusual name, and partly because even a beginner can get one. The term dates back to before the turn of the 20th century. In those years, scoring was much more difficult and to get three strikes in a row was quite an achievement. During Thanksgiving or Christmas week, the proprietor would present a live turkey to the first person on each team who scored three consecutive strikes. The term has carried over ever since.

A special kind of split is the washout, where the headpin remains standing as the ball hooks by it.

Wicked frame
When bowlers bowl a "strike" on their first frame.

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