How To Keep Score Like A Pro at The Lanes

Because keeping score in bowling can be tough to pin down

“SMOKEY, THIS is not ’Nam. This is bowling. There are rules.”

We’ll likely be quoting The Big Lebowski’s Walter Sobchak around the office as that happiest of hours nears each evening—Dust Bowl Lanes & Lounge has officially opened just about a block from our building in downtown Little Rock. This retro-inspired bowling alley has it all: vintage ’70s decor, a full bar (White Russians for all!) and snacks ranging from burgers to poutine to something called “totchos.” They even have a karaoke room!

And while The Dust Bowl is equipped with the modern automatic scoring systems we’ve all become accustomed to, why not embrace the retro nature of the place and do things the old-fashioned way with pencil and paper? If you want to avoid angering the Walters of the world, though, you’ll need to know the proper way to fill in the scorecard’s frames. Here’s how you do it:

For the most part, you’re just tallying how many pins you’ve knocked down.

Each player gets two rolls to knock down as many of the 10 pins as possible. So if after slinging two balls down the lane, you’ve only taken out three pins, you’ll jot down three points for that frame—or round—of the scorecard.

Here’s where it starts to get confusing, though.

Special bonuses are earned for knocking down all 10 pins during a turn. If you manage to clear the lane on the first roll—a “strike”—your turn ends. It ain’t easy, friends, but doing so will net you 10 points for that round. Plus, you’ll get to tack on the points from the next two rolls you make. To note this on the scorecard, you’ll mark the strike with an “X” in the box at the top of that frame. Don’t write anything below—not just yet, anyway. On your next turn, you’ll record the number of pins knocked down—let’s say, 3 and 4—at the top of the second frame. Then you’ll add the total—7—to the 10 you got from the strike, marking “17” at the bottom of that first frame.

Still with us? OK, let’s talk about spares.

If you’re able to knock down all 10 pins in two tries, you’ll earn a spare. To record it, you’ll note how many pins you got on the first roll—say, 5—in the top left of the frame, then draw a forward slash in the box next to it. Whatever you get on your next roll—say, 4—you’ll then add to the spare, which is worth 10 points. In this case, that’ll be 14.


If you manage to score a strike or a spare on the 10th and final frame, you’ll gain one extra bonus roll.