One of the best ways of scoring points in bowling is a strike.
Rolling a strike isn’t the only major way to add some massive points to your total.
You can also earn a spare.
If you’ve never scored a spare before, then you may be unsure what it even is.
Here’s what you need to know about spares in bowling.
What Is A Spare In Bowling?
A spare is when you hit all the pins down on two shots.
For example, if you hit six pins on your first shot, then you still have four left.
If you manage to knock down the four remaining pins on your second shot, then you’ve earned a spare.
It doesn’t count as a strike because you didn’t hit all the pins down in one shot.
It took you two shots to knock all the pins down.
You’ll know if you scored a spare or not by looking at the game’s screen.
You should see a “/” symbol which denotes a spare.
An “X” symbol denotes a strike.
How Are Points Calculated For A Spare In Bowling?
Scoring in bowling isn’t exactly straightforward.
It’s a bit easier when you only hit pins because the points you earn are the number of pins you knock down.
For example, if you knock three pins down, then you get three points for that turn.
A frame refers to your two turns.
As an example, let’s say on your first turn, you knock three pins down.
On your second turn, you hit four pins down.
The total number of pins you knocked down for that frame is seven (3 + 4 = 7).
You earned seven points for that frame.
Getting a spare makes counting points a bit more complex.
When you score a spare, you earn ten points because you struck down all the pins, but you also add the number of points that you earn in your first shot of the next frame.
As an example, in the first frame, let’s say you knocked down six pins on your first turn.
Then you knocked down four pins on your second turn.
The result is a spare.
When it becomes your turn again, the second frame begins.
This time, you manage to knock down seven pins on your first turn and two pins on your second turn.
The seven pins get added to the previous frame with the spare.
Your total for that first frame becomes 6 + 4 + 7 = 17.
Your total for your second frame is 7 + 2 = 9.
You still add the seven from your first shot in the second frame with your second shot, but you also add it to the previous frame because of your spare.
In this way, you get extra points added to your total score.
While spares aren’t as powerful as strikes in terms of the points you earn, you can still use them to put yourself ahead of your competitors.
Can You Get A Spare With A Split In Bowling?
One of the toughest positions a bowler can find themselves in is with a split.
A split occurs when a bowler hits the pins in such a way that it creates a gap between two other pins.
The most common split is when all the pins but the seven and 10 pins are down.
Since these two pins are the furthest away from each other, it creates an extremely difficult situation for the bowler.
That’s because it’s impossible to have the ball hit both pins at the same time.
That said, it is possible to still get a spare from a split.
It’s just extremely difficult.
The ability to get a spare from a split relies on the bowler’s experience, skill level, and a bit of luck.
The bowler might be able to hit a pin in such a way that it ricochets to the other side and strikes the other pin.
It’s also possible that the bowler makes the ball hit a pin in such a way that it rolls and knocks the other pin down.
However, the bowler manages to do it, getting a spare from a split isn’t easy.
There are several different types of splits that a bowler might encounter.
- Baby Split
- Bed Post
- Big Four
- Fast Eight
- Double Wood or Sleeper
- Greek Church
- Lily or Sour Apple
Below, we’ll describe each of these splits in a bit more detail.
1. Baby Split
A baby split is when only the two and seven or three and 10 pins remain standing.
These are typically easy to strike down since these pins are in line with one another.
2. Bed Post
A bed post is when the seven and 10 pins remain standing.
This is easily the most difficult type of split.
Getting a spare with a bed post split is unlikely.
3. Big Four
A big four split is when the four, six, seven, and 10 pins are standing.
This is another type of split that is extremely difficult to get a spare on because it’s like the bed post but even worse.
Since there are more pins on the lane, there’s a slightly better chance that the bowler might be able to roll their ball in such a way that it moves to the other side and strikes those, too.
However, it’s complex.
Even worse, the bowler may have to simply hit one side.
This leaves two points on the board rather than one if the split had been a bed post.
A bucket split is when a diamond-shaped split is on the lane.
Interestingly, the type of bucket that forms usually depends on what hand the bowler uses to bowl.
Right-handed bowlers most often find themselves facing a bucket split with the two, four, five, and eight pins standing.
Left-handed bowlers most often find themselves facing a bucket split with the three, five, six, and nine pins standing.
This type of split is easy to get a spare with since all the pins are pretty close to each other.
As long as the bowler has some skill, they can guide the ball down the lane and knock them all down.
5. Fast Eight
A fast eight split can occur in two ways.
The first is when the four and seven pins are up.
The second is when the six and 10 pins are up.
This is another relatively simple split to get a spare on since the pins are close together.
As long as the bowler can keep the ball moving forward, it can strike both without a problem.
One issue that a bowler might encounter is if the ball ends up ricocheting off the first pin which sends it away from the pin behind it.
However, there’s still a good chance that the pin at the front will knock down the pin in the back.
6. Double Wood Or Sleeper
A double wood or sleeper refers to when two pins are in-line with one another.
Some examples are the two and eight pins, the three and nine pins, and the five and one pins.
This is a slightly more complex split to get a spare on because there’s still some distance between the two pins.
The fact that the ball has to first hit one pin, then a pin further back behind it complicates the matter.
With enough power, the ball could plow right through the first pin and make it to the back.
However, there’s always a chance that the first pin will knock the ball off its course.
As such, it might miss the pin further behind it.
It isn’t as easy as some of the other splits because of the greater distance from the front pin to the back pin.
It’s also more complex because they’re in a straight line with one another.
This requires a lot of accuracy on behalf of the bowler to knock them both down.
A spare is possible with a sleeper split, but it isn’t the easiest thing to accomplish.
7. Greek Church
Another extremely complex split is the Greek church.
This split refers to a situation in which there are three pins left standing on one side and two pins left standing on the other side.
The pins that are most commonly part of a Greek church split are the four, six, seven, nine, and 10 pins.
A bowler usually has to make a choice.
The most obvious choice is to hit the side with the three pins rather than the side with two pins.
They’ll get more points this way.
The complexity of the situation makes it almost impossible to get a spare on this particular split.
One such method would be to go for the three pins and hope that it hits the ball towards the other two.
Even if the bowler fails, they should still manage to earn three points instead of two.
Few bowlers relish facing a Greek church split.
8. Lily Or Sour Apple
A Lily or sour apple split is when the five, seven, and 10 pins remain standing.
It basically forms an extended triangle.
This is another split that is difficult to earn a spare on because none of the pins are close to one another.
You might be able to get two of the pins, but it’s almost impossible to get the third as well.
It will take a lot of skill and experience to have your ball bounce off a pin just right to get the third pin.
A tap is a split where only a single pin remains standing.
For beginners, this can be a difficult split to get a spare on.
That’s because they haven’t honed their accuracy skills just yet.
It’s difficult to line up the ball and send it down the lane to hit the pin.
Some make the mistake of just trying to throw the ball down in a straight line.
That usually doesn’t work because the ball is going to naturally drift.
More experienced bowlers, however, find tap splits quite easy to get a spare with.
Although there’s some level of skill still involved, they have enough experience to know how they need to angle the ball to hit the pin down.
While even experienced bowlers can miss, a tap split is a lot easier to get a spare on than some of the other types of splits.
The way a bowler rolls the ball down the lane can also form a split.
A flat is when the ball rolls down the lane with very little speed or spin.
It ends up hitting the pins and leaves either the five and seven or eight and 10 pins remaining.
That’s because the ball hit the formation sluggishly and mostly took out the pins at the front of the pack.
A flat is an easy type of split to get a spare on because the pins are relatively close to one another.
What Are Some Splits That Are Impossible To Get A Spare On?
Clearly, there are several different types of splits that can occur during a game.
Some are easy to get spare on while others are difficult.
Two are virtually impossible.
The first is the Greek Church split.
It’d take a lot of luck to get a spare from this type of split.
Most bowlers can’t quite get it.
The location of the pins makes it impossible to hit the ball in such a way as to send it across the lane to the other pins.
In this case, most bowlers end up just hitting the side with three pins to get the most points from the situation.
The other impossible split to get a spare on is the picket fence split.
No bowler ever wants to face a picket fence.
The picket fence forms when the 1, 2, 4, and 7 pins remain standing on one side and the 1, 3, 6, and 10 pins remain standing on the other side.
They both form a type of picket fence.
Only the pins in the middle are down.
This creates a situation where the bowler has to decide which side they want to hit the pins down.
Because there are so many pins on each side still up, it’s impossible to have the ball hit both sides and knock them all down.
As such, most bowlers end up choosing one side of the fence to hit down.
At the very least, they can score four more points instead of losing out on a bunch.
What Is A Blow?
A blow is when a bowler is unable to score a spare.
It doesn’t refer to when a bowler can’t earn a spare after a split.
Rather, it occurs outside of a split situation.
If any pins remain standing outside of a split, then the bowler performs a blow.
This means that they did not earn a spare on their turn.
What Happens When Someone Earns A Spare On The Final Frame?
Since you get extra points in the next frame after scoring a spare, you may wonder what happens when you score a spare on what should be the last frame.
For example, it’s frame ten, which is the last frame in a game of bowling.
You knock down five pins on your first turn and the remaining five pins on your second turn.
This earns you a spare but since it’s the tenth frame, your turn is technically over and the game is over.
That isn’t the case if you earn a spare, however.
You get an extra ball at the end of your turn to earn extra points.
The extra ball is called a “fill ball.”
If you take your extra turn and knock six pins down, then that means you gain six extra points on your previous, the tenth, frame.
Scoring a spare in the tenth frame could help you just manage to take the lead.
Spares occur when a bowler knocks down all the remaining pins on their second turn.
Situations that involve splits can make scoring spares difficult or even impossible.
However, if you manage to score a spare on the final frame of the game, you can still earn extra points that could put you in the lead.