Open bowling

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While league bowling and tournaments are very important in the bowling world, there is also another side to the game which goes out of the rules. Fun games or open bowling give players a break from normal bowling, and can often be played competitively. Some give bowlers a chance to practice picking up odd pins—some of which they might not come across very often in a normal game. Others give youngsters a chance when bowling against more experienced bowlers.


In this game the bowler does not need to knock down all ten pins to score a strike. A no-tap value is assigned to the game, which states the number of pins you must knock down to score a strike. For example, in a game of 9 pin no-tap if 9 pins are knocked down, it is scored as a strike. With manual Scoring, each bowler can have his own no-tap value, so novices and experienced bowlers can compete together. Automatic scoring is typically limited to the same no-tap value. There are also other variations of no-tap, which include split no-Tap and/or pin combo no-tap.

Monte Carlo[edit]

This is a game of chance which uses colored pins in the pin deck. When the colored pins are set in a designated position and the bowler records a strike, spare or split, he is awarded a prize from the bowling center. Some bowling centers call this colorama.

One Colored Pin[edit]

This is similar to Monte Carlo although it is played with only one colored pin in the pin deck, and the bowler only receives a prize if they score a strike when the colored pin is the head pin (1). This may also be used in league play for special prizes (in bar leagues, you get a coupon for drinks, for instance)


In this game there is only one ball thrown per frame. If the pinfall is an even number, the frame is scored as a strike. If the pinfall is an odd number, the frame is scored as a spare where the first score of the frame is the pinfall number.

Best Frame[edit]

This is a team game with 2–5 bowlers per team. All bowlers bowl as usual, and the best score out of all bowlers in the team is used to score the "team game".

Best Ball[edit]

This is a game for 2 players per team. The first player bowls his or her first ball. If it is a strike, the team scores a strike. If not, the second player has a chance to make a strike, and scores a strike for the team if successful. If neither player strikes, the team has to decide which spare to shoot at, and gets only one spare attempt, thrown by whichever player left the spare. This format was originally developed by bowling legend Don Carter, and is compared to the scramble format in golf.

The television game show Celebrity Bowling, hosted by Jed Allan, used a variation of this format; in it, the celebrity who did the worst had to switch over to the other lane and pick up what their teammate had left. The show awarded prizes to audience members determined by how the celebrities finished.

Low Ball[edit]

In Low Ball the lowest possible score wins. The bowler MUST knock down at least one pin for every ball thrown. Gutter balls and misses are counted as 10 points. The lowest possible score is 20. This game is very competitive and great for practicing picking up the sometimes elusive 7 or 10 pins. Some locations call this game "White Elephant"


This is played like a traditional poker game. Instead of getting dealt cards at the start of the hand, you earn them by picking up your spares, or getting strikes. At the end of the bowling game, the best poker hand wins the game. Each lane uses a standard 52-card deck, or in some houses, the scoring machine can handle it.

Rule variations include, bonus cards for stringing strikes together or picking up splits, no more than five cards per player, limits on cards held, additional cards after the five card limit for extra strikes (you must exchange), 3x3 grid on the table for community cards. If this is used, you reveal a community card one per frame, jokers included and many other twists. Poker is also played as part of League play – usually with a set bet involved.

Bumper bowling[edit]

Bumper bowling is a variation of the game for beginners or children, in which barriers known as bumpers are placed at the edges of the lane, keeping errant balls in play and out of the gutter. Modern bowling alleys often have retractable bumpers which are automatically raised or lowered depending on whose turn it is to bowl. Bumper Bowling was started in 1978 by Alex Wortman and Zena Sheinberg in Ann Arbor, Michigan. A patent was filed on Feb. 19, 1982, and issued on Dec. 13, 1983 (see article in People Magazine,[1]).

A different form of bumper bowling was developed and marketed by Phil Kinzer at Jupiter Lanes in Dallas, TX in 1982; originally, Kinzer's system was not intended to be a worldwide phenomenon as it was designed for his son. The first more popularly used types of bumpers were carpet rolls. The second generation were blocked foam pads or corrugated pipe, then came inflatable tubes. After that, there have been many different generations of the modern bumper system still in use today. The term "bumper bowling" is owned by AMF now and operates out of Dallas, TX. The Wortman-Sheinberg bumper bowling systems are produced and marketed by Brunswick.


Also known as the "Johnny Petraglia" scoring system, it was actually used in the 2009 and 2010 PBA Women's Series for its year-end PBA Women's Series Showdown event. In this system a player rolls as many balls as it takes for all ten pins to be cleared from the deck. Each roll counts 1 point and the winner is the player with the fewest throws. There are no bonus balls in the 10th frame, and a "perfect" score would be 10.

Scotch Doubles[edit]

This type of open bowling is also common in tournaments played by leagues as a break from regular bowling as well as (in youth leagues) to introduce youths to a different type of competition. Teams are made up of two bowlers, one bowls the first ball, and the other bowls the second (trying to pick up the spare left by the first bowler). If the person who is bowling the first ball rolls a strike, positions switch: the bowler who bowled the first ball (that bowled the strike) now throws the second ball, and the bowler who shot the second ball to pick up the spare now bowls the first ball until he/she gets a strike and positions reverse again.


In this simple variation, players use a lesser weighted ball (12 pounds or less, generally). This keeps veteran players on their toes and levels the playing field in mixed experience groups. The origin of this game type is unknown, but it has become popular among casual and recreational players.


As bowling balls are quite heavy to throw, some alleys provide portable slides from the top of which the ball is pushed down rather than thrown. Use of these slides is often combined with the use of bumpers. These slides are used by children and the disabled to assist their throw. They are also referred to as "ramps".