Is It Possible To Bowl A 299?


A 299 is a terrific game score that bowlers should be very proud of achieving. Some don’t see it as such an accomplishment. Rather, they see as just falling short of elusive perfection. But it’s definitely extremely difficult and still quite an accomplishment.

Bowling a 299 score is possible. The only way to bowl a 299 is to throw 11 strikes straight from frame one and with the 12th ball only knockdown nine pins. In 10-pin traditional bowling, there is no other way to score a 299. An automated scorecard can prove a 299 is possible.

Different scores in bowling will depend on your level of expertise or just how much luck you have on the lanes. For example, you can have 300s and a couple of 290s before hitting a 299. But what does scoring a 299 take and what are other bowling score variations?

Rules Of Bowling And Scoring

What does scoring a 299 mean? We will break down the rules and scoring principles of bowling to better explain this.

The goal of bowling is plain and simple. You want to knock down as many pins as possible. With more pins knocked down, the more points you score.

A “frame” in bowling refers to a player’s single round. Every single game has 10 frames, each one including two chances to knock down ten pins (except for the last frame). Each knocked-down pin is a point, yet you can also score extra points by hitting “strikes” or “spares”.

The majority of bowling alleys have a computerized system that calculates your score. All you have to do is plug in your name and try to bowl in the right order. The system will tell you what pins you have up, if you bowled a turkey, and of course, keep track of your score.

Maximum scores for single bowlers are 300 for a single game and 900 for a three-game series. Those require perfection. Bowling a cumulative score of 800 for a three game series is still considered as quite an accomplishment, averaging 267+ per game.

Very experienced bowlers may have a couple of 300s under their belt. In the case of an 800 series, they are more uncommon and harder to get than the 300 single game, but the top competitive bowlers often have a few under their belts.

Strikes And Spares

When you have knocked all ten pins in the first turn in a single frame, you have reached a strike. A strike is often marked with an “X” on the scoring board. Two consecutive strikes are considered a double. Three consecutive strikes are a Turkey. Four and five consecutive strikes are four/five-baggers, and so on.

A spare is when you do not knock down all ten pins in your first turn in a single frame. But you do knock down the rest of the pins at your second go. A spare is commonly indicated with a “/” on the scoring board.

Strikes and spares are scored in a different way than regular frames are.

Spare: score 10 points + the number of pins knocked down on your first attempt at the next frame.

Strike: score 10 points + the number of pins you knocked down for the entire next frame. 

Double: 1st frame – 20 points + the number of pins you knocked down in the 3rd frame. 2nd frame – same as scoring for a strike.

Turkey: 1st frame – 30 points; 2nd frame – same as scoring for double; 3rd frame – same as scoring for a strike.

Four-Bagger: 1st frame – 30 points. 2nd frame – 30 points. 3rd frame – same as scoring for double. 4th frame – same as scoring for a strike.

Scoring

  • Now we will discuss a few different high-scoring scenarios.
  • 300: you must throw a strike in every frame. This is the perfect score in bowling. 
  • 299: you must throw 11 strikes but in the last shot only knockdown nine pins.
  • 292: you must throw 11 strikes, just like the 299, but in the last shot only knock down two pins. Hitting only two pins is more difficult than you may think. Most who have had 11 strikes in a row will knock down more than 2 pins on the final throw.
  • 290: you must throw 11 strikes and a spare in the first frame.
  • 280: you must throw 11 strikes, and a spare in the second frame.
  • 270: you must throw 11 strikes, and a spare in the third, fourth, fifth – up to tenth frames. You’d get a 270 plus anything else you got on the first ball of your spare frame. 
  • 0: all balls were gutter balls or fouls. A gutter ball is when you don’t knock down any pins. A “-” mark is used for zero or no pins.
bowling ball hitting just 2 pins on left
Bowlers with 11 strikes would be unlikely to roll their final throw this poorly

Scoring a 292 is quite unusual and one of the least recorded scores. You would have to deliberately aim for the edge of the pin set on your final throw. Statistics from the USBC reported that scores of 299, 298 and 297, happen more often than the others. To bowl a 300 you need to be a seasoned bowler and have a little luck. 

As there are 10 pins in a set, there are eleven possible final scores after starting with 11 strikes. On the final throw, you can knock down 0-10 pins.

The 11 ways to score are determined by the different pins left standing on that final ball. The scoring remains the same, the only thing that changes is that one pin standing on that last ball.

How To Calculate Your Scoring?

Most bowling alleys use computerized scoring systems. However, it is important to understand how to note your scoring points. The first step is to try to practice scoring individual frames. As you get more comfortable, start adding up those frames to know what is your final score. Don’t forget that spares and strikes have their own particular scoring rules.

How Can You Bowl A 299?

The only way to bowl a 299 is to start with 11 strikes in a row. Then fail to strike the last pin on your last ball of the 10th frame, instead knocking down 9 pins out of ten. 

Bowling a 299 possible, but it is not as big of an accomplishment as the perfect 300 game in 10-pin bowling.

A score of 299 happens often these days, but any score between 291 and 295 is rare. Also, 290 is more common than any score from 291-300.

Can You Bowl A 300 With A Spare?

A spare works pretty much in the same way as a strike, except that it only adds the value of your first next frame to your score of 10. 

If you bowl a spare, for example, and in your next frame roll you bowled a 4 and a 3 in your next two rows, you’d add 4 onto your 10 to score 14 for the spare. 

The best score for a single frame is 30 – a strike followed by two more strikes, and there are only 10 frames. If you spare the last two throws in the game, your score will be 290, not 300.

Scoring a 300 with a spare is not possible. Some people joke about a bowling score sheet scoring error or pin setter malfunction that would let you throw one spare and still make a 300 game. 

Unlike the other frames, the 10th frame will need you to bowl two or three shots depending on your throws. If you drop fewer than 10 pins on your first throw, but the scoring system or pin setter fails to advance to show the second ball, there is a possibility you can get one more shot to knock down the remaining pins. You would get artificial credit for a strike, and then you will have to get two more strikes in the next couple of shots to get to 300.

The extra shots, also known as fill balls, allow you to reach 300 on the scorecard. But in league play or any official match, malfunctions are reported and the mechanisms involved are manually reset to match the true results, so it really doesn’t count as a perfect 300 game.

Tips to score a perfect 300

First off, to score a perfect 300 you need to maintain discipline and concentration throughout the game. Focus on the changing lanes conditions in today’s environment. Stay ahead of those changes so that you can keep the ball in your pocket.

To even get into a level where 300 games are possible requires years of practice and lots of experience. A little luck is involved, but luck alone won’t get newer bowlers anywhere near a perfect game.

Once you’ve reached the 8th, 9th, or 10th frame, it’s tense. The adrenaline starts to flow and you need to focus on one aspect of your delivery that got you this far. It might be hitting your target mark, it might be keeping your ball speed up – whatever it is, focus on one thing. Don’t allow negative thoughts to take over. Stay positive, and hopefully, that will carry you through to your first 300 game.

Conclusion

First off, to score a perfect 300 you need to maintain discipline and concentration throughout the game. Focus on the changing lane conditions in today’s environment. Stay ahead of those changes so that you can keep the ball in your pocket. 

Once you’ve reached the 8th, 9th, or 10th frame, it’s tense. The adrenaline starts to flow and you need to focus on one aspect of your delivery that got you this far. It might be hitting your target mark, it might be keeping your ball speed up – whatever it is, focus on one thing. Don’t allow negative thoughts to take over. Stay positive, and hopefully, that will carry you through to your first 300 game.

“In bowling and in life, if a person made the spares, the strikes would take care of themselves.” – Stephen King

Tim C, M.D.

My grandfather and my mother both taught me bowling in the early 1970’s. I spent the next few decades working my way up to the top tiers of local amateur bowling leagues, and continued to participate in college at the club level. My wife and bowled in coed leagues before kids, and then taught our kids bowling as they grew up. Now I’m here to answer some of the web’s common questions about bowling rules, techniques, equipment and more. To see more about the site, check our About Page

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