What Does Scratch Mean In Bowling?

what does scratch mean in bowling

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What does scratch mean in bowling? A “scratch” describes a shot that doesn’t result in a strike or spare in bowling. When you bowl a scratch, you’ve knocked down some of the pins, but not all. Some people refer to this as an “open frame.” If you bowl multiple open frames in a row, it’s called an “open game.”

Open games aren’t prevalent, but they do happen from time to time. If you’re wondering about the highest possible score for an open competition, it’s 120. That would be 12 strikes in a row.

Of course, that’s extremely unlikely to happen (especially if you’re not a professional bowler). But it’s still fun to think about! So, the next time you go bowling, keep in mind that a scratch means you didn’t get a strike or spare. And if you bowl an open game, don’t worry – it happens to everyone once in a while.

This article will provide a comprehensive definition of the term scratch as it applies to bowling. 

We will also discuss the various ways in which a bowler can achieve a scratch score. Finally, we will provide some tips for improving your score on the scratch lane.

Scratch – Definition Of The Term

If you’ve ever seen a professional bowler on TV, you may have noticed that they sometimes pick up their ball after it rolls down the lane and leave a few pins standing. This is called a “scratch” shot, and it’s a common way for pros to take down difficult pins or spare in competitive bowling. But what does scratch mean in bowling, and how do bowlers achieve this effect?

A scratch is when the ball fails to knock down all the pins in simple terms. This can be due to an improper throw, hitting the gutter, or simply not having enough power to reach the back row of pins. In any case, the result is the same: some pins are left standing.

While a scratch may seem like bad news for the bowler, it can be used to their advantage. In some cases, leaving a pin or two standing can make it easier to hit the remaining pins on the next throw. This is especially true if the pins are clustered together in a challenging configuration. As such, many pro bowlers will intentionally leave a pin or two standing on their first throw in order to set up a more favorable second shot.

Scratch Bowling Vs. Handicapped Bowling

When bowling in a league, there are typically two types of games that can be played: scratch or handicap. In order to understand what a Scratch game is, we must first understand handicap bowling.


Handicap bowling is when bowlers of different skill levels compete against each other by using a system that equalizes the playing field. This system gives the less skilled bowler(s) extra pins that they can use to help them win the game. 

The amount of handicap pins is based on a percentage of the difference between the bowler’s average and 200 (which is considered a perfect game). 

For example, if Bowler A has an average of 150 and Bowler B has an average of 190, Bowler A would get 35% of the difference in pins as their handicap (in this case, 35% of 40, which equals 14 pins). So in a handicap game, even though Bowler B may have scored better than Bowler A, Bowler A would be the winner if you factor in the handicap.


A Scratch game is when bowlers of all skill levels compete against each other without the use of handicap pins. In order to level the playing field, bowlers typically use a scoring system that rewards strike and spare more than an open frame. For example, in a standard Scratch game called “High Score,” the scoring is as follows:

  • Strikes are worth 30 points
  • Spares are worth 15 points
  • Open frames are worth 0 points

As you can see, this scoring system incentivizes bowlers to try and get strikes and spares since they are worth more points. This makes for a more competitive game and ultimately more fun for everyone involved. So if you’re looking for a challenging game of bowling, then a Scratch game is definitely for you!

Now that you know the difference between Scratch and Handicap bowling, which one will you choose the next time you hit the lanes?

A Scratch Bowler’s Guide To Better Scores

As a scratch bowler, you are bowling against other bowlers who have similar experience and skill levels. This can be both good and bad news. The good news is that you are evenly matched and have a fair chance of winning. The bad news is that even the slightest mistake can mean the difference between winning and losing.

Here are some tips on how to score better as a scratch bowler:

  • Stay focused throughout your entire game. One lapse in concentration could cost you dearly, so follow the rules of bowling well.
  • Practice, practice, practice. The more you bowl, the better you will become at making those crucial shots when it counts.
  • Make use of practice games to try out different techniques and strategies. See what works for you and stick to it.
  • Analyze your previous games and identify areas that you need to improve on. Work on those areas so that you can do better next time.
  • Be patient. Rome was not built in a day, and neither will your perfect game. Keep at it, and eventually, you will get there.

By following these tips, you should be able to score better as a scratch bowler, and bowling becomes no harder to learn. Remember, it is not about winning or losing but about enjoying yourself while challenging yourself at the same time. So go out there and bowl your best!


So, what does scratch mean in bowling? A scratch is when the bowler bowls down all ten pins with their first ball. This can happen if the bowling pins are set up incorrectly or if the bowler is outstanding. If a scratch occurs, the bowler’s score for that frame is zero. In most cases, scratch bowling is not allowed in tournaments and leagues. This is because it gives an unfair advantage to the better bowlers.

I hope this article has clarified what a scratch is in bowling. Depending on the context, scratching can be beneficial or detrimental to a game. Next time you’re out on the lanes, remember what you’ve learned here and try not to let those pesky pins get in your way! Thanks for reading.

Picture of Shmulik Dorinbaum

Shmulik Dorinbaum

I play bowling almost daily, and on the days I'm not? I'm writing about my day and what I need to do to improve myself as a better bowling player.

Picture of Shmulik Dorinbaum

Shmulik Dorinbaum

I play bowling almost daily, and on the days I'm not? I'm writing about my day and what I need to do to improve myself as a better bowling player.

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