How To Pick Up A Spare In Bowling

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In a perfect world, every frame you bowled would be a strike. Unfortunately, physics has a way of getting between us and our fantasies, which means that you’ve got to learn how to pick up a spare if you want to score big.

The following tips are designed to help you how to pick up a spare in bowling.

How to pick up a spare in bowling?

Before we can talk about particular spare techniques, you’ve got to figure out which pins are left standing, you won’t approach a single-pin spare in the same way you would a split, for example. There are thousands of spare combinations that are possible, but we’ll stick to mostly discussing the more common pin formations.

Using a Plastic Ball

Some bowlers opt to use a separate plastic ball for spare shooting since they create less friction on the lane’s surface, which means that they tend to not hook as much as other bowling balls. With a plastic ball, it’s all about making a straight shot for the pins you’re looking to knockdown.

The 3-6-9 System

The most common method for picking up a spare in bowling is the 3-6-9 system, which involves adjusting your starting position from left to right, depending on which pins you need to knockdown.

Before you can pick up a spare with this system, though, you need to figure out the starting position where you’re most likely to bowl a strike. This spot won’t be the same for everyone, but most people will find they have pretty good luck near the second arrow in the lane.

After you’ve discovered this “sweet spot,” it’s all about properly readjusting by counting the individual boards in the lane. Here’s a quick reference chart for the adjustments (left-handed bowlers should reverse the direction on these instructions), If the:

  • 2 pin is the key pin, move right 3 boards.
  • 4 pin is the key pin, move right 6 boards.
  • 7 pin is the key pin, move right 9 boards.
  • 3 pin is the key pin, move left 3 boards.
  • 6 pin is the key pin, move left 6 boards.
  • 10 pin is the key pin, move left 9 boards.

Other Options

If the 3-6-9 system is not working for you, don’t be afraid to modify it. Some people do better with a 2-4-6 system, or even a 5-10-15! It’s all about finding what works for you and sticking with it.

Should I use a spare ball?

Whatever you want to call it a spare ball, second ball, or even a backup ball, having an additional bowling ball for picking up spares, is a good thing to have in your bowling arsenal. Granted recreational and weekend bowlers probably don’t need to invest in one but anyone in a league will find having a spare ball pretty much a necessity.

Having a strike ball or high-performance bowling ball is essential for getting strikes since they hook. But there are times when we are left with a shot that is impossible to make with a ball with a high hook potential. For example, when you leave the 7 or 10 pin standing. When you need a precision shot, it’s often best to bowl with a ball that doesn’t curve but rolls straight and true.

Bowling is a sport that doesn’t really allow much room for error

Bowling is a sport that doesn’t allow much room for error like for example in basketball. Basketball players are only limited by time, and the opposing team, of course, to make as many shots as they can within 60 minutes. In bowling, we are not limited by time but by frames. Our goal is not to make as many shots as possible but to make as few as possible. 12 rolls to get a perfect game. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. We can’t always get every single pin on the first roll so we have to rely on our second roll. That’s where the spare ball comes into play.

In addition to the single position scenario mentioned earlier, many split combinations require a precise hit to pick up the spare. A good example would be a 5-10 split. This is especially difficult for right-handed bowlers as the right edge of the lane doesn’t allow enough room for the path of a hooking ball to track. But with a spare bowling ball, you have a better chance of making the shot by following a straight path right between the pins slightly towards the 5 pins right side. This will result in a deflection towards the 10 pins and the spare pick up.

The great thing about buying a spare ball

The great thing about buying a spare ball is that even though, they are all mainly the same, there is still a wide variety to choose from in terms of the look of the ball. Also, many of them are a great way to personalize your style and attitude. Brunswick Viz-A-Ball line is the perfect example as you can get balls with skulls, flames, favorite sports teams, and even cartoons.

So if you want to maximize your bowling score, then you want to look into purchasing a spare ball. It gives you more versatility in making your shots and increases your scoring potential.

Price of Not Bowling Spares

We all want to hit that strike, knock all ten pins down in one glorifying whack as we grin and watch those pins lift and slam to the back. Who doesn’t want that perfect 300 games? And the only way to get a perfect game is to get all strikes. 12 to be exact. However, no one, even the professionals, will always be able to get that perfect game, so it is important to work on the entire game and become as accurate and proficient as possible. This is why it is so important to practice bowling spares.

Fail to pick up the spare

If on your first ball, you leave a seven-count and then fail to pick up the spare, you’ve just cost yourself the potential for a much higher game. Picking up spares is essential in improving your game and average. When you fail to pick up a spare, then you don’t get those extra ten points to carry over to the next frame. When you pick up the spare, it almost acts like a strike and you get ten points from that frame plus whatever number of pins you take out on your next ball. Let’s also look at this another way. Say you throw your first ball and only knock down three pins.

That’s not a very good score and if on your second ball, you accidentally throw it in the gutter or only knockdown another couple of pins, you’ve damaged your chances at a good game and maybe hurting your average. Knowing how to pick up spares is just as, if not more so, important as being able to hit strikes. Also, if on the first frame you get a strike, and then on the second frame you miss a spare, you’ve just once again lowered your chances for a good scoring game. Open frames are not something we want hanging over our heads.

Practice at shooting for spares

When you go to practice bowling, it’s a good idea to purposefully practice at shooting for spares. The idea is to get proficient at picking up different spare combinations and splits instead of concentrating on getting strikes. By practicing on picking up spares, you are training yourself to be more accurate and precise which will ultimately help you to get more strikes as well. If you want to improve your game and average, then you need to practice at shooting spares. The strikes will come too, but until you’ve mastered closing those spares, then you will be hurting your game and average.

Understanding the Bowling Scoring System

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for beginner bowlers seems to be the point system, and if you’ve ever seen a scorecard, you can probably guess why. The combination of numbers and symbols can seem overwhelming at first (especially if math wasn’t your subject in school), but once you break it down, it’s quite logical and easy to understand. Thankfully, most bowling alleys now use an automated scoring system so you’ve got more time to focus on your game, but if you find yourself in a situation where you must manually figure out points, use this article as a guide for getting things right.

The Basic

In a game of bowling, you’ll bowl a total of ten frames of two or three (for the tenth frame only) tries each. Your score can range anywhere from 0 to 300 and is based on how many or how few pins you knock down during each frame. Most of the time, bowlers will refer to their score in terms of pins, but most people will know what you’re talking about if you refer to them as points.


Strikes are normally worth the most points and are the easiest score to notate. To indicate one, simply make an X in the small box contained within each frame on the scorecard. When you make a strike, you can be sure of receiving at least ten points for this; however, how you bowl your next frame will also help determine a strike’s worth.

For example, if you bowled a 5 and a 2 in your next frame, your strike would be worth 17 (10+5+2). At most, your strike will be worth 30 points (assuming that you bowl two other strikes after it—10+10+10).


Similarly to strikes, spares are indicated by a single slash (“/”) in the small box. A spare is initially worth ten points; however, unlike with a strike, only your next ball will count towards the total. For example, if you bowl a spare in your first frame and then knock down 6 pins during the first try of the second frame, your score for that spare would be 16 (10+6).

Open Frames

An open frame is any frame that you don’t score a strike or a spare in. Their scoring is fairly straightforward simply count the total number of pins you knocked down. Future frames have no influence over the scoring for an open frame.

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How to Pick up Spares

You may have heard from more experienced bowlers or coaches that if you make your spares, the rest of your game will follow suit. Striking is always the goal, ...

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