A bowler’s average score is a key benchmark of skill level and consistency. But what constitutes a “good” average? And how can you measure and raise your averages to progress as a bowler? This in-depth guide explores the ins and outs of average bowling scores across different leagues, skill levels, and more.

What is Considered a Good Bowling Average?

A bowler’s average score is calculated by dividing total pinfall by number of games. The typical range for good averages:

  • Beginner: 100 to 129
  • Intermediate: 130 to 159
  • Advanced: 160 to 189
  • Professional/Expert: 190+

These averages can vary based on your league and skill level. Striving for consistency is most important. Drastic fluctuations in your averages likely indicate uneven mechanics or focus.

Here are some common bowling leagues and the typical scoring averages in each:

  • House recreational leagues: 110-150
  • Travel leagues: 130-170
  • College leagues: 150-180+
  • Professional tournaments: 180-220+

So aim to compare your averages to those in your league or level. If you’re newer to bowling, don’t get discouraged by pro averages over 200. Stay patient and focused on improving your fundamentals week to week.

Why Improving Your Average Matters

Why pay attention to your bowling average at all? Higher averages demonstrate growth in skill and consistency. Other benefits include:

More Accurate Handicaps

Bowling handicaps are based on averages, allowing for more even matchups. As your average improves, your handicap lowers to reflect your capabilities.

Win More Games and Titles

In handicapped leagues especially, bowlers with higher averages have an edge in winning games and titles at season’s end. Raising your average improves championship odds.

Earn Respect from Peers

A rising average shows fellow bowlers your dedication to improving. Bowlers take notice of who shoots high scores and low series week to week.

Increase High Score Potential

A higher average means higher single-game scores. If your average in one league is 140, a 240 game is exceptional. But for a 190 average bowler, scores near 290 are within reach.

Gain Leverage in Leagues

Team captains in competitive leagues often select lineups based on averages. A solid average earns you a permanent spot in the lineup.

So clearly, dedicated bowlers should always be working to raise their scoring benchmarks, even if just by a few pins each season. Next, let’s explore specific steps you can take to boost your averages.

How to Increase Your Bowling Average

Improving your bowling average requires analyzing and refining elements of your mechanics, techniques, and mental game:

Train Proper Form and Release

Work with coaches to ingrain ideal footwork, backswing, timing, and release fundamentals. Mastering sound mechanics is step one.

Perfect Your Arsenal and Layouts

Get fitted for the ideal ball weights and finger hole sizes. Talk to pro shop staff about drilling layouts suited for your release style. Optimize your arsenal.

Study Oil Patterns and Adjust

Learn the typical oil patterns for your house lanes. Watch how your ball reacts and make moves left or right to find the “pocket” spot downlane.

Focus on Making Spares

Aim to convert 70% or more of single-pin spares. Hitting spares greatly boosts your scores. Take time practicing spin shots, angles, and speed control.

Identify Your Weaknesses

Self-analyze to see if certain pin leaves or spare combinations give you trouble. Zero in on those situations in practice.

Compete in Summer Leagues

Join a summer league to stay sharp and build confidence leading into fall leagues. The added reps will bump up your consistency.

Watch the Pros

Study how the top pros adjust and make high-pressure shots. Take notes on their preparing mentally and response to adversity.

Set Goals and Track Progress

Set clearly defined average goals each month and monitor your results. Review areas for growth and strategize how to get there. Celebrate milestones!

With dedicated practice, adjusting equipment, and sharpening mental skills, bowlers of any level can incrementally raise their averages over time. Be patient through ups and downs and trust your skills.

What is a Good Handicap in Bowling?

A bowler’s handicap allows them to compete on a more even playing field against those with higher abilities. Handicaps are based on the difference between your average and a baseline “scratch” score.

The baseline for a scratch bowler is 220. So the formula to calculate handicap is:

220 – Bowler’s Average = Handicap

For example:

  • Bowler A with a 150 average: 220 – 150 = 70 handicap
  • Bowler B with a 190 average: 220 – 190 = 30 handicap

So in a handicapped league, Bowler A would receive 70 pins and Bowler B gets 30 pins added to their scores. This helps offset the scoring difference between their averages.

Here are common handicap ranges by ability level:

  • Beginner (under 140): 90+ handicap
  • Intermediate (140-159): 70-90 handicap
  • Advanced (160-179): 50-70 handicap
  • Expert (180+): Under 50 handicap

Of course, lower handicaps are generally better for winning, as that reflects a higher average bowler. Maxing your handicap potential based on your average is key.

Factors That Influence Bowling Averages

Many variables impact a bowler’s overall averages. Being aware of these factors can help you make adjustments as needed:

Lane Conditions

Oil patterns greatly affect ball motion and pinfall. Heavier oil tends to yield higher scores. Analyze the conditions each time you bowl.

Equipment Changes

Upgrading to a new high-performance ball or perfectly fitted shoes can provide an immediate boost. But allow time to adjust to the new gear.


Bowling involves repetitive motions that can lead to nagging injuries over time. Take rest and recovery periods when needed.

Mental Fatigue

Bowling many games in a row or coming into leagues already tired from work can sap focus. Manage fatigue and take strategic breaks.

Lane Transitions

As games progress, oil patterns change due to ball tracks. Be willing to adjust lateral moves and pivot points to find the new sweet spot.

Bowling Environment

Temperature, ventilation, noise levels and distractions can all impact your comfort, grip, and concentration. Control what you can.

Being aware of these fluctuating factors allows you to understand when an average dip is just temporary or when a technique adjustment may be needed. Don’t overreact, and remember skill development is a gradual process.

Tips for Bowling a High Score

Striving for that elusive personal best score? Here are tips to set yourself up for a career-high game:

  • Hydrate well in the days beforehand
  • Arrive early to get comfortable on the lanes
  • Pick a high-energy ball and comfortable shoes
  • Listen to motivating music beforehand
  • Take deep breaths and visualize striking
  • Focus on one frame at a time
  • Make any needed moves quickly and decisively
  • Stay external and accept imperfect shots
  • Celebrate every strike to build momentum
  • Finish strong through the 10th frame

While high scores depend somewhat on luck, following these best practices gives you your best shot at a new personal record.

How Do Bowling Averages Compare Across Countries?

Bowling participation and scoring averages can vary widely across the globe. Here’s a look at averages and styles found in popular bowling countries:

United States

  • Large participation at pro and recreational levels
  • High-tech lanes and advanced ball technology
  • Typical house shot averages: 180-220 (pros), 130-150 (amateur)
  • Most bowlers use hard hook power styles


  • Massive participation and popularity
  • Livelier lane oil conditions
  • Averages around 180-210 (pro) and 130-160 (amateurs)
  • Straighter swing styles more common than big hooks


  • Long bowling history and tradition
  • Medium-length oil conditions
  • Average scoring: 170-200 (pros), 125-140 (amateurs)
  • More tweener style than big hooks or straighter swings


  • Big sports culture participation
  • Heat and humidity impacts some centers
  • Averages around 175-205 (pros), 120-140 (amateurs)
  • Power strokes common on shorter, flatter patterns

As you can see, conditions and equipment heavily influence scoring pace and styles across bowling cultures.

Common Bowling Average FAQs

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about bowling averages:

How is an individual bowling average calculated?

Divide your total pinfall for all games by the number of games bowled. For example, 1000 pins over 10 games is a 100 average.

Who determines the baseline average for bowling handicaps?

Bowling proprietors associations choose baseline averages, typically between 200-220, based on common scores of top amateurs. 220 is the most widespread.

Will my bowling average improve automatically over time?

Not necessarily. Focused practice, coaching, equipment upgrades, and consistency are required to steadily raise averages. Simple repetition alone does not guarantee gains.

How many games does it take before my average counts?

League rules vary, but often 12-15 games are needed before a new bowler’s average becomes official in that league’s standings and handicapping.

Should bowlers have just one average across all leagues?

No – as oil patterns and bowler abilities widely vary between houses, having separate averages for each individual league is more representative of skill.

How often do bowling averages officially get recalculated?

League averages are recomputed every 3-6 weeks during a season based on rolling totals. End-of-season averages determine league titles and next season’s starting averages.

If my average rises during the season, will my handicap decrease immediately?

Within a season, handicaps normally only move downward, staying fixed above rising averages until the next season. This prevents sandbagging scores.

How long do bowling averages generally take to improve?

Be patient. With proper coaching and practice, aiming for gradual gains of 5-10 pins per year is reasonable. Jumping 20+ pins in a season is rare without major changes.

Final Tips to Quickly Raise Your Bowling Scores

Here are some parting tips to immediately pick up a few extra pins and points per game:

  • Take advantage of league incentives for strikes in certain frames
  • Go for high counts by converting close split leaves
  • Trust your instincts on ball and move choices
  • Take time on spares and utilize lane courtesy
  • Count pinfall carefully and stay optimistic
  • Analyze your ball read and make incremental moves
  • Know your high score targets based on averages
  • Stay focused through distractions and emotions

With the right mix of strategy, adaptability, and mental toughness, every bowler can find ways to consistently up their scores and averages over time. The journey to bowling excellence never ends!


Categories: Bowling


  • Tom Eddy

    Tom Eddy is the founder and CEO of Poll Position, a leading sports news and opinion website. Eddy founded Poll Position driven by a vision of creating an innovative digital media brand focused exclusively on sports journalism. Under Eddy's leadership, Poll Position has grown from a solo blog into one of the most visited online destinations for sports coverage. Eddy Tom


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