playing rules

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Chapter 2:  USBC General Playing Rules Adapted for use in The Amigos Club de Bowling Tournaments & Leagues

Please make special note of rules 12, 17 and 18

Rules Rule 1 – USBC Certification Leagues and tournaments must be organized and bowled in accordance with USBC Bylaws, rules and regulations. These events must be scheduled on lanes that currently are USBC certified and only USBC approved equipment may be used.

Rule 2 –

The Game 2a. Definition A game of American tenpins consists of ten (10) frames. A player delivers two balls in each of the first nine frames unless a strike is scored. In the 10th frame, a player delivers three balls if a strike or spare is scored. Every frame must be completed by each player bowling in regular order.

2b. How Scored Except when a strike is scored, the number of pins knocked down by the player’s first delivery is to be marked next to the small square in the upper right-hand corner of that frame, and the number of pins knocked down by the player’s second delivery is to be marked inside the small square. If none of the standing pins are knocked down by the second delivery in a frame, the score sheet shall be marked with a (-). The count for the two deliveries in the frame shall be recorded immediately. A frame-by-frame account on scoring and calculating can be found on the Rules page of

2c. Strike

A strike is made when the full setup of 10 pins is knocked down with the first delivery in a frame. It is marked by an (x) in the small square in the upper right-hand corner of the frame where it was made. The count for one strike is 10 plus the number of pins knocked down on the player’s next two deliveries.

2d. Double

 Two consecutive strikes is a double. The count for the first strike is 20 plus the number of pins knocked down with the first delivery following the second strike.

2e. Triple or Turkey

Three successive strikes is a triple or turkey. The count for the first strike is 30. To bowl the maximum score of 300, the player must bowl 12 strikes in succession.

2f. Spare

A spare is scored when pins left standing after the first delivery are knocked down with the second delivery in that frame. It is marked by a (/) in the small square in the upper right-hand corner of the frame. The count for a spare is 10 plus the number of pins knocked down by the player’s next delivery.

2g. Open

An open is recorded when a player fails to knock down all 10 pins after two deliveries in a frame.

2h. Split

A split is a setup of pins left standing after the first delivery, provided the head pin is down and at least one pin is down: 1. Between two or more standing pins; e.g., 7-9 or 3-10. 2. Immediately ahead of two or more standing pins; e.g.,Rule 4 –

Delivering the Ball

4a. Legal Delivery

A delivery is made when the ball leaves the player’s possession and crosses the foul line into playing territory. Every delivery counts unless a dead ball is declared. (See Rule 8.) A delivery must be made entirely by manual means. No device may be incorporated in or affixed to the ball that detaches on delivery or is a moving part during delivery except as provided in Rule 4b and Rule 4c.

4b. Special Equipment to Grip the Ball

A player may use special equipment to aid in grasping and delivering the ball if it is in place of a hand, or major portion thereof, lost by amputation or otherwise.

4c. Mechanical Aids to Grip the Ball – Alternating Delivery

A player may, if granted permission by USBC Headquarters and each league or tournament in which the player participates, alternate right/left-handed delivery and/or use special equipment to aid in grasping and delivering the ball. Permission may be granted if the following is submitted to USBC Headquarters: 1. A doctor’s certificate describing the disability and the reason to alternate right/left-handed delivery and/or recommending the aid. 2. Mechanical Aid. A description, drawing or model of the aid.  Unless the individual is unable to impart force or impetus to a ball, the aid cannot incorporate a mechanical device with moving parts that would impart force or impetus to the ball. When authorization is given, USBC Headquarters will provide the player with a special card stating that alternating right/left-handed delivery and/or the use of the specified mechanical aid has been approved. If permission is denied, the player has the right of appeal to the USBC Legal Committee. Permission may be withdrawn for cause.

4d. Special Considerations to Deliver the Ball

A player unable to execute a delivery in accordance with any of the foregoing procedures may bowl in USBC competition provided the league’s board of directors or tournament management: 1. Authorizes such participation. 2. Establishes specific provisions to govern such participation. The average established by the player is not acceptable in another league or tournament unless allowed by the rules of that league or tournament. The bowler is eligible for all USBC awards.

Rule 9 – Bowling on the Wrong Lane

In league or tournament play, a dead ball shall be called and the player or players required to rebowl on the correct lane when: a. One player bowls on the wrong lane. b. One player from each team on the pair of lanes bowls on the wrong lane. If more than one player on the same team bowls on the wrong lane in turn, all deliveries stand as bowled. Upon discovery, bowlers shall complete subsequent frames on the correct lanes. In singles match-play competition, where a player normally bowls two frames each time it is the player’s turn to bowl, and the player bowls on the wrong lanes, a dead ball shall be called and the player required to rebowl on the correct lanes, providing the error was discovered before the opposing player has made a delivery. Otherwise, the score stands as bowled, with all subsequent frames in the game bowled on the correct lanes.


Rule 11 – Forfeit –

Delay of Game

No unreasonable delay in the progress of any game is permitted. If a player or team in a league or tournament refuses to proceed with a game after being directed to do so by a league or tournament official, the game or series shall be declared forfeited.

Rule 12 – Approaches Must Not Be Defaced

The application of any foreign substance on any part of the approach that detracts from the possibility of other players having normal conditions is prohibited. This includes, but is not limited to, talcum powder, pumice and resin on shoes, and/or soft rubber soles or heels that rub off on the approach.

Commonly Asked Question – Rule 12. 12/1    One of the bowlers is having a difficult time sliding on the approach and applies a commercial product purchased at the center pro shop to the bottom of his/her shoes. The product is designed to help a bowler slide. The secretary says she has received a        complaint from the opposing team and notifies the individual to stop using the substance or the game will be forfeited. Can an officer tell a bowler to stop using the substance and declare the game forfeited?

 Commercial products, talcum powder or any substance applied to the shoe or approach could             be in violation of Rule 12. If a league participant uses a substance and somebody complains that it prohibits him/her from having normal conditions, the league officer should require the            individual to immediately stop his/her action. If the individual refuses, his/her games are          subject to forfeiture.

Rule 15 – Gambling

A member of USBC, while bowling in USBC competition, shall not participate or be involved in the operation of any gambling scheme which is in violation of any applicable law, where all or part of a score bowled in USBC play determines the winner. Contests or schemes which threaten the integrity of the game and/or entice a player to bowl beneath his/her ability are strictly prohibited. Penalty: Membership may be suspended or denied to anyone who is a participant or involved in the            violation of this rule. NOTE: Side competitions/brackets in leagues/tournaments where the participating bowlers pay a fee, optional or otherwise, and receive prizes for high game and/or series, with or without        handicap, do not violate the rule because these involve merit pinfall based solely on the skill of the participant.

Rule 17 – Grounds for Disciplinary Action

17a. Unfair Tactics

An individual can be charged with attempting to gain an unfair advantage in league or tournament play for the following reasons: 1. Directly or indirectly tampering with lanes, pins or bowling balls so they no longer meet USBC  specifications. 2. Misrepresenting an average to gain a greater handicap, or qualify for a lower classification in an  event. 3. Establishing an average below the player’s ability to gain an unfair advantage in handicap or  classified competition. Penalty: Loss of games, prize winnings, disqualification, league removal (see Rule 115a or Rule 115c), and subject to suspension from or denial of USBC membership. NOTE: A complaint may be filed only in the current season or the season immediately following the alleged violation. The complaint shall be in writing and detail the charges against the member(s) and the USBC rule(s) involved.  The complaint shall be signed by the person(s) making the charges and filed with USBC Headquarters.

 17b. Improper Conduct

An individual can also be charged with the following violation(s): 1. Engaging in improper tactics or conduct in connection with the game of bowling including, but not  limited to, physical and verbal abuse toward other persons. 2. Failing to distribute prize money to team members consistent with verbal or written agreements. 3. Failing to pay fees due for participation in a USBC league or tournament. (See Rule 115b for league  procedures to suspend an individual for nonpayment of league fees.) 4. Misusing/mishandling/misappropriation of any funds collected or held in trust for USBC, a league or  tournament or a chartered local or state association. 5. Misfeasance, malfeasance, or nonfeasance of office. Misfeasance – The performance of a lawful action in an illegal manner.  Malfeasance – Wrong doing or misconduct. Nonfeasance – Failure to act, especially failure to do what should be done. Penalty:   Membership may be suspended or denied to anyone who is involved in a violation of this rule. Leagues may also remove the individual following the provisions in Rule 115a or Rule 115c.

NOTE: A complaint may be filed only in the current season or the season immediately following the        alleged violation. The complaint shall be in writing and detail the charges against the member(s) and the USBC rule(s) involved.  The complaint shall be signed by the person(s) making the charges and filed with USBC Headquarters.

ADDITIONAL RULE FOR AMIGOS BOWLING CLUB. Alcohol MAY be consumed during league and tournaments matches. However, anyone acting unruly will be asked to leave the playing area and will be disqualified.

As the foul lines do not work, anyone observed encroaching beyond the foul line will be asked to adjust their approach. This is similar to other centres in Spain where the foul lines do not function.

Rule 18 – Bowling Ball –

Altering Surface

Altering the surface of a bowling ball by the use of abrasives while bowling in USBC competition is prohibited. All bowling balls so altered must be removed from the competition.

NOTE: If it is shown the bowler had prior knowledge his/her actions were in violation of Rule 18, the game(s) in which the violation occurred is (are) subject to forfeiture. In addition, the bowler is subject to dismissal from the league and suspension of membership.  Competition is defined as the remainder of the current game and remaining game(s) in the series being bowled. The use of approved cleaning agents listed in the Approved Anytime section of the Approved Cleaners and Polishes list is permissible.

Commonly Asked Questions –

Rule 18. 18/1    When can an approved cleaner be used on a bowling ball?

Unless otherwise provided by league or tournament rule, cleaners designated as Approved        Anytime by USBC can be used on bowling balls at any time during USBC competition. During        competition, approved cleaners may only be applied by hand and soft cloth. A cleaner that is Approved for Before/After Certified Competition may only be used outside competition.


18/2    When may I alter the surface of my bowling ball?

 a. Cleaning –

Cleaners approved for use any time may be utilized before, during or after certified competition; cleaners approved for only before and after competition may only be used during these times. The use of a ball spinner is prohibited during competition.        

b. Sanding – You are permitted to sand the surface of your bowling balls prior to certified            competition; however, the use of abrasives is strictly prohibited once the first ball is thrown in the competition.  

Addendum for Amigos Bowling Club – Clarification of abrasive is the use of ABRALON pads or similar and cannot be used at any time during a league or tournament once the practice period and subsequent commencement of scoring has started. 

The use of KEGEL No Sweat is permitted but ONLY on the hand. It is not permitted to be used by spraying on to a towel that is then also used to wipe oil off the ball.

Infringement of these rules will result in disqualification from the tournament. In league matches the current game being played will not count. If infringement continues this would result in suspension from the league.

c. Polishing – You are permitted to polish the surface of your bowling ball prior to certified            competition. However, once tournament or league play begins, the use of a ball spinner is            strictly prohibited.

18/3    A tournament consists of doubles and singles events. The singles event is bowled first        immediately followed by the doubles. Can I sand my bowling ball between events?

No. Rule 18 does not allow the outer surface of any bowling ball to be altered with an abrasive        after the start of competition. This includes balls that have not yet been introduced into play.         The start of competition is defined as the point the first ball is thrown by any participant for          score. Since the tournament is conducting singles and doubles concurrently, you cannot alter         the surface of the bowling ball (including sanding) between events.

18/4    Can a bowler use an abrasive, cleaner or polish on just the track or only just a portion of the track of the ball?      

No. USBC specifications require that the entire surface of the ball be prepared in a uniform        manner. Preparing the surface of a ball in any other manner would be a violation of Rule 17a,        Item 1. The penalty for a violation of this rule can include disqualification, forfeiture, removal        from the league, and/or suspension of USBC membership.

Appendix for Amigos Bowling Club

ALL complaints about a player’s behaviour, infringement of the rules or general request concerning bowling should be sent in the first instance to the club secretary Lynda. A rule infringement may be brought up at a tournament or league match verbally to a committee member. If the issue can be sorted out on the day it will be. However, the issue will still need to be put in writing via email for reference.

During tournaments, there will, in future, be at least two non-playing committee members available for each squad. These are the people you will need to report an infringement or complaint to. Do not bring an issue up with any committee member that is still bowling.

Any member that has an issue with another member or is openly discussing rules, should do so in a calm and non-offensive manner, away from the bowling area. This is to avoid any disruption to bowlers who are still bowling in the tournament.