Scratch Bowling – What You Need To Know!

Bowling is a simple game to play, but as you get more invested in it, you might feel a little overwhelmed by some of the playing formats, rules, and conventions. These rules have been put forth by the bowling community and governing bodies around the world. New concepts and rules are constantly being introduced to the game to make it more interesting to play and more challenging to master.

Two terms that are widely used in the bowling literature are scratch bowling and handicapped bowling. Therefore, the topic for today is Scratch Bowling.

Now you might be wondering, what is scratch bowling, and how does it work? If that is the case, you are in the right place because that is precisely what I am here to tell you.

This article will talk about scratch bowling, how it differs from handicapped bowling, different arguments related to the two formats, how you can be a better scratch bowler, and how you can join a scratch bowling league. So, make sure you read this article until the end to learn more about this bowling format.

Scratch Bowling – What You Need To Know!

What is Scratch Bowling?

Scratch bowling is a type of bowling format where the result of a particular event is decided based on the total pin count of an individual or a bowling team. This means that the team or individual with the highest added pin count would be the winner at the end of a game.

In this kind of scoring method, there are no point multipliers or modifiers used, which allows the teams and bowlers to calculate their earned points simply by adding the pin count without any handicap advantage.

When it comes to bowling leagues worldwide, Scratch Bowling is not quite common, but with time, it is becoming more recognized due to the simple, no math involved scoring rules and fair play.

This kind of bowling is highly competitive, with a lot of skill and professionalism required and little to no room for compassion points. As a result, most bigger leagues use Scratch Bowling as their primary method of scoring teams and singular bowlers.

If you are new to bowling and are thinking of making it a full-time professional career choice, you should train yourself for a scratch bowling scoring format instead of any other. This will help you generate the willpower to improve your scores and compete with more hard work requirements with other professionals.

Scratch Bowling vs. Handicapped Bowling

There are a bunch of differences when it comes to scratch and handicapped bowling. These differences range from the scoring methods to fairness, leagues, and overall flexibility in tournaments and their outcomes. Let us take a look at how Handicapped Bowling works, for instance.

Handicapped Bowling

A tournament or league using the handicap rule takes the average bowling score in the previous season of the tournament’s highest scorer. Then, it adds a few extra points to that score.

For example, if the player averaged 210 last season, the added points would be around 240. Now, how the handicap works is that if the other players and the low scorers of the league have an average of about 180, their average will be subtracted from the added total, and the rest, in this case, 60, would become the handicap points.

In tournaments where 100% handicap is used, the points will remain the same, but where 80 or less percent handicap is used, that percentage of these points will be used as handicap points and added to the low scoring teams’ average scores in the tournament or the league.

What is the Difference?

The difference arrives at the scoring mechanism. In the case of handicapped bowling, where you are supposed to add the handicap score to your average bowling score, you will add the pin count of your game without any advantage.

This is considered a much easier way of scoring the ten-pin bowling games in tournaments and leagues, and it should be more preferred over handicapped bowling.

The bowlers would all be measured at the same scale in Scratch bowling without any advantages. However, in handicapped bowling, there are more opportunities for low-scoring bowlers to be at par with the high scorers, thus allowing them to participate in major leagues.

It all boils down to the particular league and tournament we are talking about, the different rules, the players, and their consensus on the scoring conditions. But if we talk about it, scratch bowling and handicapped bowling could not be further different from each other.

Professional Bowler’s Argument

As I said before, scratch bowling is not the most preferred scoring method in ten-pin bowling tournaments and leagues worldwide, but that is what professional bowlers argue about.

According to the majority of professionals, the handicap rule should not exist. It simply provides people with an excessive advantage even though they are not at the same skill level and gives them the edge of luck instead of good performance. For example, a person scoring 160 would get 210 just because of the handicap if there are 50 points available for it.

On the other hand, they condone scratch bowling because of its fairness. Instead of worrying about the math of things, they say that bowlers should focus on making their game better, struggling harder, practicing, and being willing to score better so their pin count can be higher than the professional bowlers. That is the only proper way of scoring a game of bowling.

But that is not what intermediate and beginner bowlers tend to think, especially when they favor handicapped bowling. That is why this argument stays alive. I believe that bowling is a game meant for everyone, and everyone should be given similar respect, advantages, and rules to play with. The winner should only be the one individual or team that worked the hardest to win the match.

How to Score Better as a Scratch Bowler

So, you are a beginner bowler, and you are thinking of making yourself a scratch bowler. There are a few things you can do to establish yourself in this format of the game. Let us look at some practices you can do to score better and become a proper scratch bowler.

  • Positive Mindset – As a beginner, you do not need to think negatively when you come up against better bowlers or tough bowling conditions, oil patterns, or simply rules that you do not understand. Instead, you need to have a completely positive mindset at all times and make sure that you are giving your best.
  • Practice – Practice is always crucial. If you want to become a scratch bowler who knows how to take action and move up the ranks without any handicap, you will need to perform various drills that allow you to become the best of the best in all tournaments and leagues.
  • Willpower – Willpower is also essential. Especially if you are taking part in a tournament where almost all bowlers have better overall averages than you, you need to have a strong will and take deep breaths before you face all the opponents head-on without looking back.
  • Challenging Yourself – Instead of taking opponents as professional bowlers who are loads of times better than you in terms of experience and skills, think of your position in a tournament as a way to learn from the best and make sure you take the challenge head-on. You need to trust yourself and back yourself when you are bowling with bigger fish.

How to Join Scratch Bowling Leagues?

I have been asked this question many times, how can I join a scratch bowling league? Well, it depends on where you live and you are approaching bowling.

If you are in the US, you will find more scratch bowling leagues and tournaments here than anywhere else because of the inclusion of the PBA tours and leagues, but that does not mean you are not going to find any decent scratch bowling league anywhere else.

Plus, there are also no restrictions on age when it comes to scratch bowling. So, if you are under the age of professional scratch leagues, you can join junior leagues, which are also very competitive and provide many learning opportunities.

So, the process of joining a scratch bowling league is going to be the same as any other league. The hosting organization might have any explicit requirements and rules, but other than that, all you need is a strong mindset and a good bowling average that you can make even better.


Scratch bowling is undoubtedly a great way to keep things fair in the bowling alley and make sure everyone gets the same chances and rules to compete and win a tournament or league. If you want to become a better bowler, I believe that learning to bowl with all your power and making sure you outclass your opponent is the only way to win. I hope you learned a lot from this article and that you will apply what you have learned here. Have an excellent bowling career ahead of you!

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