What is a Clean Game in Bowling?

Bowling is a game that requires a lot of knowledge and great skill to master, and many scoring situations that bowlers can encounter while playing. However, a very widely faced and debated case is a clean game in bowling.

You might be wondering, what is a clean game in bowling, and how does it work? Well, that is what I am here to tell you.

A Clean Game in Bowling, by definition, is a game where there are no open frames from the 1st to the 10th frame. That means you must get a spare or a strike on all ten frames in one game.

What is a Clean Game in Bowling

A Clean Game in Bowling

You might think it is relatively simple to understand a clean game, but people are less familiar with bowling lingo and terms that need to be presented with a more in-depth analysis.

In a clean game, you are going to play all closed frames. So, what is a closed frame; You might be thinking. Well, a closed frame is one in which you score a strike or a spare and knock down the ten pins.

On the contrary, an open frame is one where you cannot knock down all ten pins within your two shots and cannot score a spare or a strike which is not ideal.

Once you have scored closed frames in all the frames of a ten-pin bowling game, you can say that you have played a clean game of bowling. But different bowlers have a different perspectives of a clean game.

I would suggest that if you plan to get into professional bowling, you should take up the official definition of a clean game and not heed the bowlers’ perspective on this topic. That way, you will play great and respect the game and its rules properly.

A Bowler’s View on a Clean Game in Bowling

Bowlers of different skill levels and diverse understanding of the game have their definitions of a clean game in bowling. However, one thing everyone agrees on is having close frames in all the frames of the game.

The debate initiates when we talk about the 10th frame mainly. According to some bowlers who believe that there should be an added layer of difficulty for a game to be considered a clean game if the first shot is a strike, then the next shots need to be either two strikes or a spare, which means there should be no open frames at all.

While some people say that if the player gets a spare in the first two shots of the 10th frame, the fill ball needs to be a strike, which means that the last bonus score slot needs to have a spare or a strike in it to be considered a good clean game. But that is not necessary according to the rulebook. So that brings us to the actual rules for a clean bowling game.

What are the rules of a clean game?

We know the bowler’s views on a clean game; it is time to look at the rules for a clean game in bowling. Here are some absolute rules that must be followed to get a perfect game.

No Open Frames

First, the rule defining a clean game is no open frames. From the first ball of the first frame to the last frame, the player must knock down all ten pins to get a clean game in every frame.

If the player fails to get a close frame in any of the 10 frames of the bowling game, the game would be considered a standard game and not a proper clean bowling game as per USBC standards.

So, it would help if you scored a strike, which means knocking down all 10 pins on the first ball, or a spare, which means taking two shots to knock down all the pins in a frame, every frame, which can be pretty tricky skillful at doing.

Fill Balls

According to Bowling Glossary, Fill balls are bonus shots you take after scoring a spare or a strike that counts in your previous frame’s score. In the proper bowling rules provided by the USBC and other bowling institutions, fill balls or bonus shots do not need to be strikes or spares if either is in the frame once.

A widely debated topic that fills balls also need to be a strike or a spare is not official, and you do not necessarily need to score a strike or a spare in your fill balls. So you can get close frames and still get the achievement of bowling a clean game.

Want to read more about strikes and spares? Check out these two articles: A Strike in Bowling – Did you know all this? And What is a spare in bowling?

10th frame

The point of contention between global bowlers is the 10th frame of a bowling game. According to official rules, you only need to score a single necessary strike or spare in the first shot or the first two balls of the 10th frame.

If a single or two bonus shots are left after scoring a spare or a strike, you do not necessarily need to close out the rest of the shots to get a clean game. And even if you leave the bonus shots open, the clean game will not get affected, and you will still be all good.

Remember not to make any fouls; that will make it much harder. Unsure of what all the fouls are? Check out this article: What Constitutes a Foul in Bowling?

Family playing bowling and scoring

Maximum Score in a Clean Game of Bowling

By bowling a clean game, what is the maximum score you can achieve in a single ten-pin bowling game; A question is asked all over the internet by bowling enthusiasts.

We know the maximum score we can get in a game of ten-pin bowling with ten frames is 300. Bowling 12 consecutive strikes, including the fill balls, can achieve this score.

Since bowling all strikes in your game means you will be scoring close frames throughout, you can achieve a maximum of 300 in a clean bowling game.

However, bowling 300 is challenging even for the professionals and masters of the game. Most clean games sometimes come with a combination of spares, strikes, and even open-fill balls after the 10th frame. Therefore, it is something that requires the utmost focus and incredible will.

But if you practice enough, spend your time playing the game, put in the effort, and learn about the different techniques of ten-pin bowling, you can get things going and score as much as 300 in a clean game.

Want to read more about how bowling is scored? Check out this article: How bowling is scored.

Can You Bowl a 200 Game With All Spares?

Another commonly asked question is, can you bowl a 200 game with all spares; Well, technically, a game with all spares will also be a clean game of bowling, but unfortunately, it is not possible in ten-pin bowling to score 200 or more with all spares in your frames.

The simple reason is that the maximum number of pins you can knock in the first shot of a frame to score a spare is 9. So if you score nine and then a spare in the next shot and continue doing this for all your shots in all the frames, you will end up with a total score of 190. But maintaining this pace is also very unusually rare. So your spares will probably be uneven and not the same consistent number every single time.

So, the score might be even lesser than this, but never 200 or more.

On the contrary, to score 200, you must take a different playing approach, with all strikes or a combination of strikes and spares in a clean game.

There are different tricks and techniques of scoring you can use. Let us take an example. You can get a score of 200 in your clean game if you can score 5 spares and 5 strikes in your 10 frames, and then in the fill ball, you score another spare.

This will help you achieve a total score of 200 in your game. You can think of other combinations and find out which you are looking for if you want to score 200 or more in your clean games of ten-pin bowling.


A clean game is among the most popular and essential scoring situations in ten-pin bowling. If you are looking at a score that might get you a clean game, you will find great help from this guide.
If you want to read about all the bowling lingo and terms, check out this article: Bowling Terminology – A Comprehensive List.
I hope you learned much from this article and can use this information in your bowling sessions. Have a great time when you go bowling with your friends and buddies!

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