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 the 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 what a clean game is, 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 the 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 perspective 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 give heed to the perspective of bowlers on this topic. That way, you will be playing great and respecting the game and its rules properly.

A Bowlers 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 has 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 proper clean game. But that is not necessary according to the rulebook. So that brings us to what the actual rules for a clean game in bowling are.

What are the rules of a clean game?

We know what the bowler’s views are on a clean game; it is time that we look at the actual rules for a clean game in bowling. Here are some absolute rules that need to be followed if you want to get a perfect game:

No Open Frames

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

If the player fails to get a close frame in any one 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 that 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 there is either of them 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 be able to get yourself the achievement of bowling a clean game.

10th Frame

Now, the point of contention between bowlers around the world 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 there are a single or two bonus shots left after you have scored 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 at all, and you will still be all good.

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 that the maximum score we can get in a single game of ten-pin bowling with ten frames is 300. This score can be achieved by bowling 12 consecutive strikes, including the fill balls.

Since bowling all strikes in your game means that you will be scoring close frames throughout, you will be able to score a maximum of 300 in a clean game of bowling.

However, bowling 300 is challenging even for the professionals and masters of the game. Most clean games come with a combination of both spares and strikes and even open fill balls after the 10th frame sometimes. Therefore, it is something that requires 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, then you can get things going and be able to score as much as 300 in a clean game.

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, if you want to score a 200, you will have to 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 precisely 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 end up with 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 one of the most popular and essential scoring situations in ten-pin bowling. If you are looking at a score that might end up getting you a clean game, you will find a great deal of help from this guide. I hope you learned a lot 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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