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Special Olympics Bowling Information and Rules

Published: 2010-07-13 - Updated: 2018-11-29
Author: Disabled World | Contact:

Synopsis: Bowling is a Special Olympics sport that is growing in popularity due to its leisurely nature and its competitive spirit.

Main Digest

While there are some modifications made for athletes with forms of physical disabilities, the majority of athletes involved compete using the same rules as athletes on professional tours. Special Olympics Bowling is offered in greater than twenty nations and every U.S. Program. Bowling teams are grouped in divisions by the athlete's age, gender, and ability. They may choose among a number of different events, to include singles events for both women and men, doubles, and mixed-doubles. Athletes with physical disabilities may participate in either assisted or unassisted ramp bowling.


The game of tenpin consists of ten frames; players deliver two balls in each of the first nine frames, unless a strike is scored. In the tenth frame, a player delivers three balls if a strike or a spare is scored. Each of the frames must be completed by players bowling in regular order. The game can be played on two adjoining lanes. Members of competing teams, single and doubles entrants, successively and in regular order, bowl one frame on one lane. For the next frame they alternate, using the other lane, until five frames are bowled on each lane.

The Rules of Special Olympics Bowling

A, 'foul,' is something that happens when a part of the player's person goes beyond the foul line and touches any part of the lane, building, or equipment either during or after a delivery. Should a player deliberately foul to benefit by the calling of a foul, the player is credited with zero pin fall for the delivery and is not allowed further deliveries during the frame. When a foul is recorded the delivery counts, but the player is not given any credit for pins they have knocked down by that particular delivery in the frame. A foul is also declared and recorded if the automatic foul detecting device, or the foul judge, fails to call a foul that is apparent to the official score keepers, both of the captains, or one or more of the opposing players. The foul judge is appointed by the tournament director.

A, 'dead ball,' is declared if any one of the following things happens:

If a player or players bowl in the wrong lane, a dead ball is called and the player or players are required to re-bowl on the correct lane. If more than one player on the same team bowls on the wrong lane in turn, the game is completed without any adjustment. Succeeding games must be started on the correctly scheduled lane.

An illegal pin-fall is something that happens when the delivery of the bowling ball counts, but the resulting fall of pins does not. For example:

Scoring and Terms

Every game bowled in a tournament is recorded, either manually, or through an automatic scoring device. The score sheets indicate the pin fall on each ball, so if necessary a frame-by-frame audit can be made. With the exception of when a strike is scored, the number of pins that are knocked down by the player's first delivery are marked in the small square in the upper-left hand corner of that frame, with the number of pins knocked down by their second delivery marked in the upper-right. If the player does not knock down any pins by their second delivery, the score sheet is marked with a, '-'.

A strike occurs when a full ten pins are knocked down on the first delivery of the frame, and are marked with an, 'X', in the small square in the upper-left hand corner of the frame where the strike was made. The count for one strike is ten, plus the number of pins knocked down on the player's next two deliveries. Two consecutive strikes constitutes a double. The count for the first strike is twenty, plus the number of pins knocked down with the player's first delivery, followed by the second strike.

A triple is also referred to as a, 'Turkey.' When a player bowls three successive strikes, the count for the first strike is thirty. In order to bowl the maximum score of three-hundred, a player needs to bowl twelve strikes in a row.

Spares are scored when there are pins left standing after the player's first delivery which are then knocked down on their second delivery in the frame. A spare is marked by a, '/', in the small square in the upper-left hand corner of the frame. The count for a spare is ten, plus the number of pins the player knocked down on their next delivery.

Open frames happen when a player does not bowl down all ten pins after two deliveries of the ball in a frame, unless the pins remain standing after their first delivery constitute a split. A split; commonly marked with a 0 around the number of pins, is a setup of pins left standing after the player's first delivery - provided the head pin is down and...

If there are errors made in calculations related to scoring, they must be corrected by a responsible tournament official immediately upon their discovery. Any questionable errors are decided upon by the designated official. There is a time limit for filing protests in relation to scoring errors - one hour from the end of the event or block of games on the day of the tournament. Protests must be made before the presentation of prizes, or the commencement of the next round, whichever is sooner.

Bowling Ramps

Bowling ramps are used when an athlete does not have the physical ability to roll the bowling ball with their hand or hands. The ramps are comprised of a two-piece metal unit, with one stand and one sloped piece. The stand is between twenty-four and twenty-eight inches in height, and twenty-four or twenty-five inches wide. Bowling ramps and other forms of assistive devices can be used by players with the approval of the Competition Committee. Athletes who use bowling ramps or other assistive devices can only be placed in separate divisions for singles competition; all other tournament rules apply to athletes in the ramp divisions.

Special Olympics Bowling athletes must wear appropriate bowling shoes for the safety of the athlete. The shoes are made with special soles, so the bowler can slide right before they release the ball. The shoes may also be provided by a bowling center.

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Cite This Page (APA): Disabled World. (2010, July 13). Special Olympics Bowling Information and Rules. Disabled World. Retrieved September 26, 2021 from