Scotch Doubles in Bowling

The Scotch Doubles Bowling Format

Mark Roth, Connor Pickford, Anthony Simonsen, Marshall Holman
Mark Roth, Connor Pickford, Anthony Simonsen, Marshall Holman. Photo courtesy of PBA LLC

In team bowling, there are a great number of ways to compete. One of the most entertaining (and pressure-filled, for the bowlers) is scotch doubles.

Under the rules of scotch doubles, teams consist of two players who alternate shots throughout the game. An important distinction: teammates do not alternate frames, as in one bowler responsible for all the odd-numbered frames and the other responsible for the even-numbered frames, but rather they alternate shots.

How It Works

Bowler 1 throws the first shot in the first frame. If he strikes, the first frame is complete and his teammate bowls the second frame. If Bowler 1 doesn't strike, Bowler 2 must get up to shoot the spare. Bowler 1 would then throw the first shot again in the second frame.

It doesn't matter what the pin count from either bowler is throughout the game. It's as simple as the two teammates alternating shots until the game is over.

To bowl a perfect 300 game in scotch doubles, each bowler will throw six of the strikes, alternating each time. Conversely, if Bowler 1 never strikes, then Bowler 2 will spend the entire game throwing at spares.

Not surprisingly, in almost every case, the order switches during the game. While it would be ideal for teammates to simply alternate strikes until they're perfect, it rarely happens. Both bowlers need to be ready to bowl for strikes or shoot at spares in order to succeed in a scotch-doubles match.


Scotch doubles make for interesting strategy discussions. The most obvious thought might be to put the bowler who strikes more often in the first spot, with the better spare shooter in the second spot. For the first frame, that makes a lot of sense, but let's say Bowler 1 strikes, and then Bowler 2 gets up in the second frame and doesn't strike. Bowler 1 is now the spare shooter, and he or she may miss. Then Bowler 2 gets up and doesn't strike again. Bowler 1 misses another spare. This is devolving into a worst-case scenario, but it's worth noting as how difficult it can be to choose a strategy.

In most bowling formats when lineups have to be determined, strategies are usually based on the 10th frame. You can't do that in scotch doubles because you have no way of knowing for certain who will be up first in the 10th. It has nothing to do with strategy at that point and rather the bowlers' performances throughout the previous nine frames.

The 10th frame of a scotch-doubles match can consist of two or three shots. If you could choose who would throw the first shot, it would help, as you'd likely choose the best bowler to throw that first shot as he or she would then also throw the third shot (assuming the team gets a strike or spare). Because there's no way to guarantee who will be up first, the strategy usually comes down to how the particular duo feels most comfortable.