What Does F Mean in Bowling?

There are quite a variety of letters and symbols in bowling that can appear quite often to signify different things.

Terms such as buzzard, curtain and deuce can refer to entirely different things, however their meanings can be picked up on and learnt very easily.

What Does F Mean in Bowling

Single letters are a bit harder to decipher when they pop up on a scoresheet and can be very confusing if you’re not entirely sure what you did during the game and if it means something good or bad.

An ‘F’ is quite a common symbol that actually appears in most bowling matches, however it does signify something very important and is important to know about so you can make the necessary changes to your game in the future and avoid it appearing on the scoresheet.

What Does An F Stand For?

If you see an F on the scoresheet or electronic scoreboard, it means that a player has conducted a foul during their turn. If you commit a foul you won’t get any score for that delivery.

Therefore while your delivery will still count for that frame, even if you were to hit a strike, the number of pins knocked down will be void and won’t contribute to your final score.

In a single frame, if you foul on your first throw then you will get another chance to score some points on your second throw. If however you foul on both or if you foul on your second ball, then your turn will automatically be over.

What Is A Foul In Bowling?

There are a few ways a player can commit a foul, the most common offense being if a player crosses the foul line.

This is the line that separates the lane itself from the approach, and is there to let a player know that they need to release a ball behind the line in order for it to be eligible to score points.

If a player crosses or even makes contact with the foul line during a turn, then this can count as a foul and will be listed as ‘F’ on the scoresheet.

If a player crosses the foul line, while their turn will still count the number of pins they knocked over will not and they will not be awarded any points.

In some games of bowling a shot clock may also be used to make sure all bowlers throw their balls in a timely manner so they don’t take too long, this is often in larger bowling centers or more competitive games.

Shot clocks are usually set to 30 seconds and if a player fails to physically release their ball by the time the shot clock sounds off, then their turn will be deemed void and they will receive an ‘F’ on the scoresheet.

There are also a few other reasons considered illegal that can remove a players points and be classed as a foul.

For example if the ball somehow manages to hit another player and was thrown purposefully by the bowler, then this would be deemed a foul.

Similarly if a ball leaves the lane before hitting the pins, or if the pins fall for a reason other than the ball, this would be a foul.

Legal Delivery

What Does F Mean in Bowling?

It is also important to note that a foul can only be called if a player has made a legal delivery.

This means a bowler must cross the foul line and also release the ball in order for the foul to count, if they were to not release the ball then no foul would be called.

The reason this is in play is so that if a player has noticed they may have taken a step a little too big and have crossed the foul line, they can keep hold of the ball and try again without incurring any penalties.

In some cases, if you are in a more competitive setting or if the foul is just too hard to call, the team captains may be called over to make a decision, or if it is incredibly unclear then the bowler may be asked to throw a provisional ball which is then submitted to the league for evaluation, though this normally only happens in tournaments.

What About A Foul In The Tenth Frame?

Because the tenth frame allows players to throw three times, fouling can work a little differently but it still follows the same principles.

If a player scores a foul on their first throw but then knocks down all pins on their second, this will count as a spare and they will get a third turn to throw.

If a foul is committed on the third and final throw, then only the score of the first two throws will be considered.

If you knock down a few pins on your first ball but then score a foul on your second, then you will have no more throws.

Ways To Avoid A Foul

Some key pointers to avoid scoring a foul include keeping a good distance from the foul line when you prepare a shot, preferably 3 – 4 inches.

Also, try not to make your strides too big if you are trying to get some power on the ball as it can make it far easier to step over the foul line, most of the time without even noticing.

Also, while it can be a good idea to get as close to the foul line as possible to pick up some speed on a ball, try practicing your strides so you land just before the line itself but still have a good rhythm to throw a ball at a fast pace.


An ‘F’ is a symbol that every bowler should always try to avoid getting on their scoresheet during a game since while it will not make or break a game and won’t disqualify you completely, it can cost you a lot of points if you do step over that foul line.

Drew Kaufner