What is Scotch Doubles in Bowling and 5 Tips For Success

Scotch doubles is a unique format of bowling that is most often seen in small, local tournaments. “Doubles” means that each team has two bowlers. “Scotch” means that you and your teammate play on the same scorecard under one name, and alternate shots.

In short, you and your teammate alternate every single throw. Not every frame, every throw. If Bowler A starts the first frame by only hitting down 8 pins, Bowler B must throw at the remaining two pins. If Bowler A gets a strike, it’s now Bowler B’s turn to throw at a full set of pins.

Calculating the score, however, is the same as regular ten-pin bowling. Strike frames not only get ten points for hitting down the pins, they also get a bonus of the number of pins you hit down in the next two throws. Similarly, spare frames get you a bonus of your next throw. For a more in-depth look at how the scoring works in bowling, check out this article.

Regular league or tournament play can become a bit stale, and scotch doubles is a great way to spice things up a bit. It introduces a very interesting dynamic between teammates due to the format. Imagine your teammate leaves a few pins on the deck every frame, and you’re forced to shoot his spares all night? Not ideal. However, that is exactly what makes scotch doubles fun! Strikes now not only count for your score, but they also count for your ego, team morale, and your partner finally gets their shot at a fresh rack.

Leaving a nasty split is almost assuredly going to create at least a bit of tension between teammates. Now get that nasty split three frames in a row and see how your partner feels about his choice of teammate. Doesn’t it sound fun? I don’t mean to sound bleak, but if you do leave a few too many splits, animosity between teammates can grow quickly. It’s thoroughly discussed in the 5 tips for success, but the mental game in Scotch Doubles is especially important.

On the flip side, if you and your partner are “on”, the feeling of back-to-back-to-back strikes is rivaled by few other achievements in bowling. Not only that, but as long as you are striking back to back, you and your teammate get to repeatedly bowl on the same lane as your last throw. It is so much fun watching your partner crush the rack, only for you to step up and do the same.

5 Tips for Success

Scotch Doubles is by far one of my favorite tournament formats, closely rivaled by 9-pin no-tap. With Scotch Doubles, there are actually a few strategies that can increase your chances of winning. Most importantly, choose your teammate wisely! 

1. Try to find a teammate with the opposite dominant hand

We all know that sometimes you’ll throw what looks like a perfect ball and leave a ringing 10, or 7 if you are left handed. Rightys hate shooting the 10 pin, and leftys hate shooting the 7 pin. If you had to choose a corner pin to shoot at, 99/100 bowlers would choose the corner opposite of their dominant hand. If you and your partner have opposite dominant hands, you will more-than-likely be shooting at the pin you prefer.

2. Someone you vibe with.

It’s important that you and your partner have some chemistry when it comes to personality. Tension is quick to arise in Scotch Doubles, so it’s important to consider how either of you will react if few strikes are being thrown. I see it at every tournament. High hopes get quickly crushed by a couple splits, open frames, or just unlucky pin carry. Make sure your partner has a high tolerance for misfortune and can keep the spirits high.

3. Someone with either skill, handicap, or both.

This point is important in any doubles tournament, but it’s important not to overlook. If it’s a handicapped tournament, it can be nice to have a bit of a buffer in the form of handicap. However, in Scotch Doubles, it can be a bit of a risk to choose a partner with high handicap. You might just get stuck shooting their spares the whole time. Or they might have an especially good day and get strikes. It’s a bit of a risk/reward situation. You risk shooting at their spares, but you may get rewarded by a bunch of free points.

4. Someone who is familiar with the bowling center and/or oil pattern.

It’s super important for at least one of you to be familiar with the bowling center and/or the oil pattern.  When it comes to bowling on unfamiliar conditions, I find that finding your “strike line” to the pocket isn’t actually the most difficult part. Hitting spares is much more difficult because you are now encountering parts of the oil pattern that you haven’t encountered yet. As long as at least one of you have a decent grasp on how the lanes will react, you should be ok. If you are unfamiliar with the idea of oil patterns, you can find an overview here.

5. Someone with a strong mental game

This point is quite similar to #2, but that’s because it’s important. Having a strong mental game is important when bowling any format, especially so in scotch doubles. It’s way easier to get mad at someone else’s mistakes than your own. Tempers run high in a format like this, and as we all know, anger and frustration almost never end with high scores. Scoring well while you are emotional is difficult. If you want to do well in this format, you both need a rock-solid mental game.


Sign-up for the next Scotch Doubles tournament in your area! Find a partner you know, like, and trust, and you will not only have a good time, you have a good chance to secure the victory!

4 thoughts on “What is Scotch Doubles in Bowling and 5 Tips For Success”

  1. I just bowled a Scotch Doubles tournament. I’m a lefty, my partner is a righty. My question is how to compute handicap. This time they figured it as if each of us bowled 4 games. I think that’s wrong. I think our average should be our averages combined then divided by 2. We shot 766 scratch and because our combined averages are 298, we ended up getting 562 pins handicap. (90% of 230) Total 1328. So, for 4 games, we averaged 332. Kind of silly. But I can’t find anywhere online how to calculate handicap for this format. I’d like to see it in print to bolster my theory that we should’ve only got half the handicap.

    • I believe you are correct in that it is usually your combined averages divided by 2. The average of your averages. The handicap should either be explained thoroughly by the tournament director. However the way they handled it should result in the same standings although the scores sound a bit funny.

  2. This is not how scotch doubles is bowled. The rules as they have forever been is whoever throws the first ball remains on the first ball. Irregardless of whether they strike or not. These rules you have are incorrect and need to be fixed


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