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What is a Split in Bowling and their Lists?

Knowing the bowling lingo is challenging, but it is also super fun. One of the most commonly used terms is “split ball”. So what is a split ball in bowling? This article here will tell you what split ball is, what are the reasons behind this kind of situation, split ball types, and so on. If you already know a little about splits in bowing, you too will learn some important and interesting facts and terms. So without any further ado, let’s get to the point, shall we?

Bowling Splits Names

A split ball, also known as the split is a situation in bowling in which the first ball is thrown in a frame but two or more non-adjacent groups of bowling pins remain standing on the opposite side of the lane. Generally, the bowling splits are hard to get with spare shots. This is why, when a bowler can successfully knock down the leftover pins of the splits, we like to call it a “killer shot”.

I think you can clearly guess why bowlers dislike splits so much. However, I really do enjoy the names the bowling splits have. Some of the colorfully named splits are— Greek Church, Big Four, Bed Post, Baby Splits, Cincinnati, Christmas Tree, Washouts, and so many other common and uncommon ones.

Bowling Split Conversions

Split Conversions in bowling are one of the most difficult parts. Even the pro-level, world-champion bowlers struggle with conversing splits in bowling. Bowling split conversion is about 95% smartly calculated strategies and 5% luck. However, in some cases, luck can be a lot more. You can not tell how much distance the pins have in between and whether one pin will be able to hit the other pin while being knocked down. You cannot calculate the possible outcome geometrically. Hence comes the estimation. So being right is hard. So how do you enhance the possibility of getting the splits?

The best way to get splits while bowling is to aim for one of the pin’s outer edges. But should you throw your ball straight? No, actually. What you should do is hook your ball (more or less based on the splits type) and let one pin move and hit the other pin and secure your spare.

So what do you do when there are 3 non-adjacent pins left in the lane? The best possible way to get this split is to aim the middle pin and let it get the two other pins so that you can converse this split. Hooking your ball a little toward the direction of the middle pin is gonna be helpful in the process.

Having three pins on one side and a single pin on the other side of the lane is rare. Yet, if you ever face anything similar, be ready to aim at the corner of the lane where the three pins are standing and throw your bowling ball in a straight line. Based on your bowling ball’s speed, you can actually hit all four pins if one of them slides a little and hits the pin on the opposite side during this process.

Lists of Splits in Bowling

Here goes a short list of some of the known bowling splits.

Baby Split

“Baby Splits” aka Murphy Splits are the ones where the pins are separated by only one pin. For example— the 2-7 split (because pin 4 isn’t there), 1-4 split (pin 2 isn’t there), 1-6 split (pin 3 is missing), and 3-10 split (pin 6 is missing). These splits are pretty common. Some of the rare “Baby splits” are the 2-9 split, and the 3-7 or 3-8 split. Getting baby splits is quite easy as the pins are close to each other and in the same direction.

Side-by-Side Splits

You can guess what kind of split this one is. Here, the remaining pins stand next to one another. Hence the name “Side-by-Side” splits. Some of the common side-by-side splits include the 2-3 split, 4-5 split, 5-6 split, 7-8 split, 8-9 split, and the 9-10 split. And yes, to secure a spare, you have to knock them down at the same time.

Bed Posts

The Bed Posts split has so many other names. The “Goal Posts”, “Fence Posts”, “Mule Ears”, “Snake Eyes”, etc.— all indicate the 7-10 split. This is by far the most difficult shot in bowling because the pins have the longest distance between them. Because the back row has 4 pins and there are 2 pins between the corners 7 and 10 pins, they are harder to knock down. So how come this split occurs? Interestingly, when the ball goes into 1 and 3 pins (for the right-handed bowlers) and when the ball goes through the 1 and 2 pins (for a left-handed bowler). The shot is so difficult that by far only four PBA professional bowlers have converted that on live television.

Big Four

The Big Four split is also known as the “Big ears split”, “Golden Gate split”, or “Grandma’s teeth split”. In this certain split, there will be 4 pins (two pins on each side of the pin deck). Usually, it is the 4, 6, 7, and 10 pins that are left. But can you get that split? It is actually very much possible to get this split by bouncing a pin out of the ball pit. If you ever hear the term “Double pinochle” from an older bowler, they simply mean the big four split.

Big Five

Like Big Four, there is also the “Big Five” where the 3-4-6-7-10 or 2-4-6-7-10 split takes place. This is actually a simple split to convert because you only need to hit one pin to get the rest. The left-handed bowlers usually aim for the 2-pin and the right-handed bowlers aim for the 3-pin to drive it into the other pins.

Big Six

Next, we have the Big Six Split. This is quite similar to the Big five. However, most bowlers find it a little harder because there is one more pin in the last row. As a result, a split with two pins on one side and four pins on the other is created. To successfully get this unique split, you should make a drastic curve on the back end of the lane. What this will do is, your ball will get the four pins first, and then the front pin will take the remaining two pins out.


In this ball split, there are 4 pins. These 4 pins align and create a diamond-like shape. For right-handed bowlers, the pins that are left on the lane are 2, 4, 5, and 8. for lefties, the remaining pins are 3, 5, 6, and 9.

Sour Apple

This particular split is also known as the Lily Split or Full Murray. When a bowler knocks down all the pins except the 5, 7, and 10 pins, the sour apply split is created. In some places, people mockingly call this split the “Three Wise Men”. In bowling, it is considered the most embarrassing split of all. Why so? Well, not only the split is super rare and almost impossible to make, but also it is done because of throwing a “flat ball” which is a kind of ball throw where the ball had no revolutions or action on it.

Cocked Hat

Also known as the Christmas Tree Split. So how the pins will look like? Well, it’s a kind of Baby split, but it happens with the opposite corner pin. To get this kind of split, bowlers should ignore that “opposite” pin. So what should they do instead? Just roll your ball in between the remaining front pins. With a little bit of luck, one of the pins at the front will possibly slide over to get the opposite pin. The cocked hat splits should look like— 2-7-10 or 3-7-10.

Fast Eight

On this certain split, bowlers knock down 8 pins on the first throw, leaving 4 and 7 or 6 and 10 pins on the lane for the next ball throw.

Double Wood

The Double Wood splits are also known as the Double Sleeper split. For this split, two remaining pins stand directly behind one another. Examples of this split are— 2 and 8, 3 and 9, 1 and 5.

Tap Split

Although it is technically not a split, but some bowlers like to call it the tap split when only one singular pin remains standing at the end of the lane. To simplify, you have one more pin to hit to secure a spare shot. The good old straight shot is what you need to use to get this split.

Flat Split

Now, this is a very specific type of split. A flat Split occurs when a bowler rolls their ball with very low spin or velocity. Due to that, the bowling ball hits the initial formation with a very low impact on the pin set. This leaves splits like 5 and 7 or 8 and 10 pins.

The 3-10 Split

The 3-10 split is one of the most common splits. Almost every bowler has witnessed this at least once. Pin no 3 and 10 are left on the pin deck. Because of the way the bowling ball rotates, you are more likely to see this split if you’re a right-hander. 

The 2-7 Split

This is the opposite of the 3-10 split. When you knock down all the bowling pins except for the 2 and 7 pins, the 2-7 split occurs. If you’re a left-handed bowler, you are more likely to see this split.

The 1-7 Split

The 1-7 split is an interesting and hard one. To get this split, you need to move to the right, a bit outside, and throw your ball in a way that it hits the headpin. The headpin will then slide and get the 7 pin to secure your spare shot. The left-handed bowlers are gonna have some hard time getting this split.

The 6-7 Split

Another difficult one. However, it is not the hardest of all. To get this split, the bowler will again have to use one moving pin to get the other one. Position yourself a bit on the right side of pin number 6. Now, just put some trust in yourself and leave the rest up to your luck and roll your ball. If the angle is right, you will be good.

3–7 split (or 2–10)

This is pretty close to the 5–7 split. The difference is that the 3-pin is two rows ahead of the 7-pin. To get this particular split, your bowling ball have to hit the right side of the 3-pin at a specific angle. Well, try to keep the angle as slight as possible. Another similar split to the 3-7 is the 2-10 split for which you have to use the same strategy.

4–7–10 and 6–7–10

These splits are similar to the 7–10 split. But wait! They are not as difficult as the 7-10 split. What I like about this split is that they are less terrifying as they are a lot easier to pick up because of that extra pin (4 and 6). To get this split, set your target on the side with the two pins. This will make sure that you have the chance to pick up the pin. Do know that these splits are identical to the 6–7 and 4-10 splits.


The examples of Cincinnati splits are 7-9 and 8-10. Both splits happen on the back row of the pin deck. Cincinnati is also a difficult split to convert. However, it is not impossible. If you manage to slide the 9 or 8-pin into the 7 or 10-pin respectively, you will be able to get this split. If your angle is right, you are most likely to get the pin. Most pro bowlers don’t mind this split if they encounter it as there is only a 1mm margin of error.


Also known as the Kresge or Dime Store Split. Some examples of the Woolworth split are 5-7 and 5-10. This is quite similar to the 6-7 split. The difference is that the pins are closer to one another. The 5-pin is your target pin and doesn’t need a precise hit at a certain angle to get the 7-pin. Optionally, you can just use a super light ball (probably under 10 lbs) and aim for the 5-pin.

Greek Church Split

This split is talked about a lot by bowlers. When the Greek church split happens, pins 4, 6, 7, 9, and 10 are left standing. So logically, your tactic has to be a little different. First, you should aim for pin 6 to knock it down. If it’s your lucky day, pin 6 will get the 9 and 10 pins, and one of those pins will slide and hit the 4 and 7 pins. Many pro bowlers believe that this split is quite easy to convert.

Picket Fence Split

Because the bowling pins create a fence-like split, this split is called the “Picket Fence”. The remaining pins 1-2-4-7 form a fence on the left side. Similarly, the 1-3-6-10 pins form a hence on the right side the same way.

The Impossible Split

Pins that remain in a horizontal line are generally called impossible splits. For example, the 7-9 split. What makes this split impossible is that there is no specific strategy to get the leftover pins. All you need is a lucky bounce. So good luck with that.


Although washouts are technically not a split, it is often included as one. The washouts involve the headpin as the left-out pin at the pin deck. Basically, any bowling pin splits that involve the head pin is called washouts. Examples are— the 1–2–4–10, 1–2–8–10, 1–3–6–7, and 1–2–10 splits. Washouts are often considered one of the easiest splits. By hitting the headpin you increase your margin of error. If you’re a left-handed bowler you are more likely to leave washouts like the 1–3–6–7 and 1–3–7–9 ones. On the other hand, a right-handed bowler would leave the 1–2–4–10 and 1–2–8–10 splits. Recently, we are seeing some modern variants, such as the 1-2-4-6-10 and 1-3-4-6-7 splits.

What is The Hardest Split in Bowling?

One of the most difficult and infamous splits in bowling is the  7-10 split (aka the Bed Posts). This is by far the most complicated shot in bowling. I think every bowler hates when they get this split. But is it entirely impossible to get? Not really. Unless you create the most amount of the angle and eliminate the outer part of the lane as much as possible to make your ball roll straight. You gotta keep your ball in the middle of the lane as long as possible if you want to get the stubborn corner pins. So before you get morally paralyzed seeping the 7-10 split, try this method.

If you leave pins 4, 6, 7, 9, and 10 after your first throw in a frame, you make another brutal split which we like to call the “Greek Church”. This is another hard split that I just hate from the bottom of my heart. Ugh, even writing about this is angering me.


No bowler likes splits. It is not humanly possible to get all the splits. They are terrifying because they make spare shots harder and when you fail to pick them up, your score goes downhill. However, with the right level of practice, you can become a bowling genius, if not a prodigy. When you start to understand the pins’ angular movement and what you need to do with your ball to get the splits, you will naturally become undefeatable. Your possibilities of strike shots will also increase because of understanding the angles better. So instead of feeling discouraged, try to intentionally create some splits to practice your special shots. This will help you big time. Good luck fellas!