A perfect game is the highest score possible in a game of bowling, achieved by scoring a strike in every frame. In bowling games that use 10 pins, such as ten-pin bowling, candlepin bowling, and duckpin bowling, the highest possible score is 300, achieved by bowling 12 strikes in a row in a traditional single game: one strike in each of the first nine frames, and three more in the tenth frame. Because a strike counts as ten pins plus any pinfall in the next two balls, 30 points are possible in a given frame.
In five-pin bowling, the highest possible score is 450, as a strike is worth 15 pins. It is rare to bowl or witness one. The Canadian Five Pin Bowlers Association approves from 10 to 40 perfect games per year.
The examples and perspective in this section deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (June 2013) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Before a 300 game is recognized by the certifying body of the league or tournament, a series of tests are conducted by the local or regional bowling association. First, the bowler and league (or tournament) must be in good standing with the organization. In earlier years, the bowling ball(s) used in the scoring was taken for testing (hardness, weighting, and other aspects that would otherwise break the organization's regulations). Also, the lanes used in the scoring were shut down after the last game of the day was completed. The official then used a tape reader to test the oil condition, to make sure it met the organization's regulations. The data was then sent to the certifying body, and the score received a certification decision a few days to a few weeks later.
There are cases where the tests do not meet regulation, and therefore the score is not recognized by the organization. However, the score still counts towards the league or tournament statistics. Modern recognition is much easier; lanes are no longer shut down, balls are no longer taken and inspected. The lanes are inspected once a year, and the ball's make and serial number (USBC only requires that the ball have an engraved serial number, they do not need the actual number) are taken by a league/tournament official and reported to the certifying organization.
In league or tournament play, a certified 300 game is usually commemorated with a ring. Subsequent league 300s are denoted by setting "chips" or precious stones into the ring, so that skilled bowlers do not have to wear several rings. The United States Bowling Congress (USBC) offers a "multiple" 300 ring for an additional fee that features the number of approved 300 games for that bowler surrounded by stones. The ring can be returned to have the number changed as the bowler rolls additional perfect games.
In casual or "open" play, a 300 game is not recognized officially by any certifying, professional, or other organization, but may be honored by other means within the bowling center, such as a plaque, trophy, "wall of fame" photo, or other prize.
A handful of 300 games have been broadcast on live TV. Grazio Castellano of Brooklyn, New York was the first to roll a 300 game on live television. This occurred on October 4, 1953, during an Eastern All-Star league session at Newark, New Jersey. (Castellano is a member of the United States Bowling Congress Hall of Fame.) A more recent example came in October 2006, when England's Paul Moor became the first man to register a score of 300 in the Weber Cup (the first 300 on live British television), the annual Europe versus America team challenge event. Australian Jason Belmonte became the first bowler to ever roll a 300 game in the televised finals of the World Tenpin Masters, defeating Moor in the 2007 event. Tommy Jones had shot a perfect game in each Weber Cup from 2007 to 2009. Shota Kawazoe has rolled back-to-back 300 games on live Japanese television.
A bowler that bowls a perfect game on a televised PBA Tour event receives a $10,000 bonus, although occasionally there is a $1 million bonus for a bowler that bowls a 300 game in the finals of a televised PBA event. Through January 2020, there have been 27 televised 300 games in title events on the PBA Tour, and two more on the Senior PBA Tour. The first 300 game in a televised PBA event was rolled by Jack Biondolillo in the opening match of the 1967 Firestone Tournament of Champions finals (broadcast by ABC). This was also the first nationally televised broadcast of a perfect game. The most recent perfect game in a U.S. telecast of a PBA Tour event was accomplished by American Tommy Jones in the championship match of the 2020 PBA Hall of Fame Classic live finals (January 19, 2020 on Fox Sports 1), a day after he was inducted into the PBA Hall of Fame. Sean Rash rolled the PBA's 23rd and 25th 300 games, and is to date the only player with multiple televised perfect games in PBA Tour stops.Mika Koivuniemi narrowly missed joining this exclusive club. Having rolled the PBA's 16th televised perfect game in 2004, Mika shot a 299 game in the semifinals of the 2011 PBA Tournament of Champions.
Two other players have shot multiple 300 games on U.S. television, though one or both games were not rolled in an official PBA title event. In 2009, Wes Malott rolled two 300 games in an ESPN broadcast of the King of Bowling series. Though this event featured PBA players, it was not an official PBA Tour event.Ryan Shafer, who earlier in his career rolled the PBA's 18th televised 300 in a PBA Tour event, threw his second televised 300 game in a singles match at the Geico PBA Team Shootout, a made-for-TV event broadcast on ESPN, July 2, 2011. PBA Hall of Famer Chris Barnes, who rolled the PBA's 22nd televised 300 game, has also rolled live perfect games on European televison (2014 QubicaAMF World Cup) and Japanese television (2015 PBA-DHC Japan Invitational).
Female bowlers have also achieved perfection in front of a television audience. Ritsuko Nakayama of the Japan Professional Bowling Association became the first female to score a perfect game in front of a national television audience, doing so in Japan on August 21, 1970.Michelle Feldman of the Professional Women's Bowling Association (PWBA) became the first female to score a 300 on American national television, when she accomplished the feat in a 1997 Prime Sports broadcast. Cara Honeychurch, Liz Johnson and Dasha Kovalova have also bowled 300 games in PWBA events on American TV. Urara Himeji, Wendy Macpherson and Takiko Naganawa have rolled 300 games on Japanese national television - all during JPBA events.
Andy Varipapa, a standout bowler from the 1930s and 1940s, joked about a 300 game being twelve strikes in a row spanning two games. Hence, such a result is named after the veteran bowler.
A 900 series, a three-game set with scores adding up to 900, is a more difficult feat to achieve than bowling a single perfect game because it requires more consistency and careful attention to the subtle changes in the lane conditions from game to game. The first six 900 series reported, starting with PBA Hall of Famer Glenn Allison's in 1982, were all rejected by the USBC for various reasons – mostly due to improper lane conditions. Finally, in 1997, an officially certified 900 series was bowled by collegiate bowler Jeremey Sonnenfeld, rolled at Sun Valley Lanes in Lincoln, Nebraska. It was the first 900 series approved by the USBC. Twelve perfect series were bowled in the ten-year period 1997-2008, and six were bowled in the two years 2009-2010. As of January 16, 2019, the USBC lists a total of 35 officially certified 900 series by 34 different bowlers.
The concept of a perfect bowling game has been regularly used in fiction for either suspenseful or comedic effect.