Bowling Etiquette: 14 Do’s And Don’ts On The Lane

I love to bowl. It’s fun for me to go alone or to have family and friends come as well. Many times when I’m at the bowling alley I notice a lack of bowling etiquette from bowlers who don’t frequent the lanes as often and it’s pretty annoying.

What is bowling etiquette? It’s having respect for others and the bowling alley itself. Bowling etiquette is simple to learn and master. Respect is the simplest form of Bowling etiquette.

There is a certain type of etiquette that should be followed when bowling, and it’s there to make the game more enjoyable.

Here are a few bowling tips that need to be observed all times:

1. The bowler should always be ready to bowl. Be prepared to take your turn – no unnecessary delays – the player will need to throw the ball down the lane and hit the pins just as soon as he or she is comfortable. You don’t want to rush and make a mistake and you dont want take forever to get yourself set up. You need to use your best judgment when it’s your turn.

If you need to wipe your ball down or use the restroom or anything like that, dont wait until it’s almost your turn. Dont spend time looking through your bowling ball bag for your cleaning supplies. Be ready when it’s your turn.

I have 2 teenage nephews whom I often take bowling with me. They love being able to take out a bit of agression trying to get strikes. But more often than not I have to take their cellphones and put them in my purse(they wont even look in there, lol) so they wont get distracted. Since we play youngest to oldest, I always go last as a courtesy to them, I always have to nudge them to get off their phones because it’s their turn.

When we get a bowling special for 2 hours and they take their precious time getting off their phones up to the approach, needless to say I’m not very happy with this. But it’s not just teenagers who do this, its adults I bring with me also. It’s very frustrating to seem like your the only person involved in the game. So its obvious I prefer to bowl alone because of this.

2. It is important to show respect to other bowlers whether they are your teammates, opponents, or even those who are playing in the lanes on either side of you. You should demonstrate sportsmanship at all times and you need to be considerate of the other players.

This should be obvious but some people just dont have common decency. As the old saying goes “treat others as you would want to be treated”. Which in a nutshell just means ti be nice to everyone around you. Theres no need or reason to laugh or mock someone who may not be as good as you, or has a “unique” way of throwing their ball. Or even for the type of ball they have.

Example: I’m a Philadelphia Eagles fan…but I realize not everyone is…and that’s fine with me…I wouldnt mock a Dallas Cowboys fan if they came in with a personalized Dallas Cowboys bowling ball. I’m bigger than that. It doesnt make me feel good to make others feel bad.

Another example: when I bring my nephews with me who range in ages 9 to 14 I have to constantly tell them to not make fun of one another when bowling. I understand brothers rag on each other and they’re not doing anything to TRY to hurt each other, but I find the behavior annoying and hurtful. We all make mistakes while bowling, nine of us are SUPERSTARS and I dont want any of them to feel bad when they make a mistake.

They have gotten better over the years that I’ve been taking them and sometimes they even cheer for each other and try to help.

3. The bowlers should learn to observe the rules and guidelines set of the game and the bowling alley. Rules are there to keep bowlers safe and create healthy relationships with other bowlers. It is important that these rules be observed at all times. So if you’re unsure of exactly what the rules are at your bowling alley, ask an employee.

Sometimes the rules arent always smack dab right in front of you and you dont know what they are. Dont be embarrassed to ask to see them. It’s good to take a look at them to make sure you dont break any. And you’d be surprised at just how many people break rules because they dont know them and they’re not obvious.

One rule casual bowlers break ALL THE TIME is putting the house balls back on the racks when they’re done their game. I’m sure you’ve gone to your bowling alley to either practice for an upcoming tournament and seen lane racks full of house balls from the casual bowlers who’ve just left. I know I know, its annoying and you think to yourself “how could they just leave these bowling balls here?”. I said the same thing myself.

I’ll often take the time before my game and put them back where they belong as the staff thank me and take over the tedious task themselves. So if anything, if you dont personally own and bring your own ball, or you’re with others who use house balls. Please remember to put them back when you’re done using them.

4. One guideline that should be observed is choosing and using the same ball throughout the game. This is one way of showing respect to other bowlers. It is not appropriate to pick a ball that is already being used by another bowler. It is also rude and inconsiderate to do so, especially if it’s a personal bowling ball and not a house ball. Many bowlers spend their hard-earned money on bowling balls that are quite expensive and they have every right to not want to share them with others.

I used my mothers old bowling ball for quite some time, it was just a spare ball, nothing reactive or anything, when I go bowling. One time while at a family center with a bowling alley, my party shared a rack with a group of people on a double date. These guys and gals were definitely in their early twenties based on their behavior.

They were loud, obnoxious and annoying to say the least. Totally disrespectful and they definitely dont bowl often. After one of my throws I stood on the approach waiting for my ball to return. I turned around for a split second to take a drink and upon turning around one of the young ladies had picked up my ball and threw it down her lane.

I just stood there for a second because I knew she didnt realize what she did was wrong. She turned around and saw me staring right at her and her entire party got quiet(for the first and only time that night). I told her she just threw MY ball, to pay attention the next time she comes up to bowl and grab the ball she choose, and to not touch my ball again.

She seemed a bit startled but soon apologized and returned to her group who soon returned back to their obnoxious chatter. Now I was more annoyed than anything, my mothers ball is old and I just worry about it cracking or getting a nic, ya know? I’m sure if I had a more expensive bowling ball at the time I would have been down right angry and probably yelled.

teen bowler
My nephew

5. Bowlers should allow a healthy competition among players by learning to compete with other players in a friendly way. They should cooperate with teammates by not wasting time during the game and participating eagerly. Bowlers shouldn’t be waiting on you to send a text or finish an email when it’s your turn. Your cellphone should be in your bowling bag(if you have one) or in your pocket.

Nothing ruins the momentum of a game more than waiting on someone or having to deal with someone being rude or obnoxious. It is true though that not everyone is able to play a game with others without everyone around them regretting asking them to come along. When you’re not a good team player, you can find yourself ostracized and probably even losing some friends.

Bowling is about having fun with your family and friends. Knowing when and how to celebrate a win or how and when to congratulate someone when you lose is an important skill to learn.

6. Cleanliness and neatness are extremely important. Know where to throw the used drinking bottles or other food waste as they accumulate. It is not proper to scatter all the leftovers on the lanes – use the trash receptacle. I cant tell you how many times I’ve come to bowl and the party near to mine will leave their kane when they’re finished with their game, but leave their garbage all over the place.

Towels should always be placed in/on their bags if not in use as a courtesy gesture to other players. Please dont drape your oily towels on the digital scoreboard tables, chairs or tables. That’s so disgusting and inconsiderate to everyone around you.

Street shoes should be placed under chairs and out of walkways to prevent injury to others. This should be obvious, and it generally is with adults but even I have to say when I take my nephews bowling with me I have to constantly remind them to put their shoes UNDER the chairs so we dont trip over them.

7. The bowler on the right always goes first. This etiquette tip is generally debated by bowlers, but it’s what I observe. Others will say whoever is at the approach first goes first. So whatever you decide in your party will work fine.

There’s no set rule that this is true, but I would say its polite, like in driving. If you’re in a league or competing in a tournament check the rules for this, since they maye have one of their own. You basically dont want to go up to the approach and set yourself up while someone else is also doing the same. Its distracting and annoying. The other bowler, if they’re not in your party, probably wont bowl anyway, or they may just become annoyed with you.

If I can avoid it, I ask for a lane that isnt close to anyone to avoid this. I just perfer not to bowl near most casual bowlers, even tho technically I’m a casual bowler myself. I tend to be a stickler for rules, so unless they’re quiet people I don’t want to be near them.

Not long ago my fiance took me bowling for my birthday and we were placed on a lane near a child’s birthday party. And I mean, right near them. We asked to move and we were moved about 6 lanes away. Not really far but they had league bowlers coming in soon for practice and they couldnt have the lane oil messed up. We completely understood.

We paid for 5 games and on our last game a couple and their children came in. We were immediately glad we only had 1 game left because before their game even started they showed that they didnt know how to conduct themselves in public, at least to our standards. The children walked right through our lane for starters. They were screaming what they wanted their names to come up as on the screen and as soon as they started to bowl…smh.

My fiance and I finished our last game as quickly as we could and left.

8. Bowlers should stay off the approach while they wait for their turn. It’s distracting when you’re trying to bowl and someone is on the approach next to you just standing there. It’s proper etiquette to wait in the seating area while the other person takes their turn and comes off the approach.

I’ll admit that I sometimes am on the approach when I’m technically not supposed to be. But I feel like it’s ok since I’m usually up there with a child and they’re asking for help. When I’m up there though I like being the only person there. I’ve dropped my ball a few times and would feel like garbage if my father or fiance were up on the approach with me and I dropped my ball on their foot either seriously hurting or breaking it.

I probably wouldnt be allowed back to the alley. Really unsure about that though since I’ve never seen it happen. I’m sure it has though. It’s just what goes through my mind when I see people on the approach when others are setting up to throw. Especially if they’re not a coach or parent. Just jokesters trying to “look cool” but they really just look dumb.

9. You should NEVER cross into another bowlers approach. I’ve never had another adult do this, but unsupervised children do this A LOT. Not only is it annoying but it’s dangerous. The approach is where bowlers take balls from 6lbs to 16lbs and throw them very hard and fast. A child playing and crossing into their approach could be seriously hurt and so could the bowler as well as those around.

On a lighter note, this is a distraction. Like being noisy or just being on the adjoining approach. If you cause another bowler to mess up their throw by crossing into their approach not only will they be angry with you. You probably wont be invited out to bowl with them again.

10. After your turn bowlers should leave their approach. After you’ve thrown your bowling ball, knocked down your pins and whatever is leftover is being swept away, leave the approach. Its the next bowlers turn to throw.

If you’ve thrown a strike and want to celebrate, that’s fine, but you can do that in the seating area. And remember to keep the celebration down. You’re not the only person in the alley. I know sometimes you might just want to stay up there and watch the next bowler, but common decency is to go back to your seat.

Bowlers in the next lane might not realize you just bowled and might wait for you to go, delaying their game. On a side note, if you have food waiting for you at your table, you’ll want to get back to it. You don’t want your food to get cold,

11. Be a good winner or loser. Yes, it’s fun when we win and it sucks when we lose, but both should be done with grace. When you win someone has to lose. That’s how games work. So it’s not appropriate to boast about your win and/or their loss. It’s also unbecoming to act like a brat when you lose.

Think about it, when you play a game with someone and if they win they act like they’re a gift from God because they’ve won. it’s annoying. You don’t want to be bothered with people like that. Likewise when they lose. They’ll wanna say you cheated or there was some reason why they threw that gutter ball. They slipped, or the people in the next lane distracted them.

Whatever the reason, it’s not their fault they lost. So you know if you act like that with either a win or loss and you’re wondering why you haven’t heard from your friends about the next bowling outing, you know why.

12. Bowlers should keep food and drinks off the approach. The approach is for bowling, not for eating. A bowler shouldn’t even be on the approach when it’s not their turn, let alone have food there. As obvious as this may seem, I have actually seen people with a burger, slice of pizza, or even a cup of beer on the approach.

If you or someone were to drop food or spill a drink on the approach someone could slip, fall, and hurt themselves. And to do that while holding a bowling ball would only make the injury worse. Not to mention you could possibly ruin the approach floor and cause the bowling alley to spend money it may not have on unnecessary repairs.

The bowling alley employees are not maids and they’re not there to clean up your spills. Honestly, and this is just my opinion so do take it with a grain of salt but, unless you’re in a large party, you probably shouldn’t even have food with you at the lanes. I find that when it’s just me and maybe 1 or 2 kids, it’s just easier to eat after or before we bowl. It’s normally after though because we like talking about the game, who got the most wins and strikes.

My bowling shoes

13. Wear proper shoes on the approach. Street shoes are not allowed on any approach at any bowling alley. At my bowling alley if you are found to be bowling in street shoes your lane will be shut down and you and your party will be asked to leave. There isn’t a single person I know of who thinks rental bowling shoes are attractive, and for that reason, those people would rather wear the shoes they came in.

But say you’re a woman(or a man who doesn’t care, I don’t judge, lol) and you’re on a date and you wear heels. You would be insane to walk on the approach with them, let alone trying to bowl with heels. Or you could just be self-conscious about your feet or socks and shy away from changing your shoes in front of people.

There are people out there who become terrified with the thought of people looking at them, even if you don’t see it as a problem. That doesn’t mean others don’t. However, that doesn’t mean just because you have a problem that you can wear whatever shoes you want.

I have another article about proper attire for bowling, if you’re interested in checking out you can do so by clicking here.

14. Be quiet when it is not your turn. We all know how exciting it is when someone throws a strike or even a series of strikes. It’s hard to come down from that. When you meet up with a few family and friends you haven’t seen in awhile and you want to catch up and tell each other stories about what’s been going on. It’s hard to keep quiet. But when it’s your turn to bowl you would like everyone to be quiet so you can concentrate. Well, that same courtesy should be allowed for every bowler, not just at your party, but the alley.

Don’t think you have to be as quiet as if you were in a library, just keep the noise down to an appropriate level. Not sure what that is? well, if you’re raising your voice, you’re being too loud.

These tips are very helpful in observing etiquette in every bowling alley. Bowling should be a venue for enjoyment and fun and observing these tips will allow every bowler to enjoy every game in every bowling alley.

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