The Bowling Lane: Everything You Need To Know

The bowling lane has always been a mystery to me. It’s such a mystery since you aren’t sure unless you have a trained eye or have been bowling for a very long time. I’ve seen people slip and fall because they go past the foul line and even walk on the lanes, which makes me angry.

What are the parts of a bowling lane?

A bowling lane has many different parts and each has different purposes. The lane itself is the most important part because it’s where the game takes place. This area extends from the foul line to the area where the pins stand and are made up of 39 boards. Lanes are 60 feet long and 40 inches wide. The lane is slipped up into three sections. The head/front-end is the first 20 feet where most oil is applied. The mid-lane is the next 20 feet of the lane and less oil is applied here. The final 20 feet is called the back-end and there is no oil applied. Another part of the lane which isn’t separated up is the approach. The approach is usually around 15 feet long. The purpose of the approach is to allow the bowler to get a run-up before bowling onto the lane. When bowling, you cannot cross the foul line, so the ball has to be released on the approach.

The boards are also another feature of a bowling lane. They are made of wood and are usually about an inch wide. There is 39 on each lane. Bowlers use the boards for positioning and aiming. Right-handed bowlers may position themselves more to the left to get a better angle or to correct their bowl if the lane doesn’t suit them. Left-handed bowlers will do the opposite by positioning themselves more to the right.

Another part of the lane is the gutters. This is on both sides of the lane and it catches the ball if your bowl is off target. It prevents the balls from going into the lane next to you. If the ball goes in the gutter, then you won’t knock any pins down. The pin area is the furthest part of the lane from the foul line. This is where the 10 pins are set. It has padding cushion at the back to catch flying pin and a mechanism that sends the bowling balls back up the lane and the pins back into the pinsetter. 

The two last parts of the bowling lane is the scoring area and the foul line. By the scoring area is also the ball holder. The scoring area is a computerised system that puts your score onto a score board for all competitors to see. There is always a keypad by the ball holder which is used to set up the game before you play by putting your names into the system. The ball holder is solely used to hold the balls. There are always balls coming into the ball holder from the mechanism by the pin deck. The last part of a bowling lane, except from the dots and arrows, is the foul line. The foul line is there to stop you from fouling. You are not allowed to bowl beyond this point.

What do the dots and arrows mean in bowling?

The dots and arrows on the bowling alley are used for guidance. There are two sets of dots placed on the lane approach to provide reference points on where to establish your stance. There are seven dots in each set. There is a dot place on the 20 board (center board) and is usually the largest dot. The center dot is in line with the headpin and is used for guidance. The dots right before the foul line are there as an easy clue for where to stop your feet when releasing the ball. There is another set of dots about 7.5 feet beyond the foul line. These are known as the indicator dots. They again guide you on where to throw the ball to hit a certain pocket or pin. 

The arrows are located 15 feet beyond the foul line with the center arrow being the most distant, and the closest arrow towards the outside of the lane. There are seven arrows positioned on boards 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, and 35. The arrows are there for reference targets and bowlers often target the board between two arrows. Most successful bowlers aim at the arrows instead of the pins. It’s far easier to aim at the arrows because they are closer to the bowler than the pins. To get a strike, for a right-handed bowler you need to hit the pocket between the first and third pin. To do this you need to aim for the second arrow from the right. For left-handed bowlers, you need to hit the pocket between the first and second pin. To do this you need to aim for the second arrow from the left. Throwing the ball from the outside of the lane gives it more traction allowing your ball to hook and get a better angle on the pocket.

What is considered a foul in bowling?

A foul occurs when any body part is beyond the foul line and touches the lane, equipment or building during delivery. A buzzer or light will go off if the foul line is touched or crossed.  This results in the pins falling down not to count towards their score but their go will count. If a player commits a foul on their first ball, the pins will be reset and they will be allowed another go. Also, if the ball comes out of the gutter and knocks down a pin, they do not count. If a player bowls in the wrong lane, a dead ball is called and the player is required to re-bowl on the correct lane.

An important concept for committing a foul in bowling is legally delivering the ball. A delivery is committed when the ball leaves the bowlers hand and crosses the foul line. In order to Commit a foul, a legal delivery has to be completed. If the player stands or crosses the foul line but doesn’t throw a legal delivery, the foul cannot be called. If a delivery is not legal, then the player is allowed a retake because a foul cannot be given.

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