Bowling Equipment Rules

Bowling Equipment and gear

For many people, bowling is a fun, casual activity that can be enjoyed by players of all ages. Participants can choose how competitive they wish to be or if they’re just there for a good time. However, when it comes to league play and professional bowling, things get more serious. One aspect that is heavily regulated is bowling equipment. Things such as the balance of the bowling ball, the number of finger holes it can have, and how pins and lanes are manufactured all have certain requirements that they must follow. Read on below to learn the rules regarding bowling equipment.


Bowling Ball Regulations

Bowling ball

The bowling ball is, of course, the most important part of the game, and it is regulated accordingly. Just about every aspect of a ball except for its color has some sort of rules placed on it in order to ensure bowlers are all using similar balls and aren’t gaining unfair advantages. The most basic regulations are those for weight and size. A bowling ball cannot be more than 16 pounds, though there is actually no minimum requirement for weight. As far as size goes, bowling balls have a diameter of approximately 8.5 inches. In addition, the surface of a bowling ball is heavily regulated. Other than incidental chips that occur during use, a bowling ball cannot have any marks or indentations on it. No foreign materials can be placed on the ball after manufacturing, and the surface actually has a minimum required hardness that cannot be affected by cleaning substances. The regulations get even more detailed, as the balance of a bowling ball must follow certain guidelines. The difference in weight between the top half of the ball and the bottom half cannot be more than three ounces, and that difference can only be one ounce between the left and right sides of the ball. These regulations are put into place so that all balls roll the same way. 

Pins and Lanes

bowling lane

Bowling balls are not the only pieces of equipment that get regulated in bowling. The pins and lanes also have specific manufacturing rules that must be followed in order for them to be put to use. The United States Bowling Congress (USBC) requires pins to be made of hardwood that is free of imperfections or decay. Synthetic pins can be used, but they must undergo a special approval process. Once the wood is obtained, the pins must be shaped according to proper specifications. The height of the pin must be approximately 15 inches, and the weight must be approximately 3.5 pounds. Even the exact shape of the pin is regulated; the top of the pin requires an arc with a radius of approximately 1.27 inches, and the base must have a radius of .156 inches. The center of gravity must also be uniform. Defined as being approximately 5.5 inches, this measure is important to make sure all the pins topple in the same manner.

When it comes to bowling lanes, once again, the wood is strongly regulated. Just like with pins, bowling lanes should be made out of wood, though synthetic materials can be presented to the USBC for review. It all starts with the approach to the lane, which cannot be less than 15 feet long. This allows bowlers a safe amount of space to prepare their shot and take their steps before releasing the ball. The length of the lane should be approximately 60 feet from the foul line to the first center pin, and that pin should be just over 34 inches in front of the end of the lane. The proper width for a bowling lane is 41.5 inches, and the width of the gutters should be 9.25 inches.

Shoes and Other Accessories

bowling shoes

The USBC only has one regulation on bowling shoes, which states that “the approach must not be defaced.” This means any shoes worn cannot leave marks or imperfections in the wood on the approach before the foul line. However, all bowling alleys require players to wear bowling shoes for a few different reasons. The first is a matter of cleanliness. Bowling shoes are cleaned after each use and typically have very little dirt on the bottom, meaning they will not track dirt onto the wood. Secondly, bowling shoes are designed with slick bottoms that permit bowlers to slide across the wood as they deliver their ball. This is important because the slickness of the shoes allows for a full range of motion and prevents legs from locking up or getting stuck during the throw, which could lead to injury.

Other commonly-used equipment includes wrist guards, finger tape, microfiber cloths for cleaning the balls, and joint braces. Many of these are used by bowlers to prevent injury or wear on joints and ligaments, and generally, all forms are acceptable. Microfiber cloths are allowed for cleaning balls as long as the cleaning material does not alter the surface in any way and is completely removed before bowling.