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Bowling Lane Components

Bowling Lane
Bowling lanes have a lot of components and parts that bowlers need to know about. Here is a complete list of the pieces of a bowling lane.
Approach AreaThe area just before the foul line used to align the bowler before throwing the ball.
BoardsMade of wood, the 39 boards on the lane each measure 1 inch wide.
Foul LineA line at the start of the lane that bowlers must stay behind while bowling.
GutterGrooves running along the sides of a bowling lane where the ball can end up resulting in missing all pins.
Lane ArrowsArrows on the lane help guide a bowler to hitting the pins.
Pin DeckThe back of the bowling lane where all the pins rest. There is an area in the back to catch all pins that fall down.
PinsBig white objects that are positioned in the pin deck. The object of bowling is to hit them down with the ball.

Every bowling lane is built differently, with different oil patterns and plank materials. A lane with synthetic planks does not allow for the quick ball hook that a wooden lane does and a lane with a wider oil pattern has a more central breakpoint than one with a thinner oil pattern. For players who rely on spinning their ball to knock down pins, they must adjust to the lane differences to obtain a strike.

Traditional bowling lanes are consistent in length, 60 feet from the foul line to pins, but vary in oil pattern length. Patterns can be anywhere from 36 to 42 feet deep, 42 feet being the most common pattern. Each lane is made of 39 planks across, each plank being equal in size.

Approach Area


The Gutters

Each lane has a gutter on each side, both of which travel to behind the pins without touching them. If a ball goes into the gutter, no pins will be knocked down and the bowler will score a zero for that throw.

A hook that is thrown too wide will often go into the gutter, especially if the oil pattern is read incorrectly.

The Foul Line

The foul line is positioned at the top of the lane and signals where the oil pattern begins. A bowler cannot step over this line when throwing or they will receive zero points for that throw.

Lane Arrows

bowling lane arrows

Each lane also contains seven arrows, referred to as "dovetails," each pointing toward the pins. The center arrow is aligned with the head pin and the outer two arrows are aligned with the 7 and 10 pins. These arrows help bowlers aim, especially when only a few pins remain standing.


Pin Deck