Top 10 Rules Of Bowling

Bowling rules and regulations

Bowling is a fun and entertaining sport that consists of rolling a heavy ceramic ball down a lane with the ultimate goal of knocking down as many pins as possible. Tenpin is the most common form of bowling that is found in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Latin America. Below we will cover the most important rules of bowling.

What Are the Most Important Rules of Bowling?

  1. 10 Frames in a Game
  2. Release the Ball from Behind the Foul Line
  3. Do Not Cross the Foul Line
  4. The Ball Cannot Come Out of the Gutter
  5. The Ball Cannot be Altered During the Game
  6. The Maximum Score is 300
  7. Two Balls per Frame (Besides 10th Frame)
  8. Proper Attire is Required
  9. Wait for the Bowler on Your Right
  10. Be Ready

1. 10 Frames in a Game

Bowling Frames

In bowling, there are 10 frames in each game. A frame is composed of each bowler taking one turn, with a maximum of two rolls. However, in the tenth frame, each bowler gets a maximum of three rolls depending on how successful they are in their first two. The total number of frames is important because, unlike many other sports, there is no game clock in bowling. The lack of a game clock makes it especially important to always be ready to take your turn, as bowling matches could theoretically go for hours on end.

2. Release the Ball From Behind the Foul Line

Bowling Foul Line

When bowling, the bowler must release the ball from behind the foul line and allow the ball to roll over the line into the lane of play. This rule means that when casual bowlers throw the ball over the foul line, they are technically breaking the rules of the game. If this rule is broken, the pins that are knocked down are discounted and no longer count towards the bowler’s score. The ball still counts, but no points are earned.

3. Do Not Cross the Foul Line

bowling crossing the foul line

While playing in a bowling match, the bowler may not cross the foul line at any time. If they do cross the foul line, the roll will be taken away. No matter what, even if a player's foot just barely touches the line, it is considered a foul, and the ball does not count. This is similar to basketball, in which a player may not step over the line while taking a foul shot, or how, in soccer, a player may not cross the line that the referee creates during a free kick. 

The roll still counts, but instead of counting for the number of pins that were knocked down, it is recorded as bowling a zero. The bowler has to be constantly aware of where they are in relation to the line and be careful to not stop on the foul line when they bowl.

4. The Ball Cannot Come out of the Gutter

bowling gutter

Although it isn’t a common occurrence, a ball may occasionally be rolled in the gutter and manage to bounce out and knock down some pins. Most recreational bowlers will see this as a lucky break. However, it is actually against the rules in competitions, and the pins that were knocked over will not count towards the bowler’s score. This is because the gutter is considered out of bounds, and once the ball is out of bounds, it cannot come back in. The roll no longer counts and any pins that were knocked over are put back up. Even though this is very rare, it is a crucial rule in competitive bowling that keeps players from debating the legitimacy of their opponents' rolls.

5. The Ball Cannot Be Altered During the Game

Bowling Ball Alterations

During any bowling match, a bowler may not alter their ball in any way. However, they can change it before and after each game. This rule exists to avoid cheating and prevent bowlers from using substances that may alter the ball to give them an unfair advantage during the game. Some bowlers will polish their bowling balls beforehand in order to make them shiny and smooth on one side and rough on the other. This can help to make the ball spin better. Any alterations to bowling balls must be done before the match starts, or the bowler may be disqualified from competitive matches.

6. The Maximum Score Is 300

Bowling Maximum Score

During any given bowling match, a player can achieve a maximum score of 300. Receiving a score of 300 can be accomplished by bowling the maximum of 30 points on each of the ten frames. Scoring 300, also known as a perfect game, can only be done if a bowler gets a strike on each of the first nine frames as well as three strikes within the tenth frame. In total, a player would have to bowl 12 strikes during a game in order to be perfect. This is the most coveted achievement that a bowler can accomplish in a single game.

7. Two Balls per Frame (Besides 10th Frame)

Bowling Two Balls Per Frame

Outside of the tenth frame, a bowler may only have a maximum of two rolls per frame. If a bowler is able to achieve a strike on the first ball of a frame, their turn is over. This rule does not apply to the tenth frame, which has its own rules applied to it.

In the tenth frame, a bowler can get up to three balls bowled if the first two balls are strikes or the first two balls combine for a spare. Bowlers are not allowed more than two balls in each frame, and the mechanics behind the lane are programmed to know that two balls is the maximum that a particular player can have.

8. Proper Attire Is Required

Bowling Proper Attire

At a bowling alley, players must wear specialized shoes meant only for bowling alleys. Bowling in regular sneakers can ruin the wooden lanes, so alleys usually require that bowlers either rent bowling shoes or bring their own. In professional and competitive bowling, bowlers will typically have a different type of shoe on their left and right foot. One shoe will be more slippery while the other will have a rubber sole in order to help the bowlers both slide and brake easily. Each shoe’s side will be chosen depending on the hand that the bowler uses. For example, a right-handed bowler would wear the slippery shoe on their left foot and the ‘braking’ shoe on their right foot.

9. Wait for the Bowler on Your Right

Wait for the bowler on your right

In bowling, it is proper etiquette to allow the bowler to the right to bowl first if two people are bowling at one time. The etiquette surrounding the bowler to your right is only applied if two bowlers walk up to the lane together and are about to bowl at the exact same time. This allows bowlers to take their time while bowling and not feel as if they are being rushed.

Also, if two people are bowling at once, one person may become distracted by the other. Any form of distraction has the potential to alter their own bowl. While this is not an official rule, it is general etiquette that bowlers should keep in mind while playing. Some people get angry when people do not follow this rule because they would like to remain focused while bowling and avoid unnecessary distractions.

10. Be Ready

Bowling Be Ready

Bowlers should always be ready to bowl whenever it is their turn. This helps games move faster and more efficiently. Taking your turn in a timely manner is an important aspect of bowling etiquette. As long as there are people waiting behind you, it is only fair to go at a steady pace and prevent other bowlers from having to wait around on your account. During your turn, if the ball you want to use is available and the pins are set and ready to be hit, players should bowl promptly. Bowling alleys prefer a quick turnaround on games to allow as many groups to bowl as possible.


What is the line at the front of a bowling lane?

The line at the front of a bowling lane is known as the foul line. The foul line plays a relatively important role in every single roll. The rules of bowling dictate that no bowler can step on or over the line during their roll, or else the roll will count as zero total pins regardless of how many you actually knocked down. This can prove to be a costly error in a closely contested game.

How many people can bowl in one lane at a time?

Most alleys will allow a maximum of six to eight players on a lane at once. This is dependent on the number of spots available on the alley’s electronic scoring machines. While this rule largely depends on the venue, if your party exceeds eight players, you will generally be required by the alley to use two lanes. In competition play, there is usually a maximum of five players per team.

What is a turkey in bowling?

A turkey is a term used in bowling to describe when a bowler rolls three straight strikes. Turkeys are hard to come by for recreational bowlers, but some of the pros rack up turkeys with ease. From there, each subsequent strike in a row is referred to as the number of strikes, then “bagger.” So, for example, four strikes in a row is known as a “four-bagger.”