What Are The Rules Of Bowling?

What are the Rules of Bowling

Bowling is played as both a recreational and professional sport and is very popular in the United States. People of all ages love to play bowling with their family, friends, and teammates. It is a straightforward game with the objective of rolling your chosen ball down a wooden lane to knock over standing pins at the end of the lane.

Lane Rules

The lane of a bowling alley is 60 feet long from the foul line and 42 inches wide. This is where bowlers will throw their ball to knock down some pins! The lane is made of either wood or urethane, which allows for a smooth and hard playing surface for bowlers. The lane is different from the approach.

Lane Etiquette

One of the most important rules of bowling is to be respectful of other groups near your lane. Try not to bowl at the same time as the lane next to you. It is better to give as much space as possible and wait until they have finished their frame. Additionally, make sure you are only bowling in your lane and staying in the seating area behind your lane. It is best that you respect the space of bowlers around you.

Approach Rules

The approach is the 15-ft area designated for the bowlers to step with their ball and prepare for their shot before releasing the ball behind the foul line. The approach area is typically close to spectator seating and tables. Therefore, bowlers must be sure to stay alert for unaware spectators and to always keep the approach area clear. Some bowlers may only take two steps before releasing the ball, while others may take up to five or more steps.

Foul Line Rules

The foul line is the line which marks the start of the lane, separating it from the approach. The ball is allowed over the foul line, but the bowler is not. The foul line represents the beginning of the lane and the start of the gutters. Make sure to not cross over the foul line. It is illegal to throw your ball when your feet have passed the foul line. You always want to be an honest player and not have any unfair advantages over your opponents.

Pin Rules

In bowling, there are 10 pins, and they are placed one foot apart from each other at the opposite end of the foul line. They are typically colored white with red stripes around the top of the base. You want to knock down these pins! They are arranged in four rows with numbered spots on the lane to indicate where each pin will stand. You are trying to knock down as many pins as you can with your bowling ball. This may be difficult to achieve with gutters outside the lane. 

Gutter Rules

Gutters are the divots on either side of the lane and considered out of bounds. Try not to roll your ball off the lane and into the gutter. If you land in the gutter, your ball is no longer in the lane and not able to knock down any standing pins. You will receive no points and lose out on an opportunity to hit pins!

Scoring Rules

There are 10 frames, essentially turns, for each player. Each turn involves two throws, except when a player knocks down all the pins on the first throw. Bowlers can also earn an extra throw in the tenth frame if they earn a strike or spare.

At a variety of bowling alleys, the computerized machines will be calculating your scores based on pins knocked down each turn. In other cases, some players may prefer to write the scores manually on a piece of paper. Each frame, a player is allowed to roll the ball twice. If a player commits a foul, it will still be considered a shot and no points will be awarded to that bowler.

Equipment Rules

Bowling Equipment and Gear

It is also very important to ditch your typical shoes when playing a game of bowling. To avoid damaging the lanes, it is necessary for all players to wear bowling shoes. You can buy them for yourself or rent them from the bowling alley. Typically, the left shoe has a slippery sole and the right shoe has a rubber sole to help the bowler brake or slow down when in the approach area. Make sure you find the right shoe size to avoid tripping on the lane. Bowling shoes are necessary to protect the lanes.

Bowling Ball Rules

Many bowlers love to use the same ball for each frame. Typically, the balls are different colors and sizes. Therefore, they are easy to spot. Some bowlers even bring their own balls to a bowling alley. However, it is very typical for bowlers to rely on balls provided by the bowling alley. Always ask for permission before borrowing someone else’s bowling ball. If you are using the same ball as another nearby bowler, it may slow down play due to longer wait times. Bowlers must be aware of what ball they decide to use and keep in mind other groups around.

Bowling Rules Summary

  • A bowling lane is 60 ft long from the foul line and 42 in wide.
  • Do not bowl at the same time as the person in the lane next to you.
  • Remain only in your lane and seating area while bowling.
  • Keep the approach area clear while bowling.
  • When bowling, do not cross over the foul line in the process of rolling the ball. If you do, you will receive no points for that roll.
  • Each bowler has two rolls per frame to knock down as many pins as possible, unless they get a strike on the first roll.
  • If your ball lands in the gutter, you will receive no points.
  • Each bowling game consists of 10 frames.
  • If you get a strike or spare in the tenth frame, you get an extra roll.
  • All bowlers must wear bowling shoes while bowling.
  • Make sure you return any and all borrowed or rented equipment after you bowl.


Why are bowling shoes required?

It is very important to wear bowling shoes while on the wooden floor and near the lane. They are needed for safety and performance reasons. The smooth sole will limit any sticking or tripping on the lane, while regular shoes lack this capability. You will have more control with your approach in bowling shoes. Additionally, these shoes will protect the lanes and not mark them from scratches of ordinary shoes. Never forget to wear them.

How do I know which bowling ball to choose?

If you didn’t bring your own ball to the alley, you can choose from their provided balls on the rack. There are different weights to each of the balls. A common rule for selecting the right weight is for every 10 lbs of body weight, you need 1 lb for your selected ball. If you are 120 lbs, you should choose a ball between 12 to 13 lbs. This rule is beneficial for overall accuracy and control.

How do I avoid hitting the gutters?

To ensure that your bowling ball doesn’t enter the gutters, avoid rotating your wrist until you swing the ball forward towards the opposite side of your body. Release the ball when it reaches your ankle. Additionally, make sure you are using a correctly weighted ball. If you keep hitting the gutters, you may want to try bumpers along the lane. You will never roll a gutterball with a bumper.