What Is Bowling Etiquette?

Bowling Etiquette

Bowling is a fun sport for groups of family and friends, but if one wishes to bowl in a more formal setting, what rules of etiquette are involved? When it comes to participating in bowling tournaments, and even bowling recreationally with friends and loved ones, there are a number of rules everyone should be aware of to make bowling a more enjoyable experience for all. Read on to learn about all the rules of bowling etiquette.

What to Do in a Bowling Alley

What to Do in a Bowling Alley

To begin looking at the rules of etiquette for bowling, we should start with what is expected of all bowlers in a bowling alley. There are various things bowlers should do when they are engaging in a formal game of bowling:

  • Wear Bowling Shoes on the Lanes at all Times
  • Always Be Ready For Your Turn
  • Bowl Using the Same Ball Throughout the Game
  • Allow Whoever Approaches the Lanes First to Bowl First
  • Leave the Approach After Your Turn
  • Be Quiet and Respectful While Others Are Taking Their Turns

Wear Bowling Shoes on the Lanes at All Times

Bowling shoes are an important and necessary part of bowling, as they are made for the specialized floors of the bowling alley. All bowlers should either bring their own pair of bowling shoes or rent a pair from the bowling alley. Also, bowlers must wear their shoes while on the lanes while keeping their normal shoes under their chairs so as not to obstruct walking space.

Always Be Ready for Your Turn

Bowling is a time-based sport, and it is important that bowlers be aware of when their next turn is coming. Getting distracted by others or taking too much time to prepare for your turn can delay a game, which may irritate your teammates, and is generally disrespectful.

Bowl Using the Same Ball Throughout the Game

This rule may not apply in certain types of bowling, such as duckpin bowling, but in standard ten-pin bowling games, it is important that players choose and use the same ball for the entirety of the game. Firstly, this eliminates confusion, as everyone will know which ball is theirs. Secondly, using the same ball allows bowlers to avoid being forced to use an unfamiliar and possibly heavier ball for one or more turns, which may affect their game.

Allow Whoever Approaches the Lanes First to Bowl First

There are various ways to interpret this rule. Some bowling alleys try to make things simple by stating that if two bowlers approach their lanes simultaneously, the bowler on the right should always bowl first. However, it is always a good and respectful tactic to allow another bowler to take their turn first if they clearly made their approach before you. Bowling at the same time as another bowler who is beside you can easily throw off their delivery, so it is respectful to wait until they finish before you bowl or vice versa.

Leave the Approach After Your Turn

Bowlers should not spend an excessive amount of time on the approach after taking their turn. This keeps the game moving swiftly. After your turn is completed and the pins are beginning to be cleared, you should return to the seating area to permit the next bowler to begin their turn, as having two people on the same approach can be distracting.

Be Quiet and Respectful While Others Are Taking Their Turns

While bowling is a sport that encourages friendships and conversation, it is important to keep voices down and in a respectful tone when others are bowling. As with other sports, bowling requires concentration. It is easy to lose focus when other people are being loud and obnoxious, so bowlers should be mindful of celebrating too loudly or talking in a loud voice.

What Not to Do in a Bowling Alley

What Not to Do in a Bowling Alley

The next important aspect of bowling etiquette is to be aware of inappropriate behavior on the lanes. There are various things that bowlers should be cautious to avoid when bowling, including:

  • Disrespectful Language or Attitude
  • Using Other People’s Equipment Without Asking
  • Entering or Waiting in Another Bowler’s Approach
  • Distracting Other Bowlers
  • Being Messy and Dirtying the Lanes
  • Not Returning Bowling Alley Equipment to its Proper Place

Disrespectful Language or Attitude

Just as in daily life, it is important to keep a polite attitude in the bowling alley. Frustration can often happen in bowling, but bowlers should not under any circumstances use abusive, vulgar, or angry words towards other bowlers and should try to keep any self-directed anger to a minimum. As with all sports, bowling is meant to be fun at the end of the day, and a negative attitude can spoil everyone’s game.

Using Other People’s Equipment Without Asking

Using equipment rented or borrowed from the bowling alley is perfectly fine, but all bowlers should be respectful when asking to use the equipment that other bowlers have brought with them. This includes everything from bowling balls, towels, and various cleaning solvents for hands and shoes. It is, of course, perfectly acceptable to ask to borrow another’s equipment, but bowlers should not take anything without asking.

Entering or Waiting in Another Bowler’s Approach

Bowlers should not stand in the approach while someone else is bowling, and bowlers should absolutely never enter the approach of a bowler in another lane while they are bowling. This can sometimes occur in the case of young children who wander into another lane, which can be dangerous, so it is often acceptable for a parent to stand in the approach with their child while that child is taking a turn.

Distracting Other Bowlers

It is extremely rude and unprofessional for any bowler to attempt to distract another by shouting out, bowling at the same time as them, or deliberately entering their approach. However, it is also rude to unintentionally distract someone else while they are bowling, such as by talking loudly, delaying their turn, or being late for one’s own turn, and all of these should be avoided.

Being Messy and Dirtying the Lanes

Many bowling alleys serve food and drink in addition to bowling, and while it is acceptable to partake in these services during a game, bowlers must be respectful of the space they are in and avoid making it messy or dirty. Food and drink should be kept out of the approach and in the seating area, any spills should be promptly cleaned, and any garbage should be disposed of promptly.

Not Returning Bowling Alley Equipment to Its Proper Place

If one has used bowling shoes or balls that are owned by the bowling alley, it is important to return them to their proper places when the bowling is done. Many bowling alleys have racks for their house bowling balls away from the lanes, and while it may be easy and tempting to leave a ball in the ball return machine after play is done, every bowler should return a borrowed ball to the rack. The same goes for rented bowling shoes, which should be returned to the counter and not left on the lanes for staff to find later on.

Other Rules of Bowling Etiquette

While the above rules cover most of the general principles of bowling etiquette, there are a few other extremely important rules to keep in mind when bowling. The first is to be a good winner and also a good loser. While winning is certainly a cause for celebration, and losing can be frustrating, neither are excuses for becoming too animated during a bowling game.

Finally, above all else, bowlers should remember to have fun. Bowling is meant to be an enjoyable activity, often challenging but always exciting. At the end of the day, bowling is just a game, and winning and losing are concepts meant to enhance the excitement, not diminish them. Winning a game of bowling is a great feeling, but losing should not make you feel bad because the most important aspect of the game is enjoyment.