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Bowling Etiquette

Unfortunately, what most new bowlers do not pick up on immediately is the unwritten “Bowler’s Code of Conduct” when starting out.  Worse, even some of the experienced rollers tend to forget about this same code and can quickly become the individual (or team) to avoid come practice time or league play.

I’ve run into many of these folks and although I do give them the benefit of the doubt, it can be a bit bothersome when you’re just about to finish up your delivery and you see the person on the lane next to you suddenly appear in your peripheral vision.  It is the intention of this particular post to offer some friendly advice and hopefully provide some basic courtesy pointers so that the next time you hit the lanes, you don’t become, “that guy/girl/team…whatever”  .

Respecting the Approach
This is the most common and most complained about violation in courtesy challenges so it gets some special love here.  The approach area is the 15ft realm of the lane that sits immediately to the left or right of the ball return system and has a series of dots that are used to help line up and aim in preparation for delivery.

Once the bowler retrieves their ball from the return rack and begins to prepare their approach and delivery, those bowlers on either the left or the right of the lane are expected to refrain from entering their own approach area until AFTER the bowler in play releases the ball and finalizes their delivery.

Now, once the action bowler has begun their delivery and starts to step forward, the waiting bowler may retrieve their ball and prepare their own approach, but it is indeed common courtesy as to not being your approach until after the action bowler has already concluded their entire delivery process.

While waiting your turn, it is also common courtesy to remain very quiet and stand behind the actual lane; that is behind the area where the actual wood of the lane begins as to stay out of the action bowler’s peripheral vision and offer complete focus.

Respecting the House
Many people enjoy the sport of bowling as either a competitive arena, or casual pastime to be with friends and family.  House maintenance and operations, although they do not seem as such, are an undertaking in themselves due to clean up, lane maintenance, system maintenance and pretty much everything else being done to keep the house in business.  We’ve all seen the situation, or maybe you’ve been a part of this yourself, where the group of rowdy friends come in and become a bit rough with the equipment and drop all respect for the house and other guests.

Some key things to avoid while bowling that will go a long way for the house and the rest of us are:

  • Keep Noise Levels Low: Sure, a bowling alley isn’t exactly a library, what with the sounds of the bowling balls rolling down the lanes and the pins crashing all over the kickbacks.  Yet, at the same time, you may be assigned a lane next to a league bowler wishing to enhance their game by intense practicing, and the last thing they want to hear about is how much you can drink in three games or how loud you can yell at your friends as they are bowling.
  • Do Not Launch the Ball Into the Air: Some people have a lofty delivery where the ball may hover over the lane a bit before it lands on the lane with a thud.  This is fine, but when you intentionally toss the ball down the lane as to where it rises close to waist level or above and slams into the lane with a bounce or two…you risk damaging the bowling ball and the lane itself.  Bowling lanes, unlike a golf course, are not equipped to handle divots, so please keep the ball low upon delivery.
  • Throw One Ball at a Time: Trying to perform a race of two or more balls down the lane at the same time, is not exactly going to put a smile on the house manager’s face.  What tends to happen here is, once one ball crosses the pin area, the pin rake is lowered as to assist in clearing out fallen pins (deadwood).  Unfortunately, when one ball is behind the other, the rake comes down and the second ball crashes into the rake and can damage the entire pinsetter mechanism.
  • Use Proper Bowling Shoes: Either buy your own bowling shoes or pay for the shoe rental because if you attempt to use street shoes on the bowling lanes, you risk damaging the finish of the lane with scruffs or errant rocks that may be stuck in the tread.