Bowling Etiquette, Bowling Courtesy and Bowling Safety

One of the things that frustrates experienced and/or league bowlers is when other bowlers, not familiar with bowling courtesy, jump out in front and bowl when they are preparing to bowl. Not only is this against proper bowling etiquette, but it is also dangerous.

In most sports there are common courtesies that should be learned and obeyed to make the sport more enjoyable for everyone participating. Golf has many of them, and so does bowling. While we are all trying to encourage bowling to everyone, there are obviously lots of newcomers to bowling who are oblivious to the rules of bowling etiquette.

A lack of understanding or ignorance of when to be on the approach, knowing how and when to yield to an adjacent bowler is understandable and forgivable, because it’s not obvious to many beginners. Unsafe bowling behavior needs to be corrected immediately. Just like a four-way stop sign, bowling etiquette has its rules as well.

When someone that is directly to your right or left bowling lane, what are the rules of bowling etiquette? Wait for the bowler to your right to deliver his/her ball if you’re both bowling at about the same time. When a bowler is prepared to bowl and on the approach, if there is someone on either side of them, the general rule is that the first one on the approach bowls first. If there’s any question as to who was up first, the bowler on the right should bowl. A bowler already lined up in their stance and ready to bowl should not wait, they should just go. Standing on the approach is not the place to talk with friends.

Etiquette in sports is more of showing good manners, however, if you don’t show proper bowling etiquette, not only do you make yourself ignorant to the rules (and to others), but it could also force the management of the Bowling Center to shut your lane down, losing your bowling privileges. (As with any other sport.) On your next bowling adventure, consider and learn the following bowling etiquette to help everyone’s bowling experience be an enjoyable one.

In the image above for example, the bowler's friends are cheering him on and everyone is having a great time. If there are bowlers on neighboring lanes however, this can delay their game while everyone clears the approach area and can also be unsafe. In the image below, three bowlers are releasing their shots at the same time. As mentioned above, this can not only be distracting to your fellow bowlers, but can also be very unsafe. Please listen to bowling alley staff and management if they discuss your actions on the approach or the lanes. Most importantly - have fun!

Bowling Etiquette Information

Below is what the USBC has in their Official Bowling Rulebook for Bowling Etiquette: A few simple guidelines to help make your bowling experience more pleasurable:

1. Be ready to bowl when the pins are set, but wait until the pinsetting machine has completed its cycle and the sweepbar is raised to make your delivery. Throwing a ball before the machine is ready may damage the ball or equipment.

2. Observe one-lane courtesy. The bowler on the right should bowl if both reach the approach at the same time. Stay off the approach while you wait.

3. Taking too long to aim or get set up when you are on the approach delays the game.

4. Try to remain in your approach area while delivering the ball.

5. Step off the approach once you have delivered the ball.

6. Good bowling requires concentration. Have fun, but keep in mind excessive movement or noise could be distracting when others are up to bowl.

7. Excessive “lofting” hurts your game and damages the lane.

8. Get permission to use another player’s ball.

9. Refrain from using abusive language or obscene gestures.

10. Play the game to win, but be a gracious loser. Good sportsmanship is always the key to a successful game.

11. Wet shoes are a safety hazard. Watch where you are walking.

12. If you make a mess, clean it up! Take your unwanted snacks, empty cups, and other debris to the trash can where it belongs!

Hope this helps familiarize yourself with some of the common courtesies of bowling. Good luck, have fun and go get your strikes while showing some bowling courtesy!