Scott Pohl

The Bowling Lane 101

Scott Pohl
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Duration:   2  mins

Understanding the playing field in bowling will lead to higher scores and better overall performance. In this free video, Scott Pohl, owner of On Track Pro Shop, highlights two key areas beginning bowlers need to understand before throwing a bowling ball at pins.

The Approach

From the foul line back to where the back set of dots ends is known as the approach in bowling.

Bowling Lane 1

The approach is made up of two sets of dots and the foul line.

Bowling Lane 2

Everything that happens in the sport of bowling before the bowling ball rolls on the lane occurs on the approach.

Bowling Lane 3

If you take more steps or longer steps, the first set of dots towards the back of the approach is where you’ll want to set up. If you take shorter steps or fewer steps, the second set of dots (closer to the foul line) on the approach are for you.

The Lane

A bowling lane is 60 feet long. It is made up of either a wood or synthetic surface. Lane oil is applied in a pattern onto the lane to vary when and where the bowling ball hooks. There are different pattern lengths and oil volumes that give bowling a different invisible playing field every time you bowl.

Bowling Lane 4

The first set of dots on the lane are located about 8 ft. past the foul line. Some bowers use them to aim at or target when they release the bowling ball.

Bowling Lane 5

Fifteen feet past the foul line are the arrows. These are used more commonly for targeting. They are the biggest marking on the lane, which makes them easiest to see.

Bowling Lane 6

The dots on the approach correlate with the dots at the foul line, the lane, the arrows, and the pins.

Bowling Lane 7

The approach and the lane are made up of boards. They are counted in five-board increments and trace from the approach all the way down to the pins.

Understanding the playing field is the first step in learning how to bowl. Check out How To Bowl: Getting Started and our Spare Shooting library for great beginner instruction designed to improve your game.

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One Response to “The Bowling Lane 101”


    The pins are not positioned exactly on the 15-, 10-, or 5-boards. The pins are positioned in corners of 12-inch equilateral triangles, so pins 3, 6 and 10 are centered 6, 12, and 18 inches from the center of board 20. However, a 41.5-inch wide lane has boards 41.5/39=1.064 inches wide, so the "corresponding" boards are centered 5.32, 10.64, and 15.96 (not 6, 12, and 18) inches from the center of board 20. Therefore, for example, the 7 and 10 pins are actually more than 2 inches outside the center of their "corresponding" boards on a 41.5-inch lane. I'm not sure how much of a problem this discrepancy is, in practical terms, but I think it should be recognized. Someone aiming at the 5-board may think he has a 6.7-inch margin of error (sum of the radii of the ball and pin), but in actually it's more like 4.7 inches.

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