Rules of Courtesy & Safety for Bowling

By Jennifer Mueller

In addition to being a sport with participants vying to win, bowling also is a popular recreational activity for families and friends seeking a more active and competitive experience. Despite the laid-back attitude of many casual bowlers, the sport has basic rules of etiquette that ensure everyone plays safely and courteously.

Watch Your Step

You may think they're ugly, but wearing proper bowling shoes while in the bowling area preserves the floor's surface and keeps it safe for all bowlers. A foul line marks the end of of the approach area and the beginning of each lane. Fouling by crossing that line not only will you hurt your score, it can be dangerous. The lanes have a slick oil covering that can be hazardous if your shoes come in contact with it and track it onto the floor where the next bowler will make his approach.

Be Patient

Out of respect for those sharing your lane, as well as bowlers in neighboring lanes, pay attention and be ready to bowl when it's your turn. At the same time, no one likes to be rushed. Stay off the approach when someone else is bowling and await your turn. Once you're ready to bowl, wait until the sweep bar has completed its motion before you launch the ball to avoid damaging either the ball or the machine. If you score a strike, there's no reason for you to hang around unless it's the last frame -- get out of the way so the next bowler can go.

Look to the Right

If the lanes next to you are being used, look to your right before you get ready to bowl. Only one of two neighboring lanes bowls at a time -- usually whoever got to the approach first. But if both bowlers happen to step up at the same time, the one on the right gets the go-ahead. If you look right and there's a bowler ready, step to the back of the approach and let her bowl before you. Be aware of other lanes and don't keep others in them waiting: Once you step onto the approach, be ready to bowl.

Control the Drama

Bowling requires intense concentration, and some people take this more seriously than others. Lots of noise and horseplay can distract other players. Especially if you're bowling with friends for recreation, you may find you want to celebrate their good shots and curse their bad ones. Bowling etiquette dictates you keep your post-shot shenanigans to your own lane. You also want to limit swearing and adult language, particularly if there are families with children in nearby lanes. While many people enjoy snacks and drinks between turns, these should be kept in the seating area and away from the approach.

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