Bowler's Reference
Bowler Etiquette

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The Beginning

Good manners are expected whenever we interface with others.  Whether it is amongst family members, business associates or in most any other individual.  Manners are polite (pleasant) ways of treating other people and behaving in public.  The problem is, good manners differ from one social group to the next.  That is where etiquette comes in.  Etiquette is a set of rules governing socially acceptable behavior.  Most bowling centers, and the USBC has a written or stated etiquette.

It's never a bad idea to refresh our understanding on bowling etiquette, but where to start.  The basis for establishing local or tournament etiquette begins with the USBC as stated in the USBC Rulebook. 

These basic rules are essential, and used by serious bowlers and recreational bowlers.   This provides a basic understanding amongst all bowlers and establishes rules that ensures everyone have fun at the bowling center.

Now, we can usually identify those bowlers who are simply too serious.  A few very serious bowlers use rules of etiquette to restrict, discourage and exclude others.  They resent bowlers who excel, seniors, children, teenagers and most anyone who threaten them in some way.  This is not the purpose of written or stated rules of etiquette.  The primary objective of etiquette is to ensure that everyone is treated courteously and with respect.

There are neophytes new 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.   Unsafe behavior needs to be corrected immediately. These folks can be educated with a simple courteous chatting.    Bowling etiquette essentially is respect for those you share life with.  Where there is an opportunity, your bowling center would do well to display your bowling center etiquette.

USBC Rulebook

Etiquette Information

A few simple guidelines to help make your bowling experience more pleasurable

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

  • 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.

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

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

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

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

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

  • Get permission to use another player’s ball.

  • Refrain from using abusive language or obscene gestures.

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

  • Wet shoes are a safety hazard, watch where you are walking


Keep It Safe

Stay off the approach, unless it is your turn to bowl and you are not interfering with bowlers on either side of your lane. If it is not your turn, step off the approach.

Never walk into another lane. You might interfere with someone else's bowling or safety.

Do not bring food or drink near the approach.  Inevitably, someone will stick or slip on debris left near the bowling area. This can result in injury or death of someone who falls.

Remove Your Bowling Shoes if you have oil or other debris on them. Step off the approach and bowler's area to clean and dry your shoes to avoid tracking moisture or debris into the bowler's area.

Wear Bowling Shoes when bowling.  Without them, you are susceptible to falling down.  When leaving the bowler's area, cover your shoes with protective covers.  Also, if using these covers, remove them when returning to the bowler's area to prevent falling and transferring debris or moisture deposited on the protective shoe cover while not in the bowler's area.

Maintain a Good Pace

If you are distracted, or need to start over for any reason, step off the approach, regroup, and start over.

Who has priority?  The rules of etiquette are similar to pulling up to a stop sign in your automobile at the same time as another car, the bowler on the right always has the right of way.  Additionally, look both to the left and right to ensure you are not interfering with someone else.

Be ready to bowl when you it is your turn.  Distractions, talking, snacking and restroom trips can detract from the enjoyment of everyone.  Now, please, this caution should not preclude any of these tasks, but should remind you to be courteous to others.  Also, any of these tasks involve safety, especially with debris or fluids affecting the bottom of your bowling shoes.  It takes away from the fun of bowling when it’s someone’s turn and they are not to be ready. Pay attention, and when your turn is up, be ready to bowl.

Don't spend unnecessary time at the foul line after releasing the ball. As soon as your ball hits the pins return to your seat.


Be Kind to the Equipment, Facility and Others

Quiet, please! Never talk during another player's approach.
Do not yell out while others are on the approach. Even if boisterous behavior doesn't bother you, there are other people on the lanes who may be within earshot.
Be aware of your presence on or near the approach.  Don't stand in a place that causes others to become distracted.

Stop overreacting.  There will always be near you who are distracting.  Simply, and quietly, step off the approach until the distraction stops, and ten proceed with your bowling in a normal fashion.

Control Your Emotions and Language. While bowlers let off steam during a failed attempt at a shot, or for any other reason, it is simply not polite to others who share the bowling center with you.

Keep maintain the agree to limit for the number of balls on the rack to ensure they do not jam the ball return.

Be a Good Sport.  No one wants to share time with a sore loser or someone who is angry, irritable or speaks badly of others.

Respect the equipment and property belonging to the bowling center and others.  That includes  kicking or striking equipment, causing damage to seating and any other bowling furniture and flooring.

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

Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot


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