Bowling Etiquette Guidelines


Bowling etiquette rules encourage courtesy, promote safety, and help keep areas orderly.  As a game of skill, abiding by behavior guidelines ensures the game is played fairly and each player has the opportunity to be at their best.

Be Aware of the Environment

Bowling areas can be a flurry of activity and attention must be paid to what is going on.  You’ll need to be aware of what order players take a turn so that you can be ready when you’re up.

Other things to be aware of are:

  • Know which lane you are playing in and bowl only in that lane.
  • Floors are slick, so make sure that dirt, mud, or moisture from street shoes does not get tracked into the bowling area.  Keep food and drinks away from the approach area.  Any spills make for an accident waiting to happen.
  • Pay attention to players’ approach in neighboring lanes.  If your turn coincides with the player in the next lane, the player on the right has “right of way.”  Allow them to bowl first.
  • Avoid the foul line.  Stepping over it could result in tracking oil on the approach.  Another accident waiting to happen!
  • Keep the game going by taking your turn and then moving away from the approach so the next player can take their turn.

Respect the Equipment

What does bowling etiquette have to do with bowling equipment?  Quite a bit.  Misuse of equipment can cause an accident or result in rude behavior.

  • Know which ball is yours.  Bowling balls are weighted, with certain weights suitable for certain players.  Using the wrong ball may hurt you.  It might also cause a delay for the player who was supposed to use the ball you mistakenly picked up.
  • Wear bowling shoes in the bowling area.  And make sure to move your street shoes out of the way so that no one trips over them.
  • Wait until the pin setting machine has completed its cycle before throwing your ball.
  • If there is an issue with equipment – your ball gets stuck, the scoreboard is broken, etc. – let an employee of the bowling establishment know immediately.  Many times, they can resolve the issue quickly or offer a resolution.

Bowling Etiquette and Good Sportsmanship

While bowling is a game and meant to be fun, it is also a competition.  Everyone wants to win but, not everyone can.

Bowling etiquette, as in all sports etiquette guidelines, expects us to do our best while leaving room for other players to play at optimum performance as well.

  • Respect other players’ concentration and remain quiet when a player is at the approach.
  • When you’ve bowled a strike, don’t rub it in or let arrogance take over.  Give yourself a quick pat on the back and accept any congratulations with a smile.  After all, you may be called upon to repeat that performance nine more times!
  • When another player bowls a strike or spare, congratulate them.  Or when they have a terrible turn, encourage them for next time.

As the saying goes, “You get what you give.”  When you give a good attitude, encouragement, and a genuine desire to enjoy the game, you will most likely receive this in kind from fellow players.

In every game, someone must accept defeat.  Sometimes that will be you.  No matter how much you want to win, be a gracious loser when you must.  Observing the rules of the game and bowling etiquette rules, along with a positive outlook, will help you lose or win graciously.

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