Parts of a Bowling Lane

Depending on whether or not you count the pins, there are seven main parts of a bowling lane. A bowling lane consists of an approach area, the boards, the foul line, the gutter, the lane arrows, the pin deck, and the pinsetter.
A little boy throwing a bowling ball down a lane at the bowling alley.

Since every bowling lane surface is unique to the alley in which you are playing, lane mastery is a skill that comes with many years of bowling practice.

We will talk about the pins in this article as separate from the lanes. Also, check out our other article about the patterns and reasons behind bowling pin numbers.

Seven Main Parts of a Bowling Lane

Now we will break down the bowling lane parts that are common to bowling alleys and bowling centers across the world.

1. The Approach Area

Beautiful woman bowling
Beautiful woman bowling

The approach area is a 15-foot-long wooden area that ends at the foul line. Before each throw, bowlers adjust their stance, determine their timing, and mentally prepare.

2. Wooden Boards

boards on a bowling lane

Bowling lanes are made up of 39 wood strips that run all the way to the pins. These strips of wood are known as boards, and each board is approximately one inch wide. From the edge of each gutter, there are 39 boards.

3. Foul Line

bowling lane foul line

The foul line separates the approach from the bowling lane. It runs left to right from gutter to gutter and if you cross it at any point during your turn, you receive a foul.

If a foul line foul occurs, no points are earned for that throw. So be sure the ball is the only thing that crosses that foul line.

4. Gutters

bowling lane gutters

The two trenches on either side of the lane are known as the gutter. As soon as the ball enters the gutters, it cannot be removed, and the bowler will then receive no points.

5. Lane Arrows

bowling lane arrows

The arrows on the lane are 15 feet from the foul line, and you use them to help you target where you want to throw the ball. Some bowlers concentrate on the pins, while others have learned to focus on a specific arrow while aiming down the bowling lane.

How Many Arrows are on a Bowling Lane?

There are seven arrows total and they correspond with certain pins on the pin deck and near the approach. The arrows create a v shape on the boards.

Some bowlers aim at the center arrow on the center board. This particular arrow lines up with the center dot near the approach.

In fact, the indicator dots and the arrows work well together and can help you to greatly reduce eye string while looking down the bowling lane.

Read more about how the lane arrows can be used to better your game.

6. The Pin Deck

Bowling Lane pin deck

Located at the back of the bowling lane is the area where the pins stand waiting to be knocked down. This is sometimes called the back end of the bowling lane. All pins that fall down are collected in the back by the pinsetter.

7. The Pin Setter

bowling lane pin setter

A pinsetter, also known as a pin spotter, is a mechanical device that returns bowling pins to their original positions, returns bowling balls to the front of the alley, and clears fallen pins from the pin deck.

Currently, the pinsetter is located at the end of the lane right behind the pin area. Prior to the invention of the machine, pinsetters were boys or young men (pin boys) who reset pins and returned bowling balls manually.

Bowling Lane Dimensions

Traditional bowling lanes are 60 feet long from the foul line to the pins. Each lane is 39 boards wide. Each board is 1 inch wide.

Synthetic lanes

The vast majority of bowling alleys have synthetic lanes. The synthetic surface, unlike wooden lanes, is harder than the bowling ball surface and will not show visible wear and tear on the lane.

A synthetic lane will have all of the same parts of a bowling lane that traditional lanes have. Bowling on a synthetic lane typically feels the same to the majority of bowlers.

Only those who understand how oil patterns and how to use custom bowling balls with those patterns will understand the difference.

Ask your local bowling alley if they use synthetic lanes or wood lanes the next time you go bowling.

Bowling Lane Oil Patterns

While not necessarily part of the lane, there is oil applied to wooden lanes that help preserve the lanes as well as allow bowlers that hook the ball to hit the head pin from an angle.

The length of the oil pattern on bowling lanes varies. Patterns can range in depth from 36 to 42 feet of the lane, with 42 feet being the most common.

Most oil patterns are typically applied mid-lane with less oil at the end part of the lane.

The house pattern is the most common oil pattern found in any bowling alley. While it may differ slightly from house to house, the general concept is the same: more oil in the center and less on the outside (between the 10 board and gutter)

Oil Patterns Affect How Your Bowling Ball Rolls

If you are using house balls, you may want to invest in a custom bowling ball. A custom ball will allow you to use the oil pattern to your benefit. A house bowling ball on the other hand will typically roll straight not allowing the bowler to hook the ball.

Know Your Lane

Knowing the parts of your bowling lane, especially the arrows and the approach area will change how you bowl. When you throw the ball using the arrows you will definitely up your game.

Conclusion (Parts of a bowling lane)

When you are at the bowling alley or your local bowling center you will notice that your bowling lane is made up of a bunch of different parts.

The parts of a bowling lane consist of an approach area, boards, a foul line, a gutter, lane arrows, a pin deck, and a pinsetter.

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