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Bowling Courtesy & Etiquette

I don’t know how many times I have gone bowling and have been both a witness and a victim of poor bowling etiquette. Now in all fairness, many people just don’t know what is acceptable and what isn’t. Then there are the very few who just don’t care and are deliberately inconsiderate.

We can’t control how others will act on the lanes but we can control how we act. While common sense will cover most aspects of bowling, these basic tips will help will make the game even more enjoyable for everyone. These are not in any specific order (with the exception of the first one) and are
nowhere near a complete list but should be remembered any time you go bowling.

  • The first rule in bowling is to never bother another bowler while they are in the process of bowling
    Bowling requires concentration and focus so just as you wouldn’t want to be distracted, don’t disturb others that are trying to bowl.
  • Bowlers on the right hand lane has the right of way to bowl first
    He/she can waive the right of way to the person bowling on the left most lane if they so choose.
  • Never pick up your ball from the return rack while another bowler is preparing to bowl and is in his/her starting position
    Refrain from creating noises or movements that may be spotted out of the corner of their eye. For cases where another bowler constantly causes distractions while you are preparing to bowl, let them have the right of way. This way you can stay in control of your game and remain relaxed to take your shot.
  • Refrain from using obscenities or vulgar language
    Bowling is and has always been a lot of fun for people of all ages. Be courteous to families by avoiding foul language in their presence.
  • After your shot, let others bowl
    Every time you bowl, of course, you want to see the results of your shot, but allow others to bowl by making your way back from the approach as quickly as possible.
  • Wear proper shoes
    Street shoes often bring debris and dirt to the lanes which can be a hazard to the approach and even to you. Keep these shoes off the approach and wear the proper bowling shoes.
  • Keep food and other refreshments off of the approach
    Any spillage on the approach can create unsafe bowling conditions
    on the lanes.
  • Remember, there are others waiting to bowl
    By all means, go through your preshot routine but be aware of others waiting for their turn.
  • Above all else…have fun
    Bowling is a sport that is supposed to be enjoyable so have fun but not at the expense of others.


  1. SF bowler says:

    so i have a question regarding lane courtesy. what if the bowler to your right is still on the floor and is taking their time (not on the platform) and im already on the platform. do they still have the “right of way”?

    1. PerfectBowling.com says:

      If I understand you correctly, then, no…they would not have the right of way because you are already on the platform. Since they are not ready and still on the floor.

  2. michael says:

    i bowl on a leg. and have been bowling for 24 years i was just told that i am to give 2 lane courtesy to each side of the lanes when i bowl … what i mean is i was told 2 lanes to my left and 2 lanes 2 my right is this true for leg. thanks mike

  3. Donna says:

    Is it still considered a distraction or rude if you talk to the person before they step up on the approach – I know one team gets mad at me and said I shouldn’t talk to them at all before they even get up on the lane while others it doesn’t seem to bother them.

    I’m assuming the approach is when you step up unto the lane or does it include waiting to step up onto the lane?

    I just try to have fun while I bowl and be serious – but at the same time are they too serious? I can’t always remember that.

    PLease advise

    1. PerfectBowling.com says:

      People are always going to be different. Probably as a general rule, though, if the person is stepping up to the approach to take their turn, it may be best to just wait to engage in a conversation until they are done. But I tend to side with you on not trying to take things too seriously. Bowling is a great sport and a lot of fun. Especially when the people around you are interested in doing the same thing.

  4. frances says:

    My team and others like to ring a bell when women get spares or strikes and men get strikes. This is on an every other saturday night league at a bowling alley where loud juke box music plays, the tv’s on the lanes are on, and people are sitting and drinking around the bar. Maybe during all 3 games we may ring the bell 25-30 times or less. We have taken a league vote and the results were 8 teams to 6 in favor of us getting to ring the bell. Other teams players are encouraged to ring it as well and they do sometimes. This league is also a handicap couples league where people should be having a good time and not being upset about a little bell ringing but it is causing issues. Since the league voted in favor of the bell we are now being challenged to re-vote with only team captains. I am more than a little upset about this because it is a select few trying to ruin the bowling fun of others.

    1. Keith says:

      I am on a league and was bowling my last frame with 10 strikes and very close to bowling my first 300 game when a person behind me screamed about someone getting a strike. I missed my target and left a 10 pin. Even though this was a sanctioned league, I was more than ticked about the outcome.
      I don’t blame anyone for not wanting a freaking bell ringing during my approach. If your league is NOT sanctioned, then if thats what you want, fine. But, I would have gotten a ring it it wasn’t for some moron.

  5. debra leffe says:

    I bowl 150-170 – I bowl with a friend who says I throw off her rhythm because sometimes a take a longer time to bowl ( preparation)..

    I say just bowl,and have fun. I am not making conversation or reading a book between shots. I do not agree with her. is there a time slot from shot to shot for each bowlers shots. This way we can play with in the correct timeframe allotted so we can not complain and just compete fairly..

    any guidance? thank you!!!!

  6. newbiebowler says:

    Hi there, I’ve only been bowling for 3 months but want to make sure I practice bowling etiquette. This is my first league experience. Some of my teammates are younger and one of them tends to be moody and sometimes rude. Since I’ve never been in a league before, should I try to keep to myself and not expect bowlers to be friendly or polite, or not engage in conversation while waiting our turn? Thanks!

    1. PerfectBowling.com says:

      Hi! First let me say congrats on joining your first league. It’s unfortunate that you are experiencing this for your first bowling league. Do you get the sense that your other teammates feel the same way? If, as a collective, the team feels this one team member is acting out of line, you could approach him after finishing a nightly series. It may be that he is going through a hard time outside the lanes and it’s being expressed on the lanes. Bowling is supposed to be fun sport and it doesn’t really sound like he’s having any fun and it doesn’t make it fun for anyone else. So if you do decide to engage in conversation, maybe just asking if something is wrong will do the trick and change his attitude. Hope that helps.

  7. Terry says:

    I am bowling in my first league and bowl last on my team. A teammate who often bowls first jumps up and bowls her next frame before I even have an opportunity to bowl the previous frame. Today she even started her turn before the fellow bowling right after her had a chance to bowl. I feel this is poor etiquette and it makes me feel I’m an unimportant bowler to the team. Is this reconsidered poor etiquette?

    1. PerfectBowling.com says:

      Hi Terry,

      Congrats on joining your first bowling league. Sorry to hear about your teammate. This is definitely a tough situation since you both bowl on the same team.

      From what I understand is that she is able to start on the next frame prior to the whole team finishing the previous frame. This really isn’t considered poor etiquette is probably more about efficiency. She might just not want to hold up the game.

      Have you talked to your other teammates to see how they feel? It could give you an indication if it is an issue with them as well. Then it could be worthwhile as a group to discuss the issue. The tricky part is to not make it seem like you are attacking your teammate but expressing your concerns.

      Hope that helps and the situation can be resolved.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I am in a league that shares the lanes with a neighboring league and the bowlers from the neighboring league are constantly cutting off my league every time we are next door to them. The spotters and chaperones who are supposed to be supervising them refuse to intervene and in a polite-as-possible way remind them to wait their turns.

    Then the chaperones and spectators get very loud and noisy, making it hard for my group to bowl and concentrate on the game (my team got lucky and almost won all games). This has been going on for some time and the bowling alley never cares to intervene.

    Then sometimes, the neighboring group takes time off and we get these teenagers and college age kids who are constantly harassing my group, laugh loudly, make catcalls towards our female bowlers, etc. and whenever someone reports it to the desk, it is often ignored and I wind up telling a scorekeeper in my league who will take care of the problem. But the desk should be taking care of unruly behavior without it going far as to tell a spotter.

    Is there any way to resolve these bad mannerisms?

  9. Anonymous says:

    I was recently in a tournament and I have noticed some of the worst bowling etiquette ever. People on the left side were persistently cutting off the people on my lane making it hard for my team to focus and win. The spotters on the left lane did absolutely nothing to remind the bowlers in a polite as possible way to please observe proper lane courtesy. This one boy was the worst offender with not only his lack of lane courtesy, but he was taunting at my team every time we missed shots. As a result, our team lost due to the bad behavior.
    How can my team leader report this bad bowling behavior to the tourney chairperson so that the spotters could be educated on reminding bowlers to please observe courtesy.

  10. Jon Naef says:

    My wife and I have been bowling in a league for over 8 months.
    Recently we have noticed children (8-12 years old) running in the bowling area (away from the arcade) several times they have even run across several
    lanes. We have told the lane managers but the problem doesn;’t seem to
    be going away. Last week a youngster (about 5-6) was throwing small toys from behinh the bowlers onto the approach. Some parents dont manage their children well and others just drop them off and are not there to correct them.
    Is there anything that can be done?

    1. PerfectBowling.com says:

      That’s definitely a tough situation. I think you did right by bringing it to the lane management. However if they aren’t willing to do anything about it, it may come down to speaking to the parents directly when you happen to see them get picked up. It is perplexing why parents would just drop off their kids at a bowling alley as you say.

  11. Monty says:

    What is the ruling for a person who refuses to bowl until the opposite team has completed their turn. This is wasting time and causes us to always be the last ones finished. We try to explain it’s perfectly ok to be ready to bowl when the last person on the opposite team is finished. Hope this is clear.

    1. Logan Smith says:

      I do agree that this can be annoying sometimes as it can waste time. The reason they do it is to see how many pins they need to get in order to win the totals.

  12. Julie says:

    I bowl on a league and we have a team member who keeps bringing his 4 year old child.. Our team is for adults and is in the evening… What can be done?

  13. Chris says:

    I coach a high school team which has competitive matches with teams from other schools. At the end of the third game, a game that was fairly close, (close enough that the game was decided by 8 pins), their team was opening while ours were filling our frames. As a result, their anchor finished prior to our third bowler finishing. I was always taught that it is proper etiquette for the anchors to wait for the other anchor if the score was close, and alternate shots. The opposing coach disagreed. Afterward, I asked a third party, and he said that he actually coaches his team to finish first to put pressure on the other team. Can you help me with this situation?

  14. nevermind says:

    Hi there, we have another league that bowls right next to ours and some of the members there are obnoxious and rude. One of them brings their 15 year old mentally challenged child to the alley, but he constantly teases and curses at me, and when I ask for something to be done I only get “he’s just a kid.” Nobody in my league or the other one will do anything and I am contemplating quitting. He is that distracting. What can I do?

  15. Ross Carpri says:

    I have a general question. If you’re in a league and the team calls for 4 bowlers per team and you have 5 bowlers on the team, how is that handled in general? Is it a decision based on a per team basis or is there a rule for that?

    Should you have 1 person sit out each week and rotate, or do you rotate bowlers each game with the low man sitting out 1 game. Just curious for input

  16. John says:

    When bowling on any lane, can you start your approach on an adjoining lane?
    Ex. When bowling on lane 9, can you start you approach on lane 8?

    1. PerfectBowling.com says:

      Is there a reason you would want to start your approach in this manner?

  17. A Really Confused Person says:

    Hi there. I would like to address some issues. So first of all, I go bowling just for fun in local bowling alleys (I don’t have that much experience with bowling). I have been yelled at a fellow bowler is also bowling just for fun. She was bowling in a lane to the left of my lane. She was upset because of my failure to bowling courtesy. I decided to take my turn, then she interrupted me saying I was rude and it wasn’t my turn. She also said something regarding that I am distracting people around me. I can see here point, but people don’t usually care about that issue when they are bowling just for fun. I wasn’t trying to be deliberately inconsiderate. It’s just that when i take my shot, I only focus on my own lane. People around my lanes always go around the same time whenever I take my shot. I don’t mind about that. Keep in mind that I only have been bowling a few times. I am just really confused. Also the “others” in the rules above just seem vague to me. Please reply I would love that.

    1. PerfectBowling.com says:

      I wouldn’t let 1 incident get you down or influence your game. It would seem that the issue is not really you but something else. People will be people. Just enjoy the game.

  18. Chris says:

    Is it exceptable to wear anything but bowling shoes while bowling as it is now the policy of Holywood bowling. To allow. Ordinary play shoes for bowling

    1. PerfectBowling.com says:

      Like in any sport, it’s best to play with the shoes they are designed for. This is for safety and for performance.

  19. Joyce Thurman says:

    When does lane courtesy end? Is it when they sits down or when they release the ball. Also is there a penalty for a bowller crossing over lanes after they release their ball?

    1. PerfectBowling.com says:

      Thanks for the question, Joyce. Courtesy usually extends to when they finish their shot. Waiting until they leave the approach can slow the game down. To answer your other question, any time you cross the line it is considered a foul.

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