Bowling is one of the most fun indoor games that can be enjoyed with any kind of company—family, friends, or even strangers.
If you have just started bowling, then you might feel that it takes forever for the ball to roll down the alley to smash those pins. if you are an advanced player though, it may seem like the ball quickly rolled away to the pin deck.
How long is that lane anyway?
The International Bowling Federation sets standard measures for the dimensions of the lanes and acts as the parent body of this sport which is played in over 90 nations by 90 million people.
Before we look at the detailed dimensions of a bowling lane, you must know the sections of a lane. A lane is typically divided into 3 sections:
- Front end (heads) – Most oil is applied here
- Midlane – Lesser oil is applied here
- Back end – No oil is applied
Now, let us look at the overall lane dimensions and examine these sections further.
Lane Dimensions & Markings
A standard bowling lane is about 60 feet (18.29 m) long from the foul line to the center of the headpin. When a person bowls without crossing the foul line, the ball travels all this distance to hit the target pins.
The first 20 feet is called the front end, the next 20 feet is the midlane, and the last 20 feet is the back end.
The first 12 feet of a lane is made of maple while the following 46 inches consist of pine. Post that, the pin deck is again made of maple.
The width is about 3 feet 6 inches (42 inches or 1.05 m) and has to be very accurate from front to end.
The set of arrows that you see above the foul line are called lane arrows or guide arrows. These are meant to guide you while releasing the ball and are located precisely at 15 feet (4.57 m) above the foul line.
These 7 v-shaped arrows help the player in hitting the target better since they are much closer than the pins which are 60 feet away! Experienced players looked to these arrows to help them master the aim.
Did you notice small strips of wood along the width of a lane?
They are called boards and they help the players to position and aim. A lane usually has 39 boards all about an inch wide each.
Just like arrows, majority of the lanes also have two sets of approach dots. While the first set is positioned 12 feet (3.66 m) above the foul line, the second is at 15 feet (4.57 m) from the foul line.
The area that a player uses to walk or swiftly move towards the foul line to release a ball is called lane approach. This is about 15 feet (4.57 m).
The lane approach has 39 boards that line up with the ones on the lane. So, if you consider the entire area of the lane including the lane approach, it turns out to be 75 feet.
Oil is applied on the bowling lanes at a distance of about 4 inches from the foul line to 38 feet down the lane.
The foul line should be at least 3/8th of an inch and shouldn’t be more than 1 inch wide. It should extend to the entire lane width and be clearly visible.
The foul line is one of your references to know where to stand when bowling. A player should never step past the foul line and the ball itself should land beyond this line.
The gutter is the outside space on either side of a lane. Once the ball lands here, it cannot hit the pins anymore.
The lane width combined with the gutters shouldn’t be less than 60 inches or more than 60.25 inches. The gutters are 9.25 inches wide and should lie 1.875 inches lower than the lane surface.
All pins are in an equilateral triangle formation with the 7th pin being the leftmost and the 10th pin being the rightmost.
Pin spots are the locations of these pins and are all 1 feet (12 inches) apart. Every spot is 2.25 inches in diameter. From the edge of the pin deck, the 7th and 10th pin spots should be placed at 2.5 to 3 inches.
If you consider the lane distance from the foul line to the center of the 1st pin, it is 60 feet (18.288 m), but from the foul line to the end of the pin deck, it is 62 feet 10.1875 inches (19.16 m) long.
It would be interesting to note that the term “bowling alley” was actually coined for a bowling lane. Because the venues are also called bowling alleys, it was later termed a “bowling lane” to avoid confusion.
If you want to master bowling and be the best at it, it is important for you to understand how everything works—including the dimensions of the lanes that you spend so much time in. Understanding other aspects like lane arrows and approach dots will take your game to a higher level.