Five Things Not to Do While Bowling

Have Fun Without Causing Problems

A man tying his bowling shoes.
A man tying his bowling shoes. Photo by Ryan McVay/Getty Images

As a recreational sport that can be played by people of all ages and skill levels, bowling is supposed to be fun. You and your friends can go out to the lanes and have a good time throwing a few games and, yes, you can probably bend some rules a bit. Bowling-alley owners and employees want you to return many times, so they're going to look the other way if you have a bunch of people lined up on the approach while you throw between their legs or if you and your friends are generally causing a ruckus while you're there.

It's okay (and encouraged) to have fun. But there are some things you should not do. If you treat the bowling alley and its equipment with respect, the employees will give you the same respect in return.

  1. Don’t bowl when the sweep is down. The sweep is the mechanical arm that comes down between shots, clearing away the pins you knocked down. You should never throw your ball while the sweep is down, as it can cause expensive damage to the equipment. Always wait until the sweep has finished its job and gone back up and out of the way before starting your approach. Even if you think you're timing your shot perfectly to avoid the sweep, there's a chance a mechanical failure will cause the sweep to get stuck. If that happens, your ball will smash into it loud enough for everyone in the place to hear. Then, you hope you got lucky and didn't cause any damage.
  2. Don’t throw multiple bowling balls at once. It's not uncommon for two or three friends to both throw a ball at the same time in an attempt to knock down the pins. Sure, it's fun for a fleeting moment, but it's also a great way to damage the sweep as already discussed. One of you may throw the ball faster than the other, and by the time your friend's ball gets there, the sweep is already down. Plus, the lanes aren't designed for multiple balls to be flying back there at once. Throw one ball at a time.
  1. Don’t eat or drink on the approaches. The approach is the wood on which you stand prior to throwing your ball down the lane. Approaches are supposed to be kept extremely clean and smooth so bowlers can slide on them while throwing the ball. If you spill even a small amount of food or beverage onto the approach, it can cause a lot of problems. People will stick to the approach, and the residue will stay on their shoes and end up all over the bowling alley. Keep your food and drinks at a table away from the approaches.
  1. Don’t use a ball that's too heavy or too light. While it might feel nice to hurl a light ball as fast as you can toward the pins, you're risking misfiring and throwing the ball onto the wrong lane, up to the ceiling (yes, this happens) or anywhere else other than toward the pins. Conversely, throwing a ball that's too heavy could cause you to drop it behind you or, worse, on your foot. Even if you don't drop the ball, it will take a toll on your body and you're putting yourself at risk for injury. Stick to a ball you can comfortably throw.
  2. Don’t breach bowling etiquette. Everyone can have fun at the same time. Whether you're a serious bowler looking to get in some practice for an upcoming tournament or someone who bowls once a year to have fun with friends, respect the people around you. No one should be able to get mad at you for having fun as long as you show them respect and common decency. If you're not sure about the essentials of how to behave in a bowling alley, take a look at this primer on bowling etiquette.