Where to Stand When Bowling

Find the Best Spot to Line Up Your Shot

A piece of a bowling approach.
A piece of a bowling approach.

Unlike track events, when the competitors have to get set in their starting blocks prior to running the race, or football, when the players have to line up on their team's side of the line of scrimmage, the rules of where you have to stand while bowling are very relaxed. And they have to be, as adjusting your starting position throughout the game, especially when you get to higher levels of bowling, is a vital part of scoring high.

You can stand as close to or as far away from the foul line as you want, and technically you have unlimited space to your left and right, although going too far in either direction quickly becomes impractical.

The Approach

In bowling, an approach is both the act of approaching the foul line for a shot and the name of the area in which a bowler stands prior to throwing a shot.

You may stand anywhere on the entire approach when getting set to bowl. If necessary, you can even stand so far left or right of your lane, people might think you're lining up on the wrong lane. Likewise, you can stand as far back from the foul line as the approach allows or you can stand stationary with your toes as close to the foul line as you can get without stepping over.

Compared to another sport, where to stand in bowling is similar to where a batter must stand in baseball. The batter has to stay inside the batter's box, but can stand anywhere he wants within that boundary.

In bowling, the approach is much bigger than a batter's box, giving you a lot more freedom to roam.

Keep it Sensible

While the starting position is entirely up to you, violations can come into play after you release the ball, so you don't want to stand so far right you can't even remember what lane you're on, for instance.

You can't knock down any pins on your lane if you don't even put your ball on your lane.

You also want to avoid fouls, which result in a score of zero. While you can use the entire approach to begin your shot, you have to keep yourself from stepping over the foul line during or after your shot (an exception to a foul exists if you step over the line but don't release the ball, giving you another chance to reset and line up again). Knowing the rules of releasing a bowling ball will help you lower the risks of infringing on the rules when choosing your starting position.

The Importance of a Consistent Starting Position

A successful starting position in bowling is one you can remember, repeat, and thus use to your advantage when you need to adjust. Knowing where you stood on your previous shot, combined with the knowledge of what happened on that shot, give you the information you need to make any necessary adjustments, which often include your starting position. If you're new to bowling and aren't sure yet what it means to adjust, it's all the more important to find yourself a reliable starting position now. In the most general sense, though, the rules say you can stand anywhere you want on the approach.

For some preliminary, simplified ideas on how to determine your ideal starting position, take a look at how to bowl strikes.