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Common Bowling Lane Terms


If you are a new bowler and just beginning to learn about bowling lane terminology, then familiarizing yourself with the common bowling lane terms will help you gain an understanding about the lanes and the game. bowlingball.com provides a glossary of bowling terms to help you broaden your bowling vocabulary and knowledge of the game.

Common bowling lane terms are found at our site by clicking on the "Bowling Terms" link provided under the the "Site Features" column found near the bottom of any bowlingball.com page. You can review the alphabetized list of terms to become familiar with some of the bowling lingo used by manufacturers, pro shop professionals, and experienced bowlers throughout the world; some of which reference the bowling lane.

Here are a few bowling lane terms with simple explanations:

Approach - The approach is the area that is at least 15 feet long on which a bowler walks to the foul line. Embedded on the approach are guides or alignment dots which correspond to the bowling arrows and with the pin spots located on the pin deck.

Arrows - Sighting targets embedded in the lane about 15 feet beyond the foul line to help players align with a chosen starting position.

Back-ends - The last 20 ft. of a bowling lane. This is where bowlers delivering a hook ball motion see the majority of movement in their bowling ball as it enters the pins.

Ball Rack - 1) Where the ball rests before it is rolled and after it returns from the pit; 2) the structure used to store house balls.

Ball Return - Track under and between the lanes where the ball travels when being returned to the bowler on the ball rack or ball return table.

Board - An individual piece of the lane (total of 40 or sometimes 41) which run its length and are numbered from 1 on the right for right-handers and from 1 on the left for left-handers.

Channel - Depression approximately 9.5 inches wide to the right and the left of the lane to guide the ball to the pit should it leave the playing surface. (gutter)

Cushion - Padding at rear of pit to absorb shock of ball and pins.

Deck - The surface on which the pins are spotted. The pin deck at the end of the lane has ten dots, called pin spots, that are .30 m (1 ft) apart.

Division boards - Where the pine and maple meet on a lane; also “Dovetails.”

Dots - Circular guides on the approach are used to set the bowler's feet at the start of the approach. Dots on the lane can be used to put the bowling ball down on/toward or to swing thorough a visualized line between the dots and the arrows.

Foul Line - The mark that determines the beginning of the lane, 60' this side of the head pin, where the gutters start. Has detector lights ("foul lights") and a buzzer to alert your team and opponents to your clumsiness. Crossing it gets you a count of zero for that ball and, if on the first ball, a shot at a new rack of pins.

Kickbacks - Vertical division between lanes at the pit end. On many hits, the pins bounce from the kickback knocking additional pins down. Also known as Sideboards.

Lane - Playing surface. Wooden or urethane deck 62'10-3/4" long and 42 inches wide with ten pins spaced one foot apart 60 feet from the foul line. Pins are on and gutters are at the side, not part of, the lane. Does not include the "approach."

Mid-Lane - The middle one third portion of the regulation bowling lane.

Pit - Space at the end of the lane where the bowling ball and pins wind up.


Range Finders - Two sets of markers embedded in the surface of the lane. One is a set of ten dots seven feet beyond the foul line. The other is nine feet farther down the lane in a triangular arrangement of seven arrows. Both are used to help establish a target line or sighting point.

Sideboards - Vertical division between lanes at the pit end. (kickbacks)

Track - Path to the pins created by many balls rolled in the same general area.

These common bowling lane terms are typically referred to when discussing the bowling lane. If you would like to learn more about the regulation bowling lane, simply check out the article located in our “BowlVersity” section on this site entitled “Bowling Lane Specifications.” You can pick up more information about lane dimensions than is provided in the terms itemized above.

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