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How Synthetic Bowling Lanes Are Installed, Originally Posted: 8/7/2012; Updated: 6/27/2023

If you wish to learn about synthetic bowling lane construction, then begin by examining useful bits of information about United States Bowling Congress (USBC) lane specifications. Although knowledge of regulation synthetic lane construction is not exciting information nor a direct help in improving your bowling performance, it does give you a good understanding of what specifications and tolerances USBC requires before a given lane is approved for use in sanctioned competition.

A regulation bowling lane, including flat gutters, kickbacks, and the approach, must be constructed of wood and/or other synthetic materials which have been tested fully and approved for use by the USBC.

The approach extends from and is exclusive of the foul line and shall be an unobstructed level approach not less than 15 feet in length, free from depressions 1/4" or more, and not less than the width of the lane. The foul line must not be less than 3/8" nor more than 1" in width, extend across the entire width of the lane at a minimum, and be distinctly marked or embedded between the lane and the approach. The foul light beam is no more than 1/4" beyond the approach, fully automatic, and must be visible between 10-15 seconds duration.

Dimensions of the synthetic bowling lane construction are as follows:

1. The kickback is 24" above the pin deck at the highest point and 17" above the deck at a lower point.

2. The tailplank is 2" maximum thickness and the pit cushion is 9 7/8" thick.

3. The pin spots are fiber spots 2 1/4" in diameter.

4. The center of the 7 & 10 pin spots are between 2 1/2" and 3" from the edge of the pin deck and the centers of the pin spots are 12" apart set in a equilateral triangle formation.

5. The gutter (channel) width is 9 1/4" in width.

6. The gutter is 1 7/8" beneath the lane surface

7. The lane is made of tongue and grooved bed stock typically laid on edge or of a synthetic material giving the appearance of boards sitting on their edges.

8. The center of the head pin spot is 60 feet plus or minus 1/2" to the foul line.

9. The overall length of the lane to the pin deck is 62 feet 10 3/16".

10. The lane is 41 1/2" in width.

The surface of the lane must be free of contiguous grooves or ridges, 40/1000" tolerance for crosswise tilt, crowns, and depressions. The lane surface must also have a lengthwise tilt tolerance of 40/1000".

The lane and approach markings allow for a maximum of 7 guides embedded in or stamped on the approach at each of the following points: 2"-6", 3'-4', 6'-7', 9'-10', 11'-12', and 14'-15'. Seven targets (arrows) may be embedded into or stamped onto the lane 12'-16' distance past the foul line and must be uniform in length and in shape and must be at a maximum of 1 1/4" in width and 6" in length. At a distance 33'-44' beyond the foul line, there maybe 4 targets uniform in appearance no wider than a single board nor longer than 36". Each series of guides 6'-7' past the foul line must be parallel to the foul line and circular in shape with a maximum of 10 guides not to exceed 3/4" in diameter.

In general, all synthetic products, all non-wood materials used in the manufacturing of lane components, must be presented to USBC for evaluation and possible testing before use in certified competition. If approved, they may not be altered by the use of coatings, etc. unless these coatings have been presented to USBC for evaluation and possible testing. In addition, all products must contain an approval label with the following requirements:

1. The label must be permanent, lasting the life of the product.

2. The label must be clearly visible after the product is installed in the bowling center.

3. The label must identify the company as the manufacturer.

4. The label must contain an approval number assigned by USBC and state that it is
“USBC Approved.

All synthetic bowling lanes must be USBC approved and meet all specifications for regulation bowling lanes in addition to the following:

On synthetic lane surfaces, each panel must have at least one label that meets all of the following requirements:

1. The label, identifying the manufacturer, must be permanent, lasting the life of the product and clearly visible after it is installed.

2. The label must contain an approval number assigned by USBC and state “USBC Approved.”

3. The color of the label can be similar to the colors used in the pattern as long as they are visible upon inspection.

4. The label must be located on the lane per manufacturer’s agreement with USBC.

5. The size of the label shall be limited to the width of the board (approximately 1 1/16 inches) and shall not exceed 2 inches in length.

USBC approval is based on specifications and sample material provided at the time of application and the foregoing conditions. Any modifications or anticipated change in construction, materials, and/or installation procedures must be reported to USBC to ensure continued approval under these terms.

The synthetic lane surface may not be altered (coated) with any material unless first tested and approved. All new synthetic surfaces submitted to USBC for testing/approval must meet a minimum SWARD Hardness of 35. All samples not meeting a “minimum average” of 45 will require an additional sample(s). The SWARD Hardness method of testing may be found in the Procedures Manual.

We hope this information about synthetic bowling lane construction provides useful inside details you might be interested in knowing. This article is not intended as a tutorial in playing the lanes or adjusting to oil patterns.

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