Image taken on the floor of a bowling lane from foul line looking at pins

How Long and Wide Are Bowling Lanes? (We’ve Got The Answer)

Bowling balls travel a very long path before reaching the pin set. If you are unaware of the bowling lane’s length, planning your ball delivery and power needed for a good hit are harder.

When measured from foul line to center pin, regulation bowling lanes should be:

  • 60 feet long
  • 3.5 feet wide

Thirty nine boards set lengthwise make up the lane. Seven boards have arrows that help bowlers align their delivery with their target.

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In this article, we will elaborate on the dimensions of a bowling lane and the other specifications surrounding bowling.

How Long Is A Bowling Lane?

Knowing the length of bowling alley buildings from the outside (visually, that is), you may wonder how long a bowling lane is. I remember when I started bowling, it always seemed like an illusion that the long lanes could fit into a building seemingly shorter than the interior lanes.

The bowling alley I grew up using and trained most often in was set into a hillside in the basement of another business, so you couldn’t estimate lane length from the outside. It was odd walking down a short flight of narrow stairs, through a tight door, and into the expanse of a 12-lane bowling alley.

Like all sports when taken seriously, knowing details about equipment, conditions and playing fields improves performance. It will be easier to estimate how much force you need to exert to deliver the ball. It also helps if you are setting anything up at home for some of the practice drills that I recommend.

Length Of A Bowling Lane

Every ten-pin bowling alley uses the same length when building its bowling lanes. The reason is that these alleys need to meet the standards set by the United States Bowling Congress (USBC). The organization is also responsible for setting the specification for bowling equipment like bowling pins and balls.

When measuring the length of a ten-pin bowling lane, you need to start the measurement at the foul line and end it at the headpin. The measurement will always be 60 feet since this is the standard bowling lane length set by the USBC. (source)

In addition, each bowling lane consists of 39 thin boards that run from the beginning to the end of the bowling alley. Seven of the boards have arrows called target lines. These arrows help bowlers align their shots to the bowling pins when they deliver the ball. Each arrow is five boards apart, so bowlers can easily count them when identifying the target they want to knock down.

Moreover, it is essential to note that the length of a ten-pin bowling alley differs from the dimensions of the lanes used for nine-pin, five-pin, and candlepin bowling. (source)

The Width Of A Bowling Lane

A ten-pin bowling lane’s width measures 3.5 feet (42 inches) from one gutter to another. The target line mentioned above is located right in the middle of the two gutters. A total of 39 boards make up the width of the bowling lane. 

The 20th board marks the middle of the bowling lane, with 19 boards each to the right and left. You can easily find this middle board by looking at the arrow nearest to the bowling pins.

Moreover, the surface of the bowling lane, both the width and length, has a thin layer of oil. However, the back end, or the last few feet of the lane, remains dry. This way, the bowling ball you delivered can hook and reach the pins you are targeting. (source)

How Many Feet Is A Bowling Approach?

The area that bowlers traverse before releasing the ball is called the approach area.

A bowling lane’s approach is where bowlers do everything they need before throwing the bowling ball down the lane. That includes gaining momentum with arm swing and stepping pace, bringing their bodies to the proper bowling form, positioning wrist and hand properly for the type of roll you intend and delivering the ball to the target pins.

The approach measures 15 feet long, from the back of the lane to the foul line. The approach’s width is 3.5 feet, the same as the width of the bowling lane.

More About The Approach’s Markings

If you observe the approach area, you will see two dots leading to the foul line. These dots help bowlers identify where to stand as they plan how to throw the ball. 

The first set of dots is 15 feet from the foul line. This first set of dots also identifies where the approach area begins. Meanwhile, the other set is 12 feet from the foul line, where bowlers begin their stance. 

These dots are five boards apart, similar to the arrows in the target line. 

Moreover, there is a final set of dots 2 to 3 inches past the foul line. These lane dots help bowlers line up their bowling balls before rolling them. They help with in-game adjustments, as well. If oil buildup starts decreasing your hook, you can adjust to using a different mark on the lane for delivery.

Is The Approach Area Covered With Oil?

Similar to the bowling lane, the approach area has oil on its surface. The oil reduces friction, so bowlers can easily glide from the start of the approach to the foul line. This way, they can quickly build their momentum, allowing them to perform a powerful throw that can reach and knock down the pins at the end of the lane. 

If you notice a change in how the ball rolls, even if you did not change your technique, that is because it accumulated oils from the lane. If this happens, you simply need to wipe the bowling ball with a microfiber cloth to make it less slippery. 

The Takeaway

A bowling lane measures 60 feet in length and 3.5 feet wide.

Knowing how long a bowling lane is may increase your chances of scoring well. And it might help you win the after-match bar trivia contest, as well.

Keep on rollin’.

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