No matter where you bowl, the lane will have the exact same measurements and specific sections. Before launching into a game, it is a good first step to learn the features and dimensions of a standard bowling lane.
The most important part is the lane itself, the area that extends from the foul line to the area where the pins stand.
The lane is 60 feet long (from the foul line to the head pin) and a little over 40 inches wide.
Although it all looks the same, the lane is actually split up into three separate sections. The head or front-end is the first 20 feet of the lane, where the most oil is typically applied. The mid-lane is the next 20 feet of the lane, where there is usually less oil. The final 20 feet is known as the back-end, and there is no oil applied. (On older wooden lanes, the head is made of harder maple, and the mid-lane (also referred to as the pines) and back-end are made of softer pine wood.)
Boards and Arrows
If you look closely you will see small little strips of wood along the width of the lane that are about an inch wide. These are known as boards and there are 39 of them. Bowlers use the boards for positioning and aiming, but it is not the only lane feature that helps them do so.
You will also see seven arrows spread across the lane in a V shape. A bowler typically lines up his or her shot to one of these seven arrows since they are only 15 feet down the lane. It is much easier to hit a target that is this close rather than the pins which are 60 feet away.
You will hear intermediate and advanced bowlers referring to these markings by number; for example, “My target is the 2nd arrow” or “I stood at the 5th board.” Right handed bowlers count from right to left, but lefties count from left to right. It is also important to note that the arrows are spaced exactly five boards apart, so that the first arrow corresponds to the 5th board and so on.
The Approach Area and Dots
Since every bowler takes steps before rolling the ball, the area in which you make your approach is also very important. The approach area also has 39 boards and that they line up with the ones in the lane area.
Most bowlers use the approach area to line up their feet and ensure that their stance is consistent. However, instead of the arrows that you’ll find on the lane, the approach area has small locator dots to help bowlers aim.
There are three different sets of dots, one of them two or three inches from the foul line and the other two at 12 and 15 feet away respectively. The center dot is placed at the center board (the 20th board), and each other dot is placed at 5 board intervals.
The Pin Area
The last part of the lane is the pin area, although it is not quite as important as the other two. It is commonly referred to as the pin deck and it is where the ten pins are set. Its features include a padding cushion at the back to catch flying pins and a mechanism that sends the bowling balls back up the lane and the pins back into the pinsetter.
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