As we get into lane play, it's important to know what all the markings on the lanes mean, where they are and why they're there. "Playing second arrow" doesn't mean much if you don't know what the second arrow is.

Press-Blog-Ad-370x355-4What better way to learn all the intricacies of the lane than to literally walk on it with USBC research tech Dave Nestor? Don't worry, we stripped the lanes of oil first.

The Approach
We'll start where we start: the approach. You might be surprised to learn there is some leeway as to how long the approach can be and where (and how many) dots can be on the approach.

Most bowling centers have a 15-foot approach, so the first set of dots you see (as you step onto the approach) are usually 12-14 feet behind the foul line. Because both the length of the approach and the placement of the dots can vary, it's important to take note of this any time you go to a new bowling center. If you always line up with the dots without checking to see where the dots are located, your body will adjust to a shorter or longer distance to the line, which can affect your ball speed and can baffle you for the entire length of your game or tournament.

The number of dots can also vary. Most approaches have seven dots across, although it's legal to have five as well. So, if you bowl in a house that has seven dots and like to line up with the far left dot, you're going to be in a very different spot if you go to a bowling center with only five dots.

The Foul Line and More Dots
Just prior to the foul line, we see another set of dots. These dots won't vary from bowling center to bowling center, so you can count on these being the same anywhere you go. These seven dots, which many players like to use for targeting, are placed on the same boards as the arrows, which we'll get into shortly.

Even More Dots
Seven to eight feet past the foul line, we find yet another set of dots that will be consistent from bowling center to bowling center. Unlike the dots at the foul line, these dots don't correspond with the arrows, although they are often used for targeting. Because they're so close to you at the foul line, they're placed closer together to allow you to better see your targets or any changes you're trying to make in your shots.

Next, we get to the arrows, which is one of the most popular areas for players to use as targets. The arrows are 14-16 feet down the lane and evenly spaced across. Technically, arrows aren't required on lanes, but there are very few cases in which a manufacturer or a proprietor would leave the arrows out. You can count on the arrows being consistent wherever you go.

Range Finders
As we keep walking toward the pins, we see four dark streaks on the boards. These are called range finders, which aren't required on the lanes but are very common on synthetic lanes. Wood lanes will almost never have them.

The range finders are three feet long, with the first set placed from 34-37 feet down the lane and the next set at 40-43 feet. They're long because they're so far away, allowing us to see them from the approach. The range finders help bowlers see what their ball is doing down lane at the break point.

Pin Deck and Pins
Let's start with the pin deck. Most people know it's 60 feet from the foul line to the center of the head pin, but because of that, the pin deck actually starts a little before the head pin, so the lane is just under 60 feet long. The deck begins just in front of the head pin and extends a few inches past the back row.

On wood lanes, the pin deck is often simply an extension of the lane, so the actual length of the pin deck can vary widely.

The pins themselves are arranged in an equilateral triangle, in which the center of each adjacent pin is 12 inches from its neighbor. They're a lot farther apart than it looks from the foul line, and only when you see them up close can you start to understand why we might miss a 3-10 conversion by going through the gap.

Know Your Lanes
The actual measurements and locations of the lane markings are important, but even more important is understanding that they can be different from one bowling center to another. This is another reminder to check out everything about a new bowling center. If you start taking things for granted, it can affect your scores.

Pay particular attention to the approach, which varies in length and can have a different number of dots in a different spot. Once you've gotten comfortable with the approach, you can usually count on the markings on the actual lane to be pretty consistent from one center to the next.


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