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Beginner's Guide To Finding The Bowling Pocket

The center of the pocket is located on the 17.5 board on the pin deck. Using a right handed bowler as the example, the pocket is on the 17.5 board counting boards from the right edge of the lane toward the lane center. The center of the "head pin" pin spot on the pin deck is located on the 20 board, the exact center of the bowling lane.

A pocket hit is one in which the bowling ball contacts the head pin first (on the right side of the pin for right handed bowlers) and then contacts the 3 pin next. With a modest hook delivery, the ball will continue past the head pin and 3 pin and contact the 5 pin next followed by the 9 pin.

The bowling arrows are useful guides by which to locate as a sighting target since the arrows are approximately 15 feet past the foul line and are in a triangular configuration. From bowler's right to left (for right handed bowlers), the arrow nearest the edge of the lane is referred to as the "first arrow."

The next arrow toward the lane center is the 2nd arrow, which is located on the 10 board from the right edge of the lane. Opposite is true for left handed bowlers.

Since the 4th arrow (center arrow) is aligned exactly on the same board as is the head pin and the five pin on the pin-deck about 60 feet from the foul line, the pocket can be traced back to just 2.5 boards to the right of the 4th arrow.

Most bowling center house conditions for oiling the lanes creates the highest volume of oil conditioner located between the 2nd arrow on the right of the lane and the 2nd arrow on the left side of the lane.

Also, the heaviest volume of oil is located from the foul line, where the bowling ball first contacts the lane surface down the lane, to approximately 20 feet distance past the foul line. In most cases, the 2nd arrow is a good place for initial sighting alignment to the pocket.

By sliding at the foul line with the center portion of the toe of your sliding bowling shoe on the center guide dot (the 20 board) and by sighting at the 2nd arrow, you have a good chance of rolling your ball into the pocket.

Adjustments in initial alignment will be needed when a ball is delivered accurately toward the 2nd arrow but does not end up solidly impacting the pocket. The “rule of thumb” is if you miss the pocket to the right, adjust your feet to the right. If you miss to the left, move your feet to the left. Do not make alignment adjustments based on a poor delivery.

By adjusting where you slide into the foul line by a board or two, you will change your delivery angle slightly and your ball will take an adjusted path down the lane to the pocket.

The amount of adjustment for missing the pocket from your initial alignment, either to the left or to the right, depends on how far you missed the pocket, of course.


Most coaches instruct new bowlers to walk a straight path to the foul line. If you walk a straight line, you can align your sliding bowling shoe on the same board back on the approach where you take your stance as where you wish to slide when targeting the pocket.

In our example, place your sliding bowling shoe toe on the 20 board, walk a straight line to bowl, slide on the same 20 board, and sight at the 2nd arrow (the 10 board) on the lane.

Try avoiding drifting right or left more than a board when walking up to deliver your bowling ball. Walking a straight path to bowl works well on strike and spare ball deliveries.

As in any sport, the better one becomes, the more complex is the science of the game. Keeping a simple alignment system if you are new to bowling is the best method of gaining some confidence and having some fun.

By learning to deliver your ball into the pocket, you enable yourself to have a good chance at getting strikes. If you hit the pocket and do not strike, you will leave easy spares to convert. Improving your scores begins with proper alignment and rolling your ball into the pocket.