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How To Select Your Bowling Target

As a beginner bowler or newcomer to the game, learning how to select your bowling target is a big step in developing accuracy and targeting the pocket or for converting spares. A good way to begin is to first understand where the guides on the approach are located in reference to the foul line and to the targeting arrows about 15 feet past the foul line. By knowing a little about the "lane geometry", you will more easily understand how to select your bowling target.

The arrows are located about 15 feet past the foul line toward the pins and are in a triangular configuration. The arrows are also commonly referred to as "guides" or "dovetails." 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" and is located on the 5 board of the lane surface, about 5 inches from the edge of the lane.

Continuing to the bowler's left, the next arrow is the "second arrow" which is located on the 10 board and so on across the lane. The arrows are symmetrically placed on the lane. Using a reverse reference system is recommended for left handed bowlers.

The circular guides embedded or stamped onto the approach just behind the foul line correspond align with the 7 boards of the arrows down the lane. The largest guide is located on the 20 board, the center board of the lane and aligns with the center of the 7 targeting arrows. Each guide at the foul line, both to the right and to the left of the center guide, is positioned 5 boards apart from the adjacent guides in the same manner as are the arrows.

If you trace back from the foul line, you will find another set of guides on the approach 12 feet behind the foul line and yet another set of guides 3 feet further back from the 12 foot guides. Usually, there are 5 guides at the 12 foot position on the approach and those guides align on the same boards as the center 5 guides at the foul line and down the lane with the center 5 arrows.

The approach guides are used primarily for alignment to the targeting arrows. It is typically recommended by certified coaches that a bowler will align his strike ball delivery to the pocket in such a way as to roll the bowling ball toward the second arrow with an appropriate angle from the release point just beyond the foul line as to allow the ball to continue down the lane to the pocket.

If a bowler rolls a slight curve or hook delivery, then the ball should contact the lane just beyond the foul line on about the 12 or 13 board, roll over the 2nd arrow (the 10 board), and then the ball will change directions about two-thirds of the way down the lane at the break point and head toward the pocket located at the 17.5 board.

In the case if you are a right handed bowler, if the center of your bowling ball is released on the lane just beyond the foul line (about 1-2 feet distance past the line), then your sliding bowling shoe is normally the left shoe. The slide bowling shoe should enter the sliding area of the approach very near the foul line (ending perhaps 2-4 inches behind the line) and the instep of the shoe should slide into the line pointing fairly straight so the toe faces the pins which also helps keeping your hips and shoulders aligned to your target down the lane.

The instep of your sliding shoe is located about two boards right of the exact center of your slide shoe. If you allow about 1 inch of space between the inner side of the bowling ball as it passes by your sliding shoe, then the instep of your sliding shoe will cover the 18 board on the approach at the foul line and your toe will point to the 20 board or the center guide. In this example, the reference to this alignment positioning on the approach goes as follows:

  1. Stand on 18 board - (with the instep of your sliding shoe covering the 18 board)

  2. Walk a straight line to the foul line and slide on the same 18 board - (if you walk either right or left 2 boards from your initial starting position on the 18 board, then adjust your starting position 2 boards to compensate

  3. Slide with your sliding shoe covering the 18 board at the line.

  4. Release the ball where the center of the ball contacts the lane on the 13 board - (the diameter of the ball plus a small bit of room so the ball does not contact your ankle or shoe passing quickly into the release zone).

  5. Target the 2nd arrow (10 board) 15 feet down the lane.


The 18 board is a good place to initially position yourself on the approach and the 2nd arrow is a good place for an initial alignment You may have to use a board located to the right or to the left of the 2nd arrow and make the correct adjustment in order to roll your ball and contact the pocket depending on your type of delivery, the speed you roll your bowling ball, the oiling pattern used on the lane, and the bowling ball you select.


The process of alignment is very geometric and matches nicely with use of the bowling guides and arrows. bowlingball.com recommends you consult a certified coach or a bowling professional for more information on alignment. We hope these tips help you understand the process of selecting your target.

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