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Master Bowling Lane Boards Numbers: Aiming Precision for Strikes and Spares

  • Reading time:10 mins read

Bowling lane board numbers are an important yet often overlooked part of the game for novice bowlers. Those numbered arrows stretching from gutter to gutter serve an important purpose – they allow you to precisely aim your shots and adjust your positioning. Understanding the lane numbering system is a key skill every bowler should learn.

In this beginner’s guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about bowling lane board numbers, including:

  • What bowling lane board numbers are
  • How to read and use lane board numbers
  • How oil patterns affect the ideal board targets
  • How to pick your board number based on bowling style
  • Tips to make the most of lane boards for aiming precision

Arm yourself with the knowledge of lane boards and you’ll step up your bowling game!

What Are Bowling Lane Board Numbers?

Bowling lanes are 60 feet from the foul line to the headpin. Those 60 feet are divided into 60 numbered boards across the lane width.

The boards are numbered 1 to 60. Board 1 is the left gutter board, board 60 is the right gutter board. The boards in between make up the playable area of the lane.

The arrows 15 feet down the lane also correspond with the same board numbers. So the 1 arrow is board 1, the 10 arrow is board 10, and so on.

The most important lane board numbers for aiming are around the pocket – between boards 10 to 30. Spares can be picked up targeting boards from 30 outwards.

Understanding the purpose of the lane boards is simple – they serve as aiming references. The boards allow you to precisely locate your starting position and targets.

As you adjust left or right across the boards based on how you’re missing the pins, you can fine-tune your accuracy. Pro bowlers regularly make use of lane boards to dial in their shots.

How to Read and Use Bowling Lane Board Numbers

Reading the lane board numbers is straightforward. As mentioned the gutter is board 1, then the numbers ascend from 1 to 60 across the lane to the opposite gutter.

The arrows 15 feet down the lane display the exact same board numbers. So lining up your shot in relation to the arrows shows what board you’re on.

For example, if you stand with your right foot lined up with the 25 arrows, your body will be aimed at around board 25 at the foul line.

During your approach, visualizing the board target helps you align the angle of your feet and shoulders with the arrows. Keeping your body lined up with your board target improves accuracy.

As you bowl, take note of what arrow you are finishing on at the end of your slide. If you are missing to the left, move your feet and targets right across the boards. If missing right, move left.

Spare shooting also requires visualizing boards. For corner pins, imagine shooting along an angled board to the pin. For other pins, pick a board that intersects the pin at the desired angle.

Use the lane boards to confirm equipment changes are having the desired effect. If you change balls and don’t move left as expected, your board number didn’t change as predicted.

While lane boards are useful for aiming, don’t forget to actually watch your target and make physical adjustments. The mental picture just supports your physical execution.

Bowling Lane Oil Patterns and How They Affect the Boards

Lane oil patterns affect how much a bowling ball will hook. So the oil pattern influences what boards you should target and what boards to avoid.

Oil is applied to boards going from the gutter towards the pocket area. This is to counteract the natural hook of bowling balls from the outside oil towards the dry inside.

There are many oil pattern variations, but two main types are house shots and sports shots.

House shots have more oil to the outside, and less in the pocket. This allows room for error inside and helps amateurs avoid gutters. The most oil is on the outer boards past the 10 boards to counteract major hooking.

Sport shots feature a flatter oil pattern from gutter to gutter. Less oil in the middle allows professionals to play from inside and hook into the pocket. The flatter pattern presents a challenge.

As a casual bowler, you’ll generally encounter house shot patterns. This means playing up the boards around 10-15 is safer for avoiding excessive hooking.

However, more ball speed and rev rate can still be used on a house shot to hook across more boards. Just move further outside to compensate – 18-22 — and project across to the pocket.

On sports patterns, even amateur bowlers need to identify the dry boards inside they can track into the pocket from. This might be as low as board 5 or so. Board numbers help find that spot.

Either way, visualizing the area of the lane with less oil – and avoiding the heaviest oil – allows you to best leverage the boards at your disposal.

Targeting Boards Based on Your Bowling Style

The optimal boards to target in bowling vary based on your personal bowling style and strengths.

Heavy hook bowlers do best playing further outside, using more surface boards to get the ball back to the pocket. Lighter rollers are better off staying inside and projecting out minimally.

Power players with speed should utilize the friction of the deep outside boards to their advantage. Finesse players need to focus their game inside the dry part of the lane.

However, the principles remain the same. If missing left, move right. Missing right, move left. The bowler’s job is to find the optimal board number for their game.

Here are some board targeting tips based on bowling styles:

  • Bowlers with high rev rates: Start around boards 18-20 and hook into the 1-3 pocket. Moving left makes the breakpoint closer and sharper. Moving right delays the hook.
  • Bowlers with low rev rates: Keep shots straighter starting around 13-15 and avoid big moves left. Slower balls won’t make as dramatic of a turn. Let oil hold the line.
  • Power players: Use surface friction and start further out around 22-25 to burn through oil. Higher entry angles increase strike carry. Move in as needed.
  • Finesse players: Play straight up 10 or inside and use dry boards to pocket the ball. Slower rollers risk the gutter playing too far out. Make minimal moves.

Adjusting based on misses is also key. If you consistently leave 10 pins, you are likely lined up too far inside. Move out. If leaving the 8-pin, get your ball farther left at release.


Mastering lane boards provides a concrete aiming reference to make your adjustments and hone your accuracy. While feel and physical adjustment are still critical, the board numbers help reinforce a mental map for targeting.

Remember, boards 1-10 are the gutter, boards 10-30 are used most for strikes, and boards past 30 are for picking up spares. Find your ideal starting board for your ball speed, rev rate, and bowling style.

Also, be sure to factor in the oil pattern length and volume – house shots play inside, and sports shots require more outside breaks. Adjust to whether the miss is left or right.

Now you have the knowledge to leverage lane boards like a pro. Applying board numbering will quickly level up your bowling game. Use the arrows to pick your targets and make the right moves. Happy bowling!

Frequently Asked Questions

How are boards numbered on a bowling lane?

Boards are numbered 1-60 across a bowling lane, starting with 1 at the left gutter and ascending to 60 on the right gutter. The arrows 15 feet down the lane correspond to the same board numbers.

What is Rule 31 in bowling?

Rule 31 refers to the oil pattern regulation that states oil must extend at least 3 boards beyond the gutter (board 1) and no more than 10 boards from the edge of the lane. This prevents balls from falling into gutters.

How many boards are across a bowling lane?

There are 60 numbered boards across a standard bowling lane.

How do you read a bowling board?

Boards are read from the left gutter as number 1 increasing to the right gutter at number 60. The arrows 15 feet down the lane have matching board numbers to help bowlers align shots.

How is a bowling lane set up?

A bowling lane has gutters on each side and 60 numbered boards across. There are arrows evenly spaced 15 feet from the foul line showing the board numbers. Oil patterns are applied from the outer boards towards the pocket area.

Why are some numbers circled in bowling?

Circled numbers on the scoresheet represent strikes. Strike frames are often circled to make them stand out when calculating scores.

What are 5 strikes in a row called?

Five consecutive strikes in bowling is called a turkey or five-bagger. Four strikes in a row is called a hambone.

Why do I leave 7-10 split in bowling?

The 7-10 split happens when the ball goes high on the headpin but doesn’t drive through the pocket to take out the 10-pin behind it. This leaves the 7-pin on one side and the 10 on the other.

What is the 5 pin rule in bowling?

The 5-pin rule states that when a player bowls out of turn in a frame, if the correct bowler knocks down more than 5 pins, that counts as their score instead. The other player gets 0 pins for bowling out of turn.