HomeBowling RulesWhat Constitutes A Foul In Bowling (All You Need To Know)

What Constitutes A Foul In Bowling (All You Need To Know)

What constitutes a foul in bowling?

What are the rules of the game?

How are fouls called and scored?

Keep reading as we have gathered exactly the information that you need!

Let’s dig into our bowling rules knowledge!

Are you ready?

Let’s get started!

What Constitutes A Foul In Bowling

Playing bowling is not just about taking a bowling ball and swinging it down the bowling alley!

There are rules that you need to respect if you want to play the game according to standards.

If you don’t respect the rules, you’ll end up with a foul play.

In this article, we will look at the fouling rules in bowling so you know what to expect.

Foul in bowling 

The first question we’ll need to address is what is a foul?

Based on the USBC Rule Book, a foul is when a part of the player’s body touches or crosses beyond the foul line and touches any part of the lane.

USBC Rule 5 states:

A foul occurs when a part of the player’s body encroaches on or goes beyond the foul line and touches any part of the lane, equipment or building during or after a delivery. A ball is in play after a delivery until the same or another player is on the approach in position to make a succeeding delivery.

In essence, you have a bowling foul when:

  • A bowler steps on the foul line 
  • A bowler body goes beyond the foul line and touches the alley 

Bowlers need to ensure that they remain behind the foul line when approaching or delivering the bowl.

Another important aspect to remember is that your arms going beyond the foul line will not result in a foul as the bowler’s body must touch the bowling alley.

Footwear and clothing are considered to be “part of the body”.

In that case, anything that is considered part of the body (like a hand writes, bowling shoes, or brace) will be considered a foul.

However, if accessories fall on the alley (like coins or jewelry), that is not a foul.

Bowling foul line

The second question to address is what is a bowling foul line?

The bowling foul line is the marks found at the beginning of a bowling lane separating the alley from the approach area.

The visible part of the line extends from one gutter to the other.

However, the entire bowling foul line extends out to infiniti!

The line extends beyond the gutter and includes the building, gutter, lanes, pillars, walls, and any equipment such as ball returns.

An object falling from your pocket onto the alley is not considered a foul (pens, coins or other).

Legal delivery 

To commit a foul, the bowler needs to perform a legal delivery.

Without a legal delivery, a foul cannot be called.

In other words, to constitute a foul, a bowler must complete a legal delivery and touch the bowling line or cross the foul line.

Looking at it from another angle, if a player crosses the foul line but does not release the ball, a foul cannot be called.

This means that a player who believes he or she has committed a foul can avoid releasing the ball and perform another approach.

Should a foul be called and disputed, the team captains can then make a decision as to the validity of the foul call or not.

In the case of doubt, the bowler will be asked to throw a provisional ball and the score for both plays will be submitted to the league for determination.

Scoring a foul 

When a player commits a foul, the delivery will be counted just like any other valid delivery.

However, the player will not get the credits for the pins knocked over during the fouled delivery.

If the foul was committed on your first ball, your rack will get rest and you can throw your second ball.

If the player knocks down all pins in the second chance after a foul is committed, the frame will be considered a spare.

If the player knocks down less than ten pins in the second chance after a foul, the game will be considered an error.

If a player scores a foul on the 10th frame and knocks down all the ten pins in the second chance, it will be considered a spare, and the player will get a third chance to play.

If a foul is committed in the third play of the 10th frame, then the score of the first two balls will be considered. 

If the foul was committed on our second ball, then you have no more throws.

Types of fouls 

What are the different types of fouls in bowling?

As a sport, bowling is a relatively simple sport although there are a few rules to respect.

Here are some types of fouls in bowling:

  • Crossing the foul line
  • Shot clock foul
  • Illegal pinfalls 

Crossing the foul line means that you have encroached or crossed the foul line and a part of your body touched the alley as you perform a legal delivery.

A shot clock foul is when the game requires that the bowler plays in a timely fashion.

The bowler has a specific amount of time on the clock to take his or her shot (often it’s 30 seconds).

If the player does not release the ball within that timeline, the player’s turn is voided or the player can get a penalty depending on the rules of the tournament or league.

Illegal pinfalls occur when the ball comes into contact with the gutter, rear cushion, other players or leaves the lane before hitting any pins.

As a result, a pin that falls for reasons other than the bowling ball knocking it over will be considered an illegal pinfall.

Dead ball 

In the case of a dead ball, the bowler will have another chance to bowl.

Dead balls are when:

  • Some pins appear to be missing
  • A human pin setter interferes with the pins
  • The player bowls on the wrong lane
  • The pinsetter interferes with the play
  • The bowling ball comes into contact with an object 


Let’s look at a summary of our findings.

What constitutes a foul in bowling

  • A foul is called when a player delivers a shot a part of his or her body touches the foul line or comes into contact with the bowling alley
  • If the player does not do a legal delivery, the foul will not be called
  • A player’s clothing or footwear is considered to be part of the player’s body whereas accessories or other objects are not (like coins, pens or other)
  • If a foul is called, the delivery will be counted but the pins knocked over will not
Bowling etiquette 
Bowling gutter 
Bowling lane 
Bowling rules
Bowling scoring rules
Bowling states 
Bowling strategy 
Bowling team positions
Bowling terms 
Open frame 
Ten-Pin bowling 
USBC bowling
How to bowl strikes 
How To Hold A Bowling Ball
How to hook a bowling ball 
What Are Bowling Pins Made Of
What is a strike in bowling 
Where to stand when bowling
Editorial Staffhttps://bowling.zone
Hello Nation! My name is Amir! I started this blog to provide all you bowling fans and enthusiasts with useful content, information, and resources on bowling. No matter if you are doing this as a hobby or professionally, I hope you could find what you're looking for. Enjoy!


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