Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Rules of Bowling: Deliberate Fouling

According to the USBC's rule book, a foul is committed in bowling 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." When I intially read this rule, I thought at first that a player's hand is not allowed to cross the foul line, but this is not true. In fact, a player can cross the foul line as long they do not touch anything beyond it. This is why people who can levitate are so good at bowling.

What is more interesting, however, is Rule 5B, shown above. It says that if a player intentionally fouls, with the intent of benefiting from that foul, then a score of zero is given for that frame. I find this rule strange for a few reasons.

First, how could one benefit from a foul? I can think of one way- sandbagging. Sandbagging refers to intentionally keeping your average low and therefore your handicap high to give you an advantage in the future. In some situations, it might be possible to do this at low cost. For example, let's say your team has an insurmountable lead going into the 10th frame. In this case, you can intentionally foul at no cost. You win the game, and you keep your average low and handicap high.

Is this the intent of Rule 5b? To prevent sandbagging? Perhaps, but it is flawed. It is not a rule violation to intentionally throw a ball into the gutter. Yet, you achieve the same outcome that you would be deliberately fouling. (This may be covered under Rule 17a, Part 2 dealing with Unfair Tactics.)

Second, the consequence of the rule is pretty much the same as if it were not in effect. If you unintentionally foul on your first ball, you do get a 2nd ball. If you deliberately foul you do not. But here's the weird part. If you deliberately fouled to keep your average low, then you are actually benefited by this rule because you receive a score of zero for the frame. For this rule to really be meaningful, it should have much more severe punishments, such as forfeiture of game or suspension. Otherwise, it makes no sense.


  1. The rule is in effect for a reason, which is, you can benefit by deliberately fouling.

    Say you throw your first ball in a frame, and it is heading directly straight at the head pin for a 7-10 split. Without this "intentional foul" rule, you could step over the foul line, get a zero on your first ball, and the all ten pins would be re-set for your second ball. Obviously, you would have a much better chance to covert the spare now than you would of converting the 7-10 split.

    So, yes, it does make sense and there is a reason for it!

    By the way, I just kind of stumbled on your blog, and I think its amazing! I'm a long-time, semi-talented bowler, and also a "numbers geek". I've kept similar stats for myself since the early '90s, although nowhere near as complete as you do-its interesting to see other bowlers out there, like myself, who love to analyze the "numbers" aspect of things. Great Job!

  2. First, thanks for the compliments. They are nice to hear, and second, your explanation for the rule is great. I had failed to consider that strategy. It is brilliantly devious. Thanks for the clarification!

  3. Bowling has increased in popularity in the past few years. Bowling is very easy game to play anyone can play this game. it was nice reading your this post..did get good points from here. thanks for sharing points you shared here.
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