Bowling Shoes & Approaches – Understanding the Rules – By David Charron

Did you know that you are not allowed to apply any foreign substance to the bottom of your bowling shoes during competition? This includes but is not limited to Rosin, Baby Powder, Talcum Powder, Pumice, Ashes, Saliva, Water, Easy Slide (Yes the SHOE Product), Alcohol, Acetone, Simple Green, and Windex.

This is the excerpt from the USBC Rule book that establishes this.
Rule 12. Approaches Must Not Be Defaced

The application of any foreign substance on any part of the approach that detracts from the possibility of other players having normal conditions is prohibited. This includes, but is not limited to talcum powder, pumice and resin on shoes, and/or soft rubber soles or heels that rub off on the approach.

Commonly Asked Questions – Rule 12

12-1   One of the bowlers is having a difficult time sliding on the approach and applies a commercial product purchased at the center pro shop to the bottom of his/her shoes. The product is designed to help a bowler slide. The secretary says she has received a complaint from the opposing team and notifies the individual to stop using the substance or the game will be forfeited. Can an officer tell a bowler to stop using the substance and declare the game forfeited?
Commercial products, talcum powder or any substance applied to the shoe or approach could be in violation of Rule 12. If a league participant uses a substance and somebody complains that it prohibits him/her from having normal conditions, the league officer should require the individual to immediately stop his/her action. If the individual refuses, his/her games are subject to forfeiture.

In a couple of my leagues we have had some issues with people not understanding the purpose or the meaning of this rule and how it is applied. There have also been instances during Tournaments when bowlers get on unfamiliar approaches that are either slipperier or tackier than what they are accustomed to.

First, let’s discuss the purpose of the rule. The purpose is simple, its safety and fairness to all of the bowlers who are bowling on that particular pair of Lanes. When you apply something to the bottom of your shoe or to the approach you are changing the approach conditions for everyone, and that is not only unfair, but could be a safety hazard as well. For instance let’s say you are putting water on the bottom of your shoe between shots because your sliding too much, you are carrying that moisture to the approach to the area which you are sliding, now that area is stickier then it previously was, the next bowler sticks and falls because of this. You have created an unfair condition for that bowler to have to deal with, not to mention the fact they could injure themselves by falling or pulling a muscle trying not to fall.

Now let’s talk about the rule and what is allowed and not allowed. Keep in mind the rule states “ANY” substance and the “POSSIBILITY” of other players having normal conditions. Having received clarity from the USBC Rules Department, I have learned a few things; the official Charged with rendering judgment (League President or Tournament Manager) has to decide if it is reasonable to think that the actions of the bowler are in violation of rule 12. In almost all instances this is simple, the bowler is applying a substance (Powder, Spit, Ashes, and/or Easy Slide) directly to the bottom on the shoe, and this is a clear violation of Rule 12. (I know someone is thinking the product Easy Slide is for shoes, actually it is a shoe product, but it is illegal to use on the bottom of your shoes during competition). Now there have been other instances where some on the following has happened. I will provide clarification of each instance.

  1.  A bowler puts a powder of some sort on his/her thumb, or on the fingers, or holds a rosin bag in the hands between frames, but before stepping on the approach wipes the bottom of the shoe with his/her palm to remove grit or sand. Prevalent in the winter months in Maine (USBC Says as long as the bowler takes reasonable steps to ensure the powder is not transferred to the shoe they are not in violation of rule 12, USBC would suggest wiping the hand before going to the shoe or using a clean towel to wipe the shoe instead of the hand.). Keep in mind many Bowlers use Rosin Bags, Hand Conditioner, Baby Powder, Etc on their hands for grip purposes, you simply must make reasonable steps to not transfer these substances to your shoes. As USBC suggests if you must wipe the bottom of your shoe, wipe the palm of your hand on your pants or a towel before wiping your shoes)
  2. The bowler has stepped in water and wants to apply something to the bottom of the shoe to counteract the water they stepped in. (Baby Powder, Ashes, Easy Slide, Etc) (USBC Says the bowler cannot apply anything to the bottom of the shoe which could then be transferred to the approach. You can apply these substances to try to fix the slide sole, however you must wipe all of it off before stepping on the approach.) If you must do this during your league of other competition make sure you notify a League or Tournament Official beforehand, this will alleviate any misunderstandings.
  3.  A bowler uses Sneakers or a shoe other than a bowling shoe on either or both feet. (USBC says as long as the foreign shoe does not leave any markings or residue on the approach then the bowler is not in violation of Rule 12, If the shoe does leave a mark or residue on the approach then the shoe(s) cannot be worn)
  4.  A bowler licks their hand and applies this moisture to the bottom of the sliding sole to lessen there slide on slippery approaches. (USBC says that this a clear violation of Rule 12) If you need to adjust the slide of your shoe and do not have the type of shoes that allow you to change the soles the only legal suggestion I can make would be to Brush the bottom of the shoe with a Coarse Wire Brush. The best I have found for this is a little silver colored Tire Brush at Sears. You can lessen the slide by Brushing the sole from front to back, or to lessen it even more brush the sole from side to side thus creating more friction between the sole and the approach.

I hope this information has been helpful and informative. As always your comments and opinions are welcome and encouraged. Please post your responses and thank you for reading the Bowler 2 Bowler Blog. Good luck and good bowling hope to see all of you at the State Open Tournament in Brunswick.

2 responses to “Bowling Shoes & Approaches – Understanding the Rules – By David Charron

  1. I need some advice.currently as a bowler the above mentioned rule is clear about applying of substances like baby powder.I need this rule to be reviewed due to currently we have a centre where the conditions is appoling and unable to powder is the only thing that allows me to slide as the propietor refuses to assist to immediately attend to buff the approaches and make it more slideble to not use baby powder.I have pulled a hamstring and injured a back muscle.Nobody is prepared to pay my medical bills due to unnecesary claims through the medical aid.I respect the rule about powder, but what can i do to allow me to slide.I dont like to use slide sock.Thank you

  2. Quite frankly, it sounds like you need to bowl at another center. Your other option is one that I have: shoes with interchangeable pads and heels. You can purchase a pad that slides more than others and replace it on your shoe. The shoes cost me about $120, but I’ve had them for about 9 years now. The slide pads are about $15 each. I’ve just replaced my pads every couple years and the shoes have stayed a solid investment.

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