There’s a good reason a bowling gutter isn’t the best place and thing to happen for both amateur and professional bowlers – it means a zero score! We say “place” and “thing” because the term “gutter” refers to both instances, and both won’t work to your benefit.
As a Place
In a Brunswick center, a bowling lane measures 42 inches wide – or 39.5 boards – and 60 feet long from the foul line to the head pin. This is the most desirable place for a bowling ball to be once it’s released your hands.
The least desirable place is the gutter, a trench on each side of the lane and extending its entire length. The gutter is large enough to accommodate a bowling ball, a semi-circle on the otherwise flat surface of the lane.
Why is it important to release a ball so that it stays in the lane and out of the gutter? A ball that lands in the gutter means zero score, and it doesn’t matter if the ball bounces out of the gutter and knocks down one or more pins. As soon as a ball rolls into the gutter, your score will be zero, guaranteed.
Let’s say that a ball that lands on a gutter bounces out of it and hits the pins, known as illegal pin fall. If it happens during the first shot of a frame, a second shot can be thrown after the pins have been reset. If it occurs on the second shot, regardless of whether it’s bad throwing or bad luck, then the frame is over.
As an Occurrence
In bowling, the term “gutter” is also a reference and abbreviation of the phrase “gutter ball” that refers to the ball landing in the gutter. While gutter balls are fairly common – and expected in case of beginners still getting the feel of the game – among infrequent recreational bowlers, these can also surprisingly happen in league competitions among more experienced bowlers. Even the best amateur and professional bowlers have gutter balls under their belt, and these can be a source of frustration but also a learning experience.
Fortunately, you can convert a gutter ball into a spare, known as a Jacob or a sprike, and your game can be salvaged. You may also consider bumper bowling wherein the gutters and blocked and, thus, there’s no way you can get a gutter ball – unless, of course, you’re the creative type and you just want a gutter ball.
But if you’re a serious bowler, bumper bowling isn’t your cup of tea and we understand. It’s for kids, beginners and sissies.