USBC Rule Changes effective August 1, 2020

General Playing Rules

Rule 400 – Youth Membership Eligibility

Lowers the maximum age for youth membership to 18.

Rule 13 – Consent Form

The USBC Singles Competition Prize Waiver Form and the Parental Consent Form have been replaced with a new document titled Consent Form.

Rule 14 – Supplemental Fees

Rule was removed.

Rule 14 – Emergency Authorization

Allows USBC to temporarily modify the General Playing, Award, League and Tournament Rules under specific circumstances. (See below)

Special COVID-19 Rules

  • USBC is allowing league competition to be bowled on a single lane. All high score awards and averages will be recognized. Rules 106a, 106b, 320a and 320b, which states two lanes must be used for competition and bowlers must alternate lanes, has been waived for now.
  • Bowlers will be allowed to use rubbing alcohol to clean their ball(s) during competition. This is the only exception to Rule 18 which restricts the use of liquid cleaners to clean the outer surface of the ball during competition.

Equipment Specifications – Bowling Balls

No balance holes will be permitted. All holes drilled must be used for gripping purposes on every delivery. No more than three (3) ounces of weight on any

Two-Handed Bowlers

Two-handed bowlers must have a marking (“+”) inscribed on the ball where their palm rests.


Recently USBC has enacted a few ‘new’ rules regarding bowling balls, balance and the introduction of foreign substances to the cover while bowling. This will hopefully be a ‘plain speak’ summary of these rules as they apply to anyone. USBC introduced these rules around August of 2018 with one to go into effect 8/1/2019 and the second to go into effect 8/1/2020. In the meanwhile, the second (below) was granted a ‘phase in’ process as it involves the adjustment/changes in many bowling balls, especially those in use by those that do not use their
thumb when delivering the ball.

As of August 1, 2019 USBC had enacted what most call the DRY TOWEL RULE. In simple terms, in most situations, once competition starts you may ONLY introduce a dry towel or Shammy (or similar) to your bowling ball. You may NOT pat rosin on your thumb or finger hole(s) (getting it on the surface of the ball and wiping off). You may NOT use any abrasives or even cleaners that may still say on the bottle “Acceptable for use DURING USBC competition”
(these are old bottles, new containers should only indicate if it’s a USBC approved substance that can be used anytime outside of competition). SOME competitions may include the practice time prior to competition into this (i.e. once lanes are on for practice NOTHING can be done to your ball) so check the league/tournament rules for this. Unusual circumstances (ball comes back with blob of rubbery stuff on the ball) are to be brought to the league/tournament officials and they may approve the use of a cleaner but only to get off the substance left on the ball by the equipment. It is NOT to be a carte blanche for cleaning your ball every few frames by claiming ‘gunk’ on the ball..

The ‘new’ balance/holes rule will take effect on 8/1/2020. In the meantime, USBC is allowing balls to be drilled to conform to EITHER the current rule OR the ‘new’ rule. Below is a summary of what is allowed under each rule. As of 8/1/2020 ALL balls MUST conform to the ‘new’ rule.

“NEW” RULE: The new rule is pretty simple. Key points are as follows:

  • If there is a hole in any bowling ball, it MUST be used for gripping purposes on
    every shot thrown with that ball. This does NOT include ‘vent’ holes which can
    be used on any hole.
  • The ‘new’ balance rules for balls are that a ball may be out of balance in any
    direction (side to side, front to back or top to bottom) by no more than 3 ounces.
  • You may NOT have a balance hole.
  •  If you are throwing no thumb, you CANNOT have a thumbhole to use for instance
    when you want the ball to go straighter such as a spare shot.
  • Plugging the balance hole on a ball with one will most likely NOT make the ball
    out of compliance because the ‘new’ rule gives more latitude in these variances.

Balls drilled without a thumb should be marked as to the ‘orientation’ of the grip.

 CURRENT/”OLD” RULE: The current rule allows for a little more flexibility with the use
of holes but still maintains a lesser allowable imbalance. Key points are as follows:

  • In delivering the ball, there may be ONE unused hole in the ball. This could be a
    thumb hole (if throwing no thumb) or a weight hole if using both fingers and
  • A ball with a thumb hole AND a weight hole cannot be thrown without the thumb
    in the ball
  • A ball may be out of balance by no more than 1 ounce (front to back, side to side)
    and/or 3 ounces top to bottom.
  • A ball with a weight hole and a thumb hole CANNOT be thrown with no thumb for
    strikes and then the thumb used for spare or other shots.VIOLATIONS of either rule as told to us by Rules can be ZERO for that GAME.


    Stemming from the Dr. Nassar (sp??) with improper behavior (and other similar situations) new Federal Law now mandates new protections when adults are working with youth. On a mandate from the US Olympic Committee, USBC has developed guidelines for compliance for all National Governing Bodies (NGB) of sports, Olympic or not. The USBC Registered Volunteer Program (RVP) allows bowling to be in compliance.

    What is the USBC Registered Volunteer Program?
    The United States Bowling Congress’ Registered Volunteer Program was created in 2006 to protect the youths who participate in USBC Youth programs. Providing a safe environment for youth bowlers is USBC’s highest priority.

    The USBC Registered Volunteer Program accomplishes two very important goals:

    • It requires all volunteers who have regular contact with USBC youth bowlers to have gone through a mandatory criminal background screening designed to remove and/or discourage those who might harm our kids.
    • It includes a training component, through, so those who work closely with youth members can
    recognize if an athlete is being abused, learn how to prevent abuse and how to respond if abuse has happened.
    Everyone deserves to participate in sports free from bullying, hazing, sexual misconduct or any form of emotional or
    physical abuse. USBC’s Registered Volunteer Program is designed to ensure all who work with youth members are
    dedicated to that objective.
    Who is a required to become a Registered Volunteer?
    Anyone 18 years of age or older who has regular contact or authority over USBC Youth members and those
    individuals within USBC governance structure. Specific roles or positions within USBC require compliance. Those
    roles are:
    • USBC Headquarters employees
    • USBC National Board and Youth Committee members
    • USBC Team USA and Junior Team USA Members
    • State and Local Youth Committee members and directors
    • State and Local Association Board members
    • State and Local Association Managers
    • USBC league officers in leagues with members age 17 or under
    • USBC Youth tournament managers
    • USBC Certified Coaches

    Other Considerations
    Anytime youth and adults are in regular contact (i.e. a league situation with bowlers under 18 in the league with adults) ALL adults are required to take the Safesport component of the RVP program. For leagues, this is an all or none situation and the onus is on the adults to be SafeSport trained prior to an under 18 (youth) bowler bowling in the league. We have been told by Rules that provided league rules allow a youth to bowl in an adult league (as
    defined by age), that youth can be allowed to bowl and those adults that have not been SafeSport trained cannot bowl until they are such. This is why we recommended in our league secretary letter that all leagues add a rule requiring all adult league bowlers to be at least 18 years of age. This holds in youth leagues when youth turn 18 they MUST be SafeSport trained to keep bowling. This could cause some issues with some of the summer “Adult/Child” leagues. It has been determined that a one time tournament (our adult/child tournament in the spring) is NOT a ‘regular’ contact situation and adults will not need to be SafeSport to bowl in this tournament. NOTE: Items in BLUE are verbatim from USBC on The rest is information that will both help you understand and some of the additional situations that can arise and the information is from conversations (several) with Rules.