2023-24 Bowling

Manuals provide the most up to date policies, rules, and regulations for Iowa High School Athletic Association sports in the regular season and postseason. Member school athletic directors and head coaches seeking more information or clarifications on the contents of this manual should contact the IHSAA sport administrator for this sport: . All other inquiries should be directed through athletic directors or coaches at member schools or host schools. 

For more information on concussions or sport safety, please visit the Health & Safety resource page. 

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LINK to PDF version of Bowling Manual


School enrollment numbers from each year inform the following school year’s classifications for IHSAA sanctioned sports. Enrollment numbers are provided by the Basic Educational Data Survey (BEDS) from the Iowa Department of Education. Whole grade and cooperative sharing agreements listed as available.

3A: 32 largest schools

2A: Next 32 largest schools

1A: Remaining schools


Sanctioned Team

Employ a fully certified coach

Be eligible for postseason play

Shall follow all rules and regulations of the IHSAA/IGHSAU


School sanctioned teams shall be allowed to compete against sanctioned teams only.

USBC Rule Information


The IHSAA/IGHSAU will rule on any situation arising, which is not covered specifically by the IHSAA/IGHSAU/IBF Guidelines, the IHSAA Handbook, or the United States Bowling Congress High School Division rule book.



Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Bowling Ball Cleaning

While bowling in USBC competition, a bowling ball cannot:

  1. Have the surface altered by the use of an abrasive.
  2. Be cleaned with any liquid substance or cleaning agent.
  3. Have any foreign material on it including, but not limited to, powder, rosin, marker or paint.

All bowling balls so altered or cleaned must be removed from the competition. Note: Should a foreign substance appear on the outer surface of a bowling ball which cannot be removed with a dry towel, an approved cleaner may be used with consent from a league or tournament officer.

When may I alter the surface of my bowling ball?

You are permitted to sand, polish, or clean the surface of your bowling ball prior to the start of competition. However, once tournament or league play begins, altering the surface of a bowling ball is strictly prohibited. This includes balls that have not yet been introduced into play.

When does competition start?

Competition starts once any bowler throws a ball for score in a league or tournament.

Can I pat my ball with rosin or powder if I wipe the ball before it is delivered?

No. Wiping the ball with a towel does not make the ball compliant to the rule. Patting a ball with a product is adding a foreign substance to the ball and cannot be done during competition. A product can only be applied to a bowler’s hand and not leave residue on the surface of the ball.

Can I clean my ball with an approved cleaner during practice?

You can clean your ball with an approved cleaner during practice, unless otherwise specified by league or tournament rules.

If I take a ball out of my bag that I have not bowled with, can I clean it with an approved cleaner?

No, approved cleaners cannot be used once competition has begun. This rule applies to balls from a bowler’s bowling bag, locker or car, etc. We suggest you clean all your bowling balls prior to the start of competition.

A tournament consists of singles and baker events. The singles event is bowled first immediately followed by the bakers. Can I “alter the surface of” my bowling ball between events?

No. Rule 18 does not allow the outer surface of any bowling ball to be altered after the start of competition. Since the tournament is conducting singles and bakers concurrently, you cannot alter the surface of the bowling ball between events.

Can a bowler use an abrasive, cleaner or polish on just the track or only just a portion of the track of the ball?

No. USBC specifications require that the entire surface of the ball be prepared in a uniform manner. Preparing the surface of a ball in any other manner would be a violation of Rule 17a, Item 1. The penalty for a violation of this rule can include disqualification, forfeiture, removal from the league, and/or suspension of USBC membership.

What happens if a bowler uses a cleaner, abrasive, or puts a foreign substance on the ball?

If the bowler was not aware of the rule, the ball is removed from competition. The bowler also should be given an explanation of the rule. Conversely, if the bowler knows a ball cannot be cleaned, patted with rosin or powder or use an abrasive, the ball must be removed from competition and the games are subject to forfeiture. If there is a question as to whether a bowler knew the rule or not, the league board of directors makes the determination. If the bowler refuses to remove the ball from competition, the games are subject to forfeiture.

If my ball comes back with residue on it and I cannot clean it with my dry towel, rag or shammy, can I use an approved cleaner?

Yes, provided you get permission from a league officer or tournament official. If you clean your ball without prior permission, you may be asked to remove the ball from competition, and/or the games may be subject to forfeiture.

When I have permission to clean my ball, may I clean the entire ball?

Yes, you may clean the entire surface of a bowling ball.


The Bowling Advisory Committee and the administrative staffs are concerned about “gamesmanship” being used in bowling competition. Accordingly, the Advisory Committee recommended and both Boards adopted the following rule: “Coaches shall remain two feet behind the approach area and not be in a position that impedes the competitive bowlers.” There is no reason why coaches or non-competitors should be in any position to disrupt bowlers.



  1. The IHSAA/IGHSAU rule governing code of conduct for players prescribes that a verbal warning shall be issued on the first offense for conduct unbecoming high school players. Such conduct shall include, but is not limited to:

a.) Cell Phone Usage — this does NOT include the wearing of smart watches for the purpose of keeping time. 

b.) Throwing equipment such that it could cause harm to another participant, spectator as a means of releasing frustration.

b.) Use of abusive language.

c.) Willful acts which damage property or equipment.

d.) Other unbecoming conduct as determined by tournament administration.

Second offense, the bowler will receive a “0” for the frame. Third offense, the player shall be disqualified, and no substitute is allowed.

IMPORTANT: The Code of Conduct does not negate the ability to enforce immediate disqualification for “serious misconduct” by a participant. The phrase “serious misconduct” is intended to cover misconduct that is so far removed from the expected norm that the most severe sanction of removing a bowler from the competition is justified.


  1. Any player who uses tobacco (including smokeless and similar devices) or gambles on the course is automatically disqualified for serious misconduct. In the case of gambling between players, the players involved are disqualified in that given meet.


  1. Any student disqualified from an interscholastic contest for flagrant, violent, or verbal misconduct will be ineligible for the next regular scheduled game/meet at the level of competition and all other games/meets in the interim at any level in addition to any other penalties the school may assess. The second violation carries a four games/meets automatic ineligibility. It will be the responsibility of the host school meet manager to report any disqualification(s) to the IHSAA/IGHSAU the day following the meet, if the meet is held on a Friday or Saturday, then on the Monday following the meet. It is the coach’s responsibility to inform his/her administrator of any disqualification(s). The administrator will file an official report form with the IHSAA/IGHSAU on-line.


4.The IHSAA/IGHSAU and the Bowling Coaches Advisory Committee feel the code of conduct rules are appropriate.


Example of Code of Conduct for Cellphone usage: is prohibited in the competitive bowling area if a cellphone is used in this area the following warnings will be implemented.

First offence: Verbal Warning

Second offence: 0 for the frame

Third offence: disqualification of the individual (if a disqualification occurs no substitute will be allowed).

Delay of Play: Purposeful delay of play will receive a verbal warning. This does not include delay of play for health reasons or malfunction of equipment.



Pants – Shall be a long pant, similar in color (no blue jeans) or a skirt may be worn.

Shirts –

  • Shall be identical
  • Shall have a collar – Mock turtleneck shirts are considered to be a collared shirt
  • Shall have no advertising
  • Identification on the front or back can be either the participant’s first or last name, or school name/nickname if owned by the school.
  • Identification on the back of shirt may be school name/nickname/logo. Note: The IBF logo is permitted on the front of the shirt.

Hats – no hats are allowed.

If not in appropriate uniform and it cannot be corrected immediately the player will be disqualified and team will use an absentee score for the game in which that bowler is participating.

Schedule Information

Important Dates

  • November 6: First Practice
  • November 20: First Competition
  • February 12: Girls State Qualifying Meets
  • February 13: Boys State Qualifying Meets
  • February 19-21: State Tournament

Regular Season Limitations

  1. Playing Dates: 12 (Exception: Teams will be permitted an additional date to accommodate a new bowling school in acquiring a complete schedule. The additional date is required to be approved by the Iowa High School Athletic Association or Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union).
  2. Team: Two (2) matches per day at any level.
  3. Individual: Six (6) games in a calendar day. Note: 5 Baker games =1 game


Bound Information

Coaches are required to post statistics to Bound. Failure to do so has consequences from the IHSAA/IGHSAU. Staff will check to see if statistics have been posted in a timely manner. Staff will check to make sure schools are in compliance on the following dates.

  • Tuesday, December 12, 2023
  • Tuesday, January 9, 2024
  • Tuesday, January 23, 2024
  • Tuesday, February 6, 2024

State Tournament

The State Tournament(s) for both teams and individuals will be held at the Cadillac Lanes in Waterloo on February 19-21.

Individual Tournament: All 32 qualifiers would bowl three individual games. The top eight finishers would then be bracketed (1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6, 4 vs. 5) and bowl one game. The winners would advance to the semifinals and finals, where the champion and runner-up would be determined. In addition, a consolation match will be bowled to determine third and fourth place.

State Team Tournament: The eight teams would bowl 15 baker games. The total pins after 15 games would determine bracketing for (1 vs. 4, 2 vs. 3, 5 vs. 8, 6 vs. 7). There will be a Championship Bracket (1-4) and Consolation Bracket (5-8). Teams would then play a best three of five baker game to advance to the finals.

If there is a tie for 4th or 5th place in the bracket the teams will have a roll off 6-10. If there is still a tie we will take the team with the high game. If a tie exists after that we will continue to the second highest game and so forth. If there is a tie for any other bracket placement the tie breaker will be highest game. The champion and runner-up would be determined. In addition, all consolation matches will be bowled to determine third through eighth place.

State Bowling Schedule 2024 

  • Monday 3A Team, 2A individual 
  • Tuesday 1A Team, 3A individual 
  • Wednesday 2A Team, 1A individual 



Contest Information

Bowler’s Area & Competition Formats

IMPORTANT NOTE: Both the IGHSAU/IHSAA realize that member schools are utilizing non-school facilities and the time frame allotted for a meet/tournament may dictate the format of competition during regular season events. Please make sure you are utilizing the regular season format listed below, baker tournament format, the post season format, or individual play. The postseason format is more defined and shall not be altered in any way by participating schools.

The host school is responsible for designating a bowler’s area during the match.

Authorized Personnel: The coach(es), participating bowlers and bowling center staff as needed, are the only persons authorized to be in the bowler’s area during a match. Substitutes and other interested parties must remain behind the area defined as the bowler’s area.

A. Team Structure (Regular Season):

  1. A varsity or junior varsity team shall consist of no more than 6 bowlers. A team may have an unlimited number of reserve bowlers. Each of the six team members will bowl individual games with the best 5 two game total pin scores being used to determine the team individual total.
  2. A legal lineup may consist of a minimum of 3 bowlers and 2 vacancies or subs.
  3. Coaches may change player(s) on a team after a game but not in the middle of a game.
  4. Six (6) bowlers will bowl two regular games of competition and five (5) bowlers 5 games (one equivalent game) of 5 person Baker Format (See Substitution Rule).

B. Competition Format (Regular Season):

  1. Round 1 (approximately 35 minutes) Two Games: Six (6) players bowl straight individual 10 frame scoring. Between rounds, both teams assemble on one pair of lanes. The top five (5) two game total pins from Round 1 are added to each team’s first frame of Round 2. (If scoring units will not accept total pins from Round 1, enter the difference between both teams total for Round 1.) Cross-lane bowling procedures will be used for Round 1.
  2. Round 2 (approximately 45 minutes) Five Games Baker format (one equivalent game): As games progress, total pins are always visible on the scorer. Substitutions AND BOWLING ORDER CHANGES may be made in this round BETWEEN Coaches will have the opportunity to create a new bowling order prior to each Baker game. For example: Player A could be the first bowler in game #1, the second bowler in game #2, not bowl in game #3, be the third bowler in game #4, and be the fourth bowler in game #5. Teams will bowl all frames of each Baker game on one lane, switching lanes only between games.
  3. Total combined pinfall of both rounds wins the match. In case of a tie, there will be a roll-off consisting of one Baker game to determine the winner.

C. Playing Format (Regular Season):

  1. Team Presentation: A team is expected to present a legal lineup on the lanes at the scheduled starting time for each match.
  2. Practice Balls: Bowlers will be allowed two (2) deliveries per lane for both regular season and tournament play. Bowlers are not permitted to bowl on the same day, prior to a competition, in the bowling center where the competition is to be held with the exception of PE classes and school and youth sponsored events or programs. A bowler that violates this provision will not be allowed to compete in the given event.
  3. Lineups: Coaches shall post their roster five minutes prior to the scheduled start time. Teams bowling on the odd-numbered lanes will enter their lineup first.
  4. Absentee/Vacancy: An absentee/Vacancy score of zero (0) shall be given when a team has a legal lineup but less than a full lineup at the start of any game in the Two or more members are required for team format.
  5. Conduct of Coaches, Players, and Spectators: IHSAA Policy will be enforced.
    1. All bowlers will remain in the immediate bowling area while competition is in progress.
    2. Bowlers will be expected to follow the previous bowler promptly and will be required to bowl as soon as the one lane to their right is clear.
    3. Unsportsmanlike conduct, including but not restricted to vulgar language, or abuse of equipment or facilities is not permitted. Violators are subject to warning, penalty, and disqualification per the code of conduct.
    4. Foul Line: The foul line shall be observed during match play. Awards will not be issued if automatic foul detecting devices or a human foul judge is not used. When a player deliberately fouls, the player shall receive zero pin fall for that frame.
  6. Score keeping: Score keeping will be performed by a computer/automatic scoring unit in centers so equipped. If a center is not equipped with automatic scoring, an independent, non-biased third party will perform scoring. It will be the responsibility of coaches to verify that scores are complete and accurate. Coaches must sign official score records and leave a copy with tournament official.

No electronic use (cell phone, iPod, mp3 player etc) is permitted in competition area during warm-up or competition. This does NOT include smart watches which are allowed for the purpose of keeping time. Failure to follow this rule will result in a code of conduct violation.

Bowling out of Rotation/Order: Any ball(s) thrown out of order will be scored as a zero. Example: If bowler #3 bowls in place of bowler #2, then bowler #3 receives a zero for their next designated turn for any ball(s) thrown in the incorrect frame. Bowler #2 will bowl the frame in which they were supposed to bowl.

Non-School Competition

If approved by the school, it is permissible for student-athletes to participate in youth and/or adult bowling leagues and tournaments during the bowling season. Student-athletes are never to accept cash while participating in these leagues, but may receive merchandise form the bowling proprietor. Student-athletes are responsible for knowing the rules regarding potential violations and their amateur status in the sport of bowling.

Postseason Information

Postseason Play

Only IHSAA/IGHSAU sanctioned schools shall be allowed to participate in postseason play.


IMPORTANT NOTE: Both the IGHSAU/IHSAA realize that member schools are utilizing non-school facilities and the time frame allotted for a meet/tournament may dictate the format of competition during regular season events. The postseason format is more defined and shall not be altered in any way by participating schools.

Ball Altering During IHSAA/IGHSAU Postseason Competition: Allowed only in accordance with USBC rules. Specifically altering of the surface is allowed in IHSAA/IGHSAU events between elimination rounds and breaks in play (fresh oil, new round, between bracket rounds, when warm-ups are allowed in between extended breaks in play). Lane rotation is not considered an extended break in play, or the end of a round. No surface adjustments are allowed during lane rotation.

State Qualifying Tournament

State Qualifying Meets: Serves as both an individual tournament and a team tournament. The state qualifying meets would remain a one-day meet

Team Qualifying Meets: Teams will bowl 15 baker games and the top total pins would advance to the State Meet. Class 3A and 2A state qualifying meets would have four sites with eight teams at each site, with the top two teams at each site qualifying for the State Team Tournament. Class 1A would have eight sites with 4-5 teams at each site. The champion at each site would qualify for the state team meet.

Individual State Qualifying: Individuals at the state qualifying meet will bowl three games. The top eight scores from each Class 3A/2A site qualify for the state individual tournament for a total of 32 individual qualifiers. The top four scores from the eight 1A state qualifying meets would qualify for the State Tournament for a total of 32 individual qualifiers.

Lane Rotation for Qualifying Tournaments and State Tournament: Move one pair to the right every 5 games for Baker, and after every game for the Individual tournament/meet.

State Qualifying Tournaments: Admission price is $6.00

Each team entering the state qualifying meet will be allowed to enter six (6) individual bowlers and one (1) substitute for the meet. Additionally, each of the eight (8) teams that qualify for the state tournament will be allowed to enter six (6) individual bowlers and one (1) substitute.

State Qualifying Team Entry Fee

A lineage fee per gender team ($100 for a boy’s team and an additional $100 for a girl’s team) be paid by each school to the assigned host facility of each joint qualifying meet. Each team entering the joint state qualifying meet is able to enter six bowlers plus one substitute.

State Qualifying Recommendations (Not Required)

  1. It would be preferred that lanes are drawn as the schools arrive at the site.
  2. The host school cannot draw a lane until one other school has arrived.
  3. Oil pattern is shared with participating schools.
  4. If possible, lanes should be re-oiled between the team and individual competitions.
  5. Allow 2 practice balls per lane prior to each playing format (2 prior to Individual and 2 prior to Baker).

State Qualifying Tournament Awards

State Qualifying Tournament (Boys) – Team Champion will receive a banner and six (6) team champion medals. Individual Champion will receive a champion medal.

State Qualifying Tournament (Girls) – Team Champion will receive a banner and six (6) team champion medals. Individual Champion will receive a champion medal.

State Qualifying Tournament Expense

No expenses will be paid for state qualifying bowling.

State Awards

Boys’ State Level – Team Champion will receive a champion trophy, banner, hats, and team champion medals. Team runner-up will receive a runner-up trophy, banner and  runner-up medals. Third place will receive a trophy, banner and third place medals. Fourth place will receive medals. Teams 5-8 will receive participant medals. All participating teams will receive a picture plaque.

Boys’ Individual Champion will receive a mini-trophy, medal, and championship hat. Runner-up through 8th place will receive a medal. All participants will receive a picture plaque.

Girls’ State Level – Team Champion will receive a champion trophy, t-shirts and six (6) champion medals. Team runner-up will receive a runner-up trophy and six (6) runner-up medals. Third place will receive a trophy and third place medals. Fourth place will receive a fourth place trophy and medals. Teams 5-8 will receive a participation trophies and medals.

Girls’ Individual Champions will receive a championship t-shirt and championship medal. Runner-up through 8th place will receive a medal. All individual qualifiers will receive a participation coin.

State Expenses

Schools with state tournament individual qualifiers will receive $.44 per mile one way. Schools with a qualifying state tournament team will receive $1.25 per mile one way.


Other Information


All spectators at state-sponsored tournaments shall wear shirts and shoes. Shirts shall extend to the waist area.

Use of “laser light” pens by a spectator shall result in immediate ejection form the facility.

With the understating that a tournament game is held as part of the educational environment, the Board of Control of the IHSAA has adopted the following polices. It is the expectation that the host school enforces these tiles regarding unacceptable behavior:

  • Disrespectful conduct, including profanity, obscene gestures or comments, offensive remarks of a sexual nature, or other actions that demean individuals or the event. Penalty—Ejection
  • Throwing articles onto the contest area. Penalty—Ejection
  • Entering the contest area in protest or celebration. Penalty—Ejection
  • Physical confrontation involving contest officials, coaches/directors, contestants, or spectators. Penalty—Ejection
  • Spectator interference with the event. Penalty—Ejection
  • Jumping up and down on the bleachers. Penalty—Warning/Ejection
  • Use of artificial noisemakers, signs, or banners. Penalty—Warning/Ejection
  • Chants or cheers directed at the opponent. Penalty—Warning/Ejection

Alcohol and Tobacco Policy

No alcohol or tobacco is to be sold or consumed on the grounds of any state tournament venue leased or provided to the Athletic Union for the purpose of conducting a State Championship. Section 123.46 of the Iowa Code States: A person shall not possess or consume alcoholic liquors, wine or beet on public school property or while attending a public or private school related function. A person shall not be intoxicated or simulate intoxication in a public place. A person violating this subsection is guilty of a simple misdemeanor.

Pets/Animals Prohibited

No pets are permitted at events sanctioned by the IGHSAU or IHSAA. Any person with a pet will be asked to leave. This policy shall comply with the provisions of Iowa Code 216c in that such a person with a disability or person training an assisted animal has the right to be accompanied by a service dog or an assisted animal under control. The person is liable for damage done any premises or facility by a service dog or assisted animal.