Can You Switch Hands in Bowling? (Quick Answer)

I’ll never forget the day I first saw someone use a hand switch in bowling. As a long-time fan of the sport, and an even longer-time bowler myself, my reaction was immediate and visceral – this isn’t right!

But although I had strong opinions about the matter, which I shared with anyone who asked (or didn’t ask), what really concerned me was whether or not hand switches were actually allowed in sanctioned tournaments…

So today we are tackling this tricky topic head-on – discussing whether or not using a hand switch is acceptable for advancing your score and winning tournament games.

Can you switch hands while bowling?

can you change hands in bowling

The answer is yes and no. In general, switching hands while bowling is frowned upon in serious or professional tournaments. This is because a key aspect of bowling is consistency, which involves perfecting a comfortable and repeatable approach, release, and follow-through.

Constantly switching hands during play can create inconsistencies that diminish a player’s ability to accurately and skillfully deliver the ball down the lane.

Additionally, professional bowlers and coaches will often say that you should focus on honing your skills and technique with your dominant hand, as this is the best strategy for attaining a higher level of proficiency in the sport.

However, in less competitive or more casual settings, such as scratch tournaments or friendly outings with friends, switching hands while bowling may be more acceptable.

In these instances, the spirit of fun and recreation typically takes precedence, which allows for greater flexibility in the way players approach their game. Switching hands in these contexts may be seen as a way to experiment, learn, or simply spice up your play style.

In handicap tournaments, you may encounter a slightly different attitude toward switching hands. Since these tournaments are designed to level the playing field for bowlers with different skill levels, bowlers who switch hands may be allowed to do so, as long as it is not viewed as an attempt to gain an unfair advantage.

Some bowlers may have legitimate reasons for switching hands, such as an injury or disability, while others might simply be trying to exploit the handicap system.

It is up to the tournament officials or league administrators to determine the intent behind a player’s decision to switch hands and whether or not it is permissible.

What are the USBC rules for switching hands when bowling in tournaments?

As a participant in a United States Bowling Congress (USBC) sanctioned tournament, it’s important that you understand and follow the rules surrounding the use of your bowling hand.

The USBC has specific guidelines in place to ensure the sport’s competitive integrity and to provide all participants with equal opportunity. If you find yourself needing or wanting to switch hands during a tournament, there are certain rules and procedures that you must follow.

First and foremost, according to USBC rule, once you begin bowling in a tournament with a specific hand, you must continue using that hand throughout the entire event. This is to maintain consistency and fairness among all bowlers. If you typically bowl with your right hand, you cannot switch to your left hand midway through a game and vice versa.

Changing hands without proper authorization is considered unsportsmanlike and can result in disqualifications or other penalties.

However, there are circumstances in which switching hands is permissible.

If you sustain an injury during the tournament that prevents you from using your original bowling hand, you must inform the tournament manager as soon as possible.

You must submit a written medical release from a certified medical professional stating that you are no longer able to continue using your initial hand due to physical limitations. The medical release must specify the nature of your injury and provide a clear explanation as to why it prevents you from continuing to bowl as you started.

Once you receive and submit the appropriate documentation, the tournament manager will then review the release and, if they grant permission, you may proceed with using your opposite hand for the remainder of the tournament.

Tournament officials will have the final say in these cases, and switching hands without their explicit permission is a violation of the rules. Display good sportsmanship by adhering to the established guidelines and respecting the decisions of tournament officials.

It’s crucial to remember that the USBC places a strong emphasis on safety for all bowlers. In the event of an injury, prioritize your well-being over competitive ambitions.

If you find that bowling with your opposite hand after an injury hinders your performance or causes further discomfort, consider withdrawing from the tournament to prevent additional harm. The USBC will always prioritize the health and safety of its participants above all else.


In conclusion, when competing in USBC-sanctioned tournaments, it’s important to abide by the rules and show good sportsmanship.

Remember, if you wish to switch hands due to an injury or disability, be sure to get permission from the tournament manager before doing so. Always take precautions for your safety and those around you and enjoy yourself while bowling competitively.

Last updated on March 16, 2023