If you love to entertain, lawn games have probably played a significant role in your outdoor space at one point or another. Bocce ball, horse shoes, croquet- the list goes on and on. But have you ever considered backyard bowling? If not, let us be the first to introduce you to a whole new level of backyard lawn games.
If you’re a fan of bowling, you can bring the fun home with you. All it takes is a little creativity, some elbow grease, and bit of extra time. But with patience, you can create your very own backyard bowling alley.
DIY Backyard Bowling Alley
When we first started thinking about backyard bowling alleys, we did a quick search. This investigation revealed that, yes, it is possible. However, actually information on how to construct your own version of a backyard bowling alley is limited. In fact, most of the top results include a single account of a mystery internet user who created their own backyard bowling alley from scratch.
This user goes by the online name of Makgyver87, and . They have only one post, uploaded in September of 2014. In it, they document their impressive journey from empty space, to an idea and two-by-fours, to a functional backyard bowling alley. Since then, this model has been shared and reposted around the internet over the years.
The Makgyver87 Backyard Bowling Model
Makgyver’s process is simple enough to follow. They began by sketching out their model, considering space restrictions and materials. Then, they turned this sketch into a CAD model, and began construction.
For those looking to recreate this assembly in their own home, the process is well-documented in detail. From dimensions to materials, Macgyver87’s work is a good place to start and reference throughout the process. Construction includes an alley made of wide boards, flanked by boxes which serve as gutters. With enough space and some trial and error, nearly everyone can complete a rough form of this model.
Our friend Macgyver went a step further, creating a fully functional pin reset using a pulley system and string. We greatly appreciate the ingenuity. But we also appreciate that not everyone has the time or patience to take things this far. Still, we’ve included the link, as well as pictures to the original post for those who would like to try and mirror this popular model.
That said, we don’t think your bowling alley has to be professional or full service in order to serve you and your party guests. Instead, stip things back and focus on basics. This will take some guesswork out of the process, leaving you with a backyard bowling alley everyone can enjoy.
Focus on The Basics
Most of us are simply looking to take a standard lawn bowling experience to the next level. In this case, there may be no reason to make things more complicated than they need to be. In this case, a backyard bowling alley is an even simpler project. Skip the pin return and the pulley systems and simply focus on the basics. We believe that all you need to take your backyard bowling experience to the next level is an alley.
A backyard bowling alley can simply be thought of as a raised platform with bumpers.To construct, gather and cut plywood to accommodate the ideal length of your alley. Raise the alley from the lawn using a 1’ by 2’ or a 2’ by 4’ boar. Raising your alley will help protect your lawn, and allow you to compensate for any unevenness in the ground.
Once you have constructed your platform, you can focus on bumpers. While we don’t think you need to be concerned with a pin reset, we do think installing bumpers is important. Not only do they make the game easier for those of us bowling amateurs, but they will help prevent a lot of chasing after bowling balls. Not to mention, they’ll make your DIY set up more kid-friendly.
Whether you choose to create pocket gutters like those shown in the Macgyver87 post, or simply nail some additional planking to create walls, this step can also be adjusted to fit your skill level. We recommend side bumpers, as well as a reinforced backboard or gutter to catch the ball at the end of the alley.
Backyard Bowling Aesthetics
As with all outdoor projects, we believe functionality is only one half of the equation. Just as important to most homeowners is how their DIY project looks. We wanted to take a second to give a few recommendations on how to elevate your backyard bowling alley.
Painting and Staining
There’s not much that a fresh coat of paint can’t fix. If you’re struggling to make your backyard bowling alley a cohesive part of your space, paint and staining is the perfect place to start. There are a few different approaches you can take.
If you’ve got a more playful style, or are striving for a kid-centric backyard, don’t be afraid of bolder colors. Matching your alley to your playset or jungle gym will help tie it into the space. Want your project to blend in? Match your alley to your yard’s fencing or hardscaping. A good coat of white paint, or a stain to match your backyard fence will make your DIY project look more like a professional endeavor.
Whether you’re looking for a bold pop of color or a cohesive finish, this is one of the easiest ways to elevate a basic backyard bowling DIY.
Looking to take things a step further? If you’re feeling confident about your project, why not get a little creative and add some lighting? You can do this in a variety of ways depending on the overall feel or functionality you’re looking for.
For a more subtle, modern look, try incorporating pathway lighting along the base of your alley. Point lights up toward the platform, spacing them a few feet apart. Stagger, or play with symmetry! We think this is the one time where it makes perfect sense for your outdoor lighting to resemble a runway.
Want a more whimsical or rustic finish? Decorate your backyard bowling alley with some affordable string lighting to create more of a carnival feel. Lighting has the incredible ability to set the tone of your space, so take care to choose a lighting solution that makes sense with the rest of your outdoor design.
Another area we feel gets missed in many discussions about backyard bowling is storage. Outdoor clutter is already a problem for many homeowners. And you can’t have a functional backyard bowling alley without all the additional items that come with it. You could have the sleekest looking alley or platform around. But if it’s constantly cluttered with pins and bowling balls, then it’s bound to be an eyesore when not in use.
This can be fixed by simply incorporating a storage plan into your build. For the most seamless look, use the same lumber and stain to create a simple hinged chest along the alley. For an even simpler solution, buy an outdoor storage chest, or simply designate an area for your backyard bowling accessories to go when not in use.
Whether or not storage is part of your build, eliminating clutter will prevent this project from making your backyard feel like a permanent yard-game destination.
Ask a Contractor
For all of the talk about backyard bowling DIYs there is certainly a population of people who may want a bowling alley but don’t feel confident or compelled to do the construction themselves. If this is the case, then we feel it’s necessary to let you know that there is most likely a contractor out there that is more than happy to do this work for you.
Oftentimes, a project like this can seem like more work than it’s worth. It could take an ametuer weeks or months to see a project like this through, and not all of us have ready access to materials or equipment.
So while it will certainly cost a bit more for a professional to create a backyard bowling alley for you, it could be well worth what you save in time and frustration. Not to mention, a contractor will be able to make recommendations about design, size, and ensure that the finished project is durable.
At the end of the day, if your internet sleuthing is leaving you feeling overwhelmed or intimidated, you don’t have to feel defeated. There are a lot of paths to the backyard bowling alley of your dreams. Whether you simplify a more complicated design, or hire a contractor to see the project through, backyard bowling is possible for your outdoor space. And if you’re really not ready to make the plunge, you can always buy a premade set! We won’t judge.