backyard bowling alley
Penelope Wilson
Penelope Wilson
May 20, 2020 ·  3 min read

How to Build Your Own Backyard Bowling Alley

If you are a fan of heading down to the bowling alley with your partner or friends on regular nights to catch some good old rolling fun, it’s tough to imagine how edgy you feel these days since most everything is shut down. Bowling alleys were listed amongst the social distancing rule-outs since they are hotspots for large crowds. So, while we are dealing with this pandemic, bowling addicts need to find alternatives to the pin-buckling pastime. Cue the backyard bowling alley.

I’ve seen a lot of friends build bowling alleys in their driveways or backyards over the years, often using soccer balls and padded bottles as substitutes. While these innovative ideas are commendable, they are often always epic fails and not nearly as fun as the real deal.

Well, not everyone knows how to “make-do” with less than the best. In 2014, when his local bowling alley closed down, a guy on Imgur with the username Makgyver87 decided to construct a bowling alley in his backyard from scratch, and he did an incredible job that hasn’t stopped resonating ever since [1]

Bringing the alley home since you can’t go to it

Makgyver87 went all out with his backyard alley, and he didn’t hold back any details of the design on his Imgur post. Despite being an amateur, he shared pictures of the process from his HB pencil drawings to CADs and finally real-life images. Using wooden pallets and several flat boards, Makgyver built a solid rolling lane against the right-hand side of his backyard wall. The lane also features an automatic ball return and a pulley-based pin resetting system.

If you’re not familiar with construction or carpentry and joinery work, you might have a hard time replicating Makgyver’s setup. The dimensions of his platforms were not explicitly written in his penciled designs, so you might need to come up with your own dimensions. However, if you inspect the lane closely, the materials were 2″ x 6″ deck boards and 4′ x 8′ sheets of 3/4″ plywood. The lane appears to be about 42 inches wide and each gutter has a width of 10 inches.

Just like the fictional character MacGyver, this guy is one heck of a creative problem solver. For the pin resetting system, he did a really smart job of tying the top of each pin with a thread and connecting them all together. A long rope then runs along the top side of the wall to link up with the threads. All you have to do is pull from your end and the pins will be standing again, waiting to be knocked down. The automatic ball-return gutter is equally a thoughtful setup. 

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He must have spent a great deal of time and resources putting this together, but it’s an incredible investment in my opinion. His house would probably become the center of buzzing fun in the neighborhood, and it could be a great business venture if he ever decides to make some easy cash.

What time of the day is it best to bowl? That’s right, no time because bowling is more fun at night. Makgyver added colorful lights all over his backyard so he and his friends could play to their heart’s content when the sun goes down. He didn’t exactly mention how things would go when it’s raining, snowing, or too hot outside, but that’s the point of an outdoor alley – you use it when you CAN be outside.

It would have been a real deal-breaker if he’d included a video tutorial or documentary of his project, but you could get a professional to build you one if you are a little lost.

Evolution of the DIY alley:

Penciled sketch

Penciled Sketch showing dimensions

Final Computer-Aided Design

Laying out the floor boards

The lane starting to come through

The gutters are… just incredible

Pulley-based pin-resetting system


Pulley system close-up

Another close-up

The alley at night

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