Bowling on Different Types of Lane Conditions
Ok, so you are ready to bowl in your league and the owner of the bowling center said that he just put out a new shot and is looking forward to seeing how everyone bowls tonight. Well, the first question you may ask is what is a shot? A shot is synonymous with lane condition. A lane condition is how the mechanic of the bowling center adds the oil to the lane. Oil is added to the bowling lane to maintain the wood or synthetic below it. It is originally designed to protect the bowling lane. However, what is common now is that the amounts of oil that placed on the lane throughout the width and length of the lane can vary. It can vary from bowling center to bowling center, lane to lane, and even time of day. This is call lane conditions.
When bowlers bowl, they want to adjust themselves in a way where they have the greatest room for error when they make a shot. Now let's look at the simple laws of physics. If a ball lands on the lane with the most amount of oil, what is it going to do? It is going to skid. This is the same type of skid when your car tires hit a sheet of ice right after a snow storm. If you try to turn the car right the car will not go right if the tires are on the ice. Well the same is true with bowling. If you are bowling on a lot of oil and you have a tendency to turn the ball and spin it down the lane, the ball will have a tendency to skid regardless of the turn (or revs) that is place on it.
Once the ball skids away from the oil as it travels down the lane it may then hit a spot on the lane that has very little or no oil on it. When that happens, it will grip the lane better and be able to turn. The same with a car, on a nice sunny day, you are able make sharper turns without the thought of possibly skidding out of control. I am not recommending that you try this but I am sure you get the point.
Now when league bowling starts for the evening, most league bowling lane conditions have a great amount of oil in the middle of the lane and very little on the outside. This is by design of the bowling center. This is to help aid the bowler in getting a little more error friendly bowling for more enjoyment and I will explain why that is the case with most of the oil being in the center and less oil on the outside.
The goal is to line yourself up which is where to stand and where to look, so that the ball hits the pocket. The pocket in bowling is the 1 (or head pin) and the 3 pin (one to the right) for right handed bowlers (and the 1-2 pin for left handed bowlers). In order to do this you would pick a spot to stand a spot on the lane to aim. If you have decent rotation on the ball then may naturally curve. The trick is to get lined up so if you miss left of your target, the ball will skid and hit the target. If you miss right of your target, the ball will hit a dry spot on the lane and grip it sooner thus making a turn to the pocket. This is what gives you the maximum room for error. When you find that spot, you are now what they call are in the zone or lane area
. The more oil in the middle, the more the ball skids, the less oil, the more it hooks. When the ball reaches the pins, regardless of how it got there, you want it to end up in the same spot, the pocket. These types of lane conditions are generally known as "A Tree
Another lane condition at more an advanced level would be to put the same amount of oil through the full length and width of the lane. Each section or board as they call it will have the same amount of oil. Now this will propose a more difficult shot for the bowler and will require a lot more accuracy. You see these types of lane conditions more often on the professional level. These are called a "Flat Shot"
Now granted, when you start bowling for the evening, it may take a little while to figure out what kind of lane condition you will be bowling on. You get only so many minutes of warm up and it takes some time to actually get loose. At the same time you are getting adjusted to the lane condition to see how your ball will react. It is very important to pay attention to how your ball reacts on the lane when starting for the evening in practice. This will allow you to make any necessary adjustments either with your feet, with your target or with the ball you are usingIn practice, you should try to play different lines and see how much ball reaction that you have. If you have no ball reaction at all wherever you play, you may consider pulling a softer ball. If you are getting a lot of ball reaction, you may opt to use a harder surfaced ball. I will discuss more in depth in this article about using the right bowling equipment
when bowling. If you find yourself getting no ball reaction when playing near the middle and a lot of ball reaction when playing further out on the lane then that is where you want to create that imaginary "oil line" in your head and want to position your target around that area. Now once you have that area (or target). Now all that is left is to adjust your feet so the ball finishes in the pocket at the pins which ultimately will result in strikes.
Now you may be lined up and zoned in bowling great for two games and all of a sudden things start going wrong. The ball that was once hitting the pocket now is hitting the nose or missing left (for right handed bowlers). You don't know why, it is just happening to you right now. You have been feeling great for 2 games and now, things are going wrong. Well, in reality nothing may have happened to you. What may have happened was that the lane condition changed on you. What does that mean? It means that oil on the lane moved around or disappeared. So what was once made the ball skid, now it is hooking. When you start detecting this, don't always be the first to blame yourself for a bad shot. Think that you may need to move or adjust your target and/or your feet position to find a little more oil which generally moves toward the center of the lane as the night progresses. If you do this, you may find your ball starting to skid again and see yourself hitting the pocket with the nice room for error that you had when the night began. If you do not move and the lane did in-fart change, you may start compensating by throwing the ball harder. When you start doing this, your arm swing is no longer natural and you now more likely to make a mistake.
This is how many problems begin. We try to make the ball do what we want because it was working earlier. When instead, we may want to consider that the lane condition changed and now we need to make an adjustment with our feet or our target. Hopefully in your next league play you will pay closer attention to those 5 minutes of practice and gauge what kind of lane condition or shot is out there. Good luck!