Different Strategies to Lane Play
The way to play lanes and make adjustments has changed a lot in recent years. This is a result of changes in the bowling environment due to the modern oil patterns and bowling balls.
Today there is always more than one way to play any lane condition. This is a nice result from all the different balls in the market. A bowler can use a weaker ball and play a straighter line to the pocket. Or, a bowler might decide to use a stronger ball and hook it more. But it really is more involved then just selecting a ball and a target on the lane. Today, I want to show you different ways to attack any given lane condition.
In just about all bowling center today the lanes are oiled with a heavier concentration of oil in the middle of the lane and less oil on the outside boards by the gutters. There is an abrupt change from a light amount of oil on the outside to the heavy oil in the center. This abrupt oil change usually is located between the 8th to the 12th board on a freshly oiled lane and then it will move in as the lanes are bowled on. The goal in bowling is to find this oil line and use it to create an area on the lane in which you can throw the ball and have it get to the strike pocket. Most bowlers lay their ball down in the heavy oil and cross the oil line. This uses the extra friction on the outside boards from the lighter oil to help the ball to hook more. If the ball is pulled a little inside of the target, the heavy oil in the middle helps to reduce the hook. This allows the ball to still end up in the strike pocket. You will create “tug area” as your margin for error to get to the strike pocket. A lot of times this technique works well with a polished ball which will slide more in the oil and save energy for more hook and snap on the dry outside boards and/or dry boards down the lane. A sanded ball can also be used, but it will hook sooner with less direction change on the backend.
There is a totally different strategy for playing this same lane condition in a different part of the lane. A bowler can also play this same lane condition by keeping the ball in the heavy oil in the center of the lane for the entire distance of the oil pattern. With this technique a sanded ball will usually work better, but the goal is to move in much deeper so that the ball never touches the drier outside boards. A stronger ball is required. In this scenario if the bowler misses wide of their target, the ball will go out to the drier boards and hook back more. The result is a ball that still wants to end up in the strike pocket. The secret is to use a much stronger ball and make sure that you move in deep enough so that a well thrown ball never has to reach the dry outside boards in order to hook back to the pocket. Use the drier boards to the outside for your mistake area. This creates “swing area” in which to hit the pocket.
So you now have a strategy to create either “tug area” or “swing area”. Depending on the lane condition, one will probably work better then the other. You need to find which works best for your style and on the lane condition your center utilizes.
The second major item that alters how bowlers are forced to play lanes is how the oil moves due to bowling activity. A lot of this has to do with the new bowling balls. All modern balls have a flaring ball track due to the core designs. This allows the ball to hook more but creates changes in the oil movement. This has drastically altered how the lanes will play and change over the course of a league session. Balls with flaring tracks pick up more oil as they travel down a lane. The flaring track can be seen as many tight rings of oil on the ball. You can see more oil on the ball. The oil is mostly picked up in the heads which is the area of the lane just past the foul line. As this area gets drier the ball starts to hook early. If the ball hooks early, it will probably hook high on the head pin. The bowler needs to constantly adjust for this changing lane condition. The usual adjustment is to move your feet and target in a little deeper into the center of the lane to find more oil. This works most of the time. Sometime the oil picked up by the ball in the heads results in the oil moving down the lane in the form of carrydown. This makes the backends tighter. The normal adjustment of moving a little deeper to find more oil might result in the ball sliding too much and missing wide of the pocket. The correct move might be to just move your feet in deeper to catch more oil in the heads but leave the target the same. This can allow the ball to hook around the carrydown oil and miss the carrydown oil on the backend of the lane.
Sometimes the traditional moves on the lane do not work as the oil transitions in the course of play. But bowling has a lot of adjustments. A ball change will work a lot of times. Remember the strategy of changing to a different area of the lane to switch from tug area to swing area, which probably includes a ball change. The better bowlers can alter how they release the ball to create more or less hook with a hand position change or ball speed adjustment.
Bowlers need to learn that they will bowl much better if they learn to move their stance on the approach and target on the lane. The goal is to move in order to find the best area to play the lane to create the maximum “margin for error” and still hit the pocket. Beginner bowlers must learn that they do not want to play the second arrow all the time.
The modern sport of bowling has changed into a sport requiring not only a good physical game to repeat shots but also a good mental game. The ability to read the changing lane environment and make the correct adjustment, as fast as possibly, is just as important as making a good shot. Learn to look for the changing lane conditions. If you make a good shot and the ball hook a little high, tells you that it is time to make a move. Learning to make the necessary adjustment quickly will result in a competitive edge for you over your opponent.