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Oil Patterns

Lane Patterns

Almost everyone who has ever bowled knows that using the right ball and correct bowling form are two key elements for bowling a successful game. What most recreational bowlers do not take into account is the oil pattern on the lanes. Understanding these hidden patterns and how to react to them is crucial to stepping up your game.

You’ve probably noticed that bowling balls begin to feel slick after a few frames. This is because every lane – even those at your neighborhood bowling center – is coated with oil on a regular basis using a special machine that protects the surface. Successful bowlers have learned to take advantage of these oil patterns, which most bowlers don’t even notice or know about.

Patterns Machine

Protecting the lane isn’t the only reason oil is applied. It also helps you control your ball. The oil pattern dramatically affects the speed, spin and direction of your ball as it travels toward the pins.

The oil is applied in terms of volume (amount of oil), shape (width of lane) and distance (length of lane). Most bowling centers use recreational patterns – also known as “house patterns” – that are designed to make it easier for the average bowler to knock down pins by funneling the ball toward the pocket. This is accomplished by the lane machine applying a higher volume of oil in the center of the lane and less toward the gutters.

So, how does the oil pattern affect your game? A ball thrown down the middle of the lane has a harder time grabbing the lane as it travels across oil and therefore will remain straighter longer. Conversely, a ball thrown away from the high concentration of oil in the middle will be able to hook back toward the center.

Patterns Rule 3

Finding the “breakpoint,” or the point where the ball should exit the oil pattern is vital to being a successful bowler. A quick and easy way to determine where the breakpoint should be is by using the Rule of 31. This easy equation is done by subtracting 31 from the length of the oil pattern (most house patterns are 40 feet long). This gives you the board number where your ball should exit the pattern – so pattern length 40 feet – 31 = 9 board.

While a typical “house pattern” is designed to give you a larger margin of error, professional bowling tournaments use a “sport pattern” designed to make it much harder to consistently hit the pocket. The oil on a sport pattern is distributed more evenly across the lane than the oil on a house pattern. This means that if you miss your target, the oil in the center of the lane will not keep your ball from hooking into the gutter like it would on a house pattern.

Now that you know a little more about oil patterns, find a center near you and put this knowledge to use!

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