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April 11, 2010

Bowling: Adjusting to lane oil can be tough for bowlers

OPINION — We all know that making the proper adjustment(s) is one of the major ingredients to better performance. And, when we speak of adjustments, we usually refer to conforming to the ever changing lane conditions. One must remember that you have to adjust to lane conditions and not vice-versa.

In attempting to adjust to lane conditions, it is necessary to review how lane oil (conditioner) has evolved into the friend or foe of the bowler. We know that conditioner has always been used as a wall to safeguard the surface of the lane from damage. But, how the conditioner is applied has always been a contentious subject for bowlers.

Lane conditioner has always been part of bowling. However, just like bowling balls, technology has played an important role in conditioner development. We’ve gone from shellac and lacquer to the urethane finishes. Much of the advancement has been due to safety reasons and costs (less flammable products and lower insurance rates).

For a bowling ball to be effective, it must go through three stages — skid, hook, and roll. The last stage is important. A ball needs to be rolling before it gets to the pins.

However, when lane conditions change, it affects the roll of your ball. Your ball may roll out or you might get too little or too much angle. In any event, it’s going to result in a decrease in pin carry.

That’s why it is so important to watch where your ball rolls after it goes through the pins. For example (right handed bowlers), a ball that leaves the pin deck on the 9 pin side means the ball entered the pocket with too little angle and deflected. Conversely, if the ball leaves the pin deck on the 8 pin side (once again right handed), it means the ball entered the pocket with too much angle. In either case, the bowler needs to make the proper adjustment to compensate for the change in lane conditions.

Lanes may change for a number of reasons. However, the most common is increased play. However, modern equipment adds to the problem. These balls soak up conditioner and consequently, the oil can be depleted at a faster rate. Although technology has kept up with the battle between new equipment and lane conditioner, bowlers still must find numerous ways to adapt.

Remember, be it league bowling or tournament bowling, you are going to encounter different styles and types of bowlers. Some may hook the ball, throw it straight or be somewhere in between. That means you are subjected to different lines, angles, etc.

Consequently, there will never be a defined oil pattern breakdown. You will end up forming different areas of oil and dry across the lane, and that isn’t beneficial to anyone.

You may also be faced with the many different types of equipment. Some bowlers may still be using plastic, (especially in mixed leagues), urethane, or the more modern equipment (reactive, particle, etc).

All of these factors play a major role in lane transition. Bowling balls pick up oil every time they are thrown. The oil is either completely removed or carried down the lane.

Now, combine this with the style of bowler. Someone who hooks the ball and uses high flaring equipment is going to change the oil pattern more quickly than a straight ball or medium hook player.

Bowlers can’t see transition, they have to experience it, and the only way to do that is by throwing the ball and observing its reaction. You may be fortunate and not have to make any adjustments. However, if you do, hopefully, you’ll make the correct one.

ä There is an excellent article in the March 2010 edition of Bowling This Month that should be required reading for league bowlers. It’s found on page 41 and is entitled “The Perilous Journey of a Champion Wanna-Be.”

It gives an excellent summary of bowling on league conditions and thinking your good and then experiencing the trials and tribulations of sport shots and tournament bowling.

If you subscribe to the magazine, take a moment and read it. If you don’t subscribe, perhaps your bowling center does. In any event, take the time to read it. You might learn something about the game and high averages!

Gabe D’Angelo is a local bowler and member of the Professional Bowlers Writers Association who writes this weekly column for The Herald

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