I haven't really blogged too much about bowling, outside of my own adventures and reviews. This post is going to be a shift in direction, as I am going to talk about lane play and dealing with the condition that you may encounter. I'll use a step by step approach to best present the information to you (all bowling puns intended, here on out). The USBC has kindly provided a guide as to define what a house shot, a challenge shot and what a sport shot look like.
The House Shot?
If you find yourself bowling in a typical league, odds are you are on something titled the "typical house shot." It's called this because the overall ratio of the lane is fairly vast and most bowling centers put down a similar pattern. House shots are typically 37'-41' in length and have a high ratio with a moderate volume. The pattern is tapered in order to assist the bowlers, as well as protect the most played areas of the lane.
So what does this look like? You can click the link above or take a look at the screen to the left. With this information, how would you best play this? Well, it depends on what type of player you are. Players who have lower RPM or rotation will tend to play up the eighth board into the pocket. Players who have moderate RPM will pull inside and shot towards eight. Finally, high RPM players will start in the middle and guide their way outside and back. Is there a right way to play? No. It's all about what works. A guy in my Monday league says, "be comfortable." Now, you probably noticed that I mentioned the eighth board a bit, and that's intentional. A GENERAL rule of thumb for the breakpoint is to take the length of the pattern and subtract 31. The sample pattern to your left is about 39 feet, so if you subtract 31, you get 8. I have placed a diamond on the graph to outline that point. You will notice that ALL players end up reaching this point, which is where the oil ends. That point is titled the breakpoint.
Earlier, I mentioned ratios and volumes, and that is important. The ratio for the pattern is the difference in the amount of volume applied between the outside and inside of the lane. The graph provided on the left shows a few different colors that represent those differences. The darker the color, the more volume. You see that the outsides are very light, while the inside is quite dark. This is that ramp that assists bowlers which know how to get to the pocket. Generally, higher ratios mean easier patterns, while lower ratios mean tougher patterns. This will make more sense once we talk about sport shot patterns.
Now, typically you don't just bowl one game, you bowl three or more. With a pattern like this, generally, all players are going after the same breakpoint. In order to combat that transition, you move into the oil using parallel moves. Typically this means two boards left with your feet, one board at the lane. This essentially holds your angle, while getting more into the oil. You may need to complete more extreme moves, but generally parallel works best here.
Now, house shots tend to strike often, but your spare game is key. You will want to stay in the pocket game in and game out to stay consistent. If you keep your ball online and in the pocket, your spares will be much easier to chase down. As more balls are thrown watch out for a pesky 4 pin or 4-7 leave. These are signs to move in, as your ball is starting to hook too much.
Now, let's say you are on a sport shot. What then?
The Sport Shot?
Sport shots are much more difficult then house shots. They reduce the ratio of oil and tent to place emphasis on shot making. The same rules as above apply, but may not always be best. Anything that you read here is a guide, not absolute truth. Your mileage will vary, regardless if you are on a house shot or sport shot. We'll cover that topic last.
The USBC, PBA, WTBA and many other organizations create sport shots. Each condition will have its own characteristics that define gameplay. The track area, balls used, whether any many other items have play with how to handle the condition. Although, we do have some tricks that can be used to combat these items. The same general guidelines come into play here, be comfortable, the rule of 31 and make your spares. Let's take a look at the pattern to the right. It's the WTBA Tokyo pattern. I have never played on it but will be for the next three weeks at Fox Bowl. I have provided three general shot options that I will try out. Let's get into the details of why I picked these three options.
First, some information on the pattern. The WTBA Tokyo is a 44' pattern, using 30.15mL of oil. The ratio is roughly 1:2.70. Now, what does this all mean for someone who is bowling on it (maybe for the first time)? The length at 44' means the breakpoint is around the thirteenth board. The oil volume being 30.15mL means that the shot has a medium volume of oil, so there will be some hold, but the transition will come fairly quickly. The ratio of 1:2.70 means that there isn't a ton of bounce area, so shot making is critical. You will need to be accurate and precise. The general explanation here is that there is roughly 2.70x the amount of oil outside than there is inside. A typical house shot may have a ratio of 1:9, meaning there is nine times as much. The lower the number, the less the bounce.
Now, you may ask, "Why the three lines?" Well, that's because each bowling alley plays differently; and even each lane is different. Furthermore, the people you bowl with will additionally determine what's the best line. Oh, and one more thing. The equipment you have will also make a difference here. The first item, equipment. A general rule of thumb is shorter patterns should use duller equipment. Longer patterns should use shiner equipment. If you noticed in my review two weeks back, I dulled my Sure Lock in order to give it some additional grip on the lanes. For this pattern, I will most likely try using my No Rules Pearl or Phaze II. BUT, I may try the Sure Lock, since I am comfortable with it, and it typically provides a good look. It could be said here that you should never make an assumption and only take options off the table after you have determined that they won't work.
With the house shot, I discussed making parallel moves. WIth a sport shot that is not always true. Depending on the equipment used, carry down or burn may occur a tad differently. These items may apply to house shots, but not as likely. General suggestions here are as follows. If you make a good shot, but the ball rolls out, move to a weaker cover. The lanes have too much friction for your ball. If this isn't an option for you, slow down OR increase rotation. If the ball starts heading through the nose, you may need to move in OR out depending on where the track area is. If the burn is generally inside, you may move outside and speed up. Otherwise, move in. There are many options here that you will need to explore.
Finally, we all don't strike every shot. So, make your spares as much as you can. It'll move your average from eh, to good fairly quickly. If you haven't read my Sportsmen review for the first eleven weeks, do so. It'll open your eyes to how much shotmaking matters.
A lot of players play by the book, using the rule of 31 and so on. Well, you need to be versatile, it's a huge part of the game. Use these so-called rules as starting points and adjust from there. Just because the pattern is 45 feet long, it doesn't always mean the breakpoint will be at 14. I suggest starting there and then see what happens. This is a game of mental finesse first and foremost. The physical game is much easier if you have the right mindset to get over the hurdles that are coming your way. Come with a plan, but be ready to deviate if you see that carry and ball movement isn't going your way.