Developer, Bowler, Media Guru

Bowling Talks - Reading A Pattern Sheet

Knowing the oil pattern is one of the many keys to being successful in the sport of bowling.  When I browse various Facebook groups, forums and other places I notice that one of the most frequently asked questions is how do I read a program sheet?  I covered general gameplay in a previous post, titled Bowling Talks - Playing The Pattern.  In this Bowling Talk, I am going to specifically talk about reading an oil pattern sheet.  We'll call this part two, in the final part I'll discuss gameplay equipment specifics.

Feel free to look at the 2017 USBC Team Open pattern while we dig in!

The Top Table

The top of the sheet has a table with three rows which provide general information in regards to the pattern that is to be applied.  While this information may seem overwhelming, you really only need to focus on a few key pieces of information.

The Oil Pattern Distance

The first data point to pay attention to is the oil pattern distance.  This will provide you with a general idea of what equipment to use and generally where to target at the breakpoint.  The USBC generally recommends that you follow the rule of 31, meaning the ball should hit the breakpoint of the lane at Oil Pattern Distance - 31.  For example, if we are bowling on the 2017 Team USBC Open, you can generally expect the ball to break at 7.  Although, this may vary based on lane topography and other details.

Volume Oil Total

The volume oil total signifies the total amount of oil applied to the lane.  This provides you with a general idea of oil breakdown timeline.  Additionally, it provides an idea of what type of equipment to use based upon the amount of oil applied.  High oil volumes result in more extreme carry down and may maintain themselves for longer periods of time.  The opposite is true of lower volumes.

The Middle Right Illustration

Typically, a graphic is displayed at the middle right of the sheet.  This information provides a general image of how the oil is applied.  The darker the color, the more oil that is applied.  Going into further detail, there are three types of oil application, forward, reverse and combined.  Forward oil is applied when the machine is moving forward down the lane.  Reverse oil is applied when the machine is returning on the initial pass.  Finally, combined is where the oil overlays from both passes.  This graph should provide you with a general idea of shot shape and where the bounds of the pattern are.

The Bottom Table

The last part of the oil sheet shows the ratio and volume applied to the lane.  This provides you with two important pieces of information.

The Ratio

The pattern ratio gives you a general idea of shot difficulty and the importance of repetition.  The lower the number within the first cell, the more difficulitt the pattern will be.  Essentially, this tells you the difference between the volume of oil between the zones of the lane.  You may hear bowlers mention how walled or flat a shot is.  Essentially a flat pattern is nearest to 1.00 while a walled shot surpasses 8.00 or more.  The USBC defines the difficulty of a pattern based on these numbers.


The Graph

The graph at the bottom is a visual representation of how the oil looks if you were at eye level.  Think of these as elevation equals the volume of oil per board.  The higher the peak, the more oil that is applied.  Higher volumes provide hold, while lower volumes provide friction.  You'll need to find the right spot to get to the pocket.

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