By Lou Marquez on Jul 25, 2019 8:39:06 AM
Over the next several episodes, we're going to be talking about lane play, which is one of the most detailed and yet also most overlooked aspects of the game. As we go through, we'll get into topography, oil patterns, lane dimensions and how to read a lane.
To a new bowler, all lanes might look alike, but we need to dispel that myth right away. The sooner we understand how different lanes have different characteristics from bowling center to bowling center and even from lane to lane within a bowling center, the sooner we can improve our scores dramatically.
In this week's episode, I enlisted the help of Dave Nestor, research technician with USBC, who is a tremendous resource for all of us at the bowling campus when it comes to all things technical. And bowling is about as technical of a game as it gets.
For our first foray into lane play, I want to start with the basics and talk about the differences between wood lanes and synthetic lanes.
Wood Lane Surfaces
These days, wood lanes are the minority. Just about all new installations are synthetic lanes. It's not cool to cut trees down, for one, and for another, synthetic lanes are more durable. But why is that?
Wood lanes are softer than synthetic lanes, so as Dave tells us, the ball has a larger footprint on the lane right from the start. What this means is more of the ball is touching the lane at any given point. Think of the difference between putting your finger on a hard countertop and a sponge-you sink into the sponge and more of your finger touches it.
Obviously, a wood bowling lane is harder than a sponge, but the comparison works to illustrate that more of the ball is on the lane throughout the entire shot.
Partly because of this, the ball motion is going to be more gradual on wood, without the hard snap at the end. The ball is actively using energy all the way down the lane, so as a bowler, when you find yourself on wood lanes, you need to take that into account.
Synthetic Lane Surfaces
Conversely, your ball won't use as much energy on a synthetic lane until it gets out of the oil, which leads to some of that hockey-stick motion in the back end. One of the most common types of synthetic lane is made out of high-pressure laminate (HPL), which is the same stuff a lot of kitchen countertops and some furniture is made of.
HPL is extremely durable and will hold up a long time while being constantly abused by bowling balls.
Most bowling centers these days will have HPL lanes in them, so you'll encounter synthetic lanes most of the time, if not always, but there can still be differences from center to center or lane to lane. Depending on the type of synthetic, it could be a little harder or a little softer, which impacts the way your ball will act on the lane.
Granted, we haven't talked about oil or topography yet, but don't worry-we will.
It's important to know the type of lane surface you're bowling on, but it's even more important to judge the lanes based on actually rolling shots. When you go in with an idea of what to expect, it helps you get lined up sooner and more often.