By Lou Marquez on Oct 3, 2019 10:18:06 AM
Do you ever show up to a league or a tournament, or even open play, and wonder where you should be playing on the lane? A lot of players have their favorite spot to stand and their favorite mark to target and never change. That can work out really well if the lane conditions are suited for that, but in general, that's a bad idea and can lead to a lot of frustration as you move from lane to lane or bowling center to bowling center.
What we want to do in this episode of Hot Off the Press is show you how you can develop your own technique to determine where you should play on the lane to achieve maximum success. I brought in USBC director of coaching Stephen Padilla and research technician Tom Frenzel to show you how two different players with unique skillsets can use the same method to determine the best course of action on the lanes.
Seven Shots to Read a Lane
I asked Stephen and Tom to go through seven shots, each shot designed to glean some information from the lane.
First, they stand at the foul line and release the ball slowly from the left side of the lane going toward the 6-10 in the far corner. What we want to learn from this shot is where the ball hits the friction; that is, the end of the oil pattern. That's why we have them roll the ball slowly-if they rolled it at full speed, it's harder to see where the ball picks up. Despite Stephen and Tom having different deliveries and styles, we see a similarity as to where each of their shots encounter friction.
This is exactly the same as the first shot, but in the other direction. Now standing right and throwing toward the 4-7 across the lane, Stephen and Tom again see their shots hit friction at about the same point. The point of rolling this shot in both directions is not only to see how long the pattern is but whether or not it's symmetrical or maybe even has been worn down by previous traffic.
If the ball hits the friction at about the same spot in both shots, it's likely we're dealing with a symmetrical pattern. If there's a difference, then we may be facing some subtle mid-lane differences.
The first two shots are to determine the length of the pattern. Next, we want to figure out how the pattern is playing side to side.
Now we're into taking complete shots with a full approach. Move to the outside zone (boards 4, 5 and 6) and roll the ball straight up the lane. For the first two shots, we didn't really care about the pins, but this time, pay attention to where your ball enters the pin deck and take note of how many boards the ball hooks.
Move one zone to the left (boards 9, 10 and 11-the track, if you're an old-schooler) and again roll the ball straight up the lane. Just like your previous shot, pay attention to where your ball enters the pins and how many boards it hooks. Did your reaction strengthen or weaken in this zone as compared to the outside zone? You're closer to the middle of the lane now, so the oil may be playing a bigger factor.
Another shot you want to roll straight up the lane, this time on boards 14, 15 and 16. Most of the time, this zone has more oil in it than any other, so you want to judge how much your ball hooks and compare it to the two outside zones you just played.
Once you've rolled shots 3, 4 and 5, you'll have a decent idea of the crosswise shape of the pattern. By that I mean if you covered more boards in one zone, that indicates more friction. Fewer boards means less friction. This tells you how the oil is distributed from gutter to gutter.
Having a good idea what the pattern is doing, you can start to play with speed and ball adjustments to hone in your ideal line.
The last two shots are thrown at an angle to help you see the ball move from inside to outside and exit the pattern at your desired break point. On this shot, we want to roll it on boards 9-11 out to 4-6, ideally getting to the 4-6 at the end of the pattern.
Same as the previous shot but one zone over, we want to play boards 14-16 out to 9-11 at the break point.
Compare the final two shots in regards to board coverage to get an idea, again, of where the friction is greatest.
All seven shots together help you see the invisible. How long is the pattern? What is it doing side-to-side? Where is the friction? Once you know where your best chance to hit the pocket is, you can change speeds, balls, hand positions and anything else to help you get your starting position exactly where you want it for optimal success.
As we saw with Stephen and Tom, their games are unique to themselves, but the information they gathered by going through the seven shots was very similar. The lane is the lane-it's up to them to determine how to best play it.
I'm not suggesting this is the only way to figure out how to play a lane and you might have another way that works better for you. However, the general idea-developing a visual image of the invisible-is what you want to accomplish during practice. If you can't figure out what the lane is giving you, it's going to be a struggle all night. Take your time to investigate and you'll have a lot more fun as you knock down pins.