"The Bowling Book"
As you become better at bowling you will need to learn how to "read the lanes". This is what you
do when you understand what lane conditions you are bowling under and how they are changing. Lane
conditions can be the most frustrating part of bowling as you get to be a better bowler. For the
new bowler, who will generally be working on getting the ball straight down the lane, lane
conditions are not a big issue; however, as you improve your game lane conditions will come into
play, and you will have to learn how to read the lanes.
Wet vs Dry
I guess I should discuss here the difference between a wet and a dry lane condition. Basically a
wet or "oily" condition means that your ball will slide further down the lane than it
will on a dry condition before it hooks. When you are bowling on a "wet" (oily)
condition, your ball seems to slide down the lane and not turn over (hook). Sometimes, it seems to
slide the whole way down the lane without ever hooking! When you are bowling on a dry condition,
your ball will seem to turn over the minute it leaves your hand. This is a particularly difficult
condition to deal with.
Fortunately, the normal shots that you will run into are neither of these extremes. They are
something in between. But this is why it is important to practice... practice... practice... your
bowling; preferably in different bowling centers.
If you become proficient in one house, it doesn't mean that you are a "good" bowler,
just that you are "house" bowler. By bowling in several houses you will be able to
adjust to many different lane conditions. This is important if you plan on ever going to
tournaments or even if you bowl on different nights.
When I think about lane conditions, there are several things that come to mind.
Let's take these one at a time.
- The lane conditions when you start bowling have to be figured out
- Adjusting to changing lane conditions as you bowl
Being aware of who you are bowling with and where they are throwing their ball on the lane
Beginning to Bowl
The lane conditions when you begin bowling are usually one of two types: Fresh oil (the mechanic
has just oiled the lanes) or used oil (a league or, worse yet, open play has just been bowling on
the lanes). When you get to the house to bowl, you should be aware of whether you are bowling on
fresh or used oil, although this really shouldn't effect the way that you approach the lanes.
Don't make the mistake of thinking that just because you are bowling on fresh oil the shot will be
wet. Different bowling alleys use different amounts of oil when they run their machines leaving a
wet or a dry condition. Sometimes it even depends on what league or tournament is coming in as to
how the house will oil their lanes.
Also don't make the mistake of thinking that because you are bowling on used oil, the lanes will
be dry. Some houses put a lot of oil down so that the condition won't break down quickly. Also on
some different types of lanes (synthetics for one), the condition tends to stay the same for a
long period of time.
So now you are saying... "If I can't make a judgement call based on what I see before I bowl, what
do I do when I start bowling?" Here's the answer: Start bowling with an open mind as to what you
are going to run into. Don't base your thinking on what you see other people doing (unless you
know their style and it is close to yours).
The worst thing you can do when you start bowling is assume that the lane condition is wet or dry.
You know your shot better than anyone else, so you need to try a couple of things during practice
to figure out how the lanes are rolling, for YOU. If you try to base your game off of somebody
else, you will be forever changing what you are doing and never progress. This is why I emphasize
that you need to practice on several different conditions.
As the night wears on, the shot will, more than likely, change. This is why you need to know your
game and be consistent. When you throw the ball consistently the same, you can identify changes in
lane conditions more rapidly. There is nothing more frustrating than not recognizing that the
lanes have changed for 4 or 5 frames and then realizing that if you had changed a couple of frames
earlier you could have shot better.
You must pay attention to each shot that you throw and know whether you threw it correctly
or not. If you adjust off of a bad shot, then you will be lost for the rest of the night. When I
do this, I usually just decide to "start over". I start with the next frame and start where I
started the night after practice.
Pay attention to where the other bowlers on the lanes that you are bowling on are throwing their
balls as well. If you are playing the same area of the lane as someone else on your pair, this can
lead to the shot changing more quickly. Sometimes I purposely shoot a different line than the rest
of the people on the pair, just so that it doesn't break down as fast.
Don't change to an alternate line if you can't carry strikes on it. It is more important to
continue making strikes and adjusting than to avoid the changes. Changing conditions are a
part of bowling, but if you can avoid the changes or reduce the amount of change that is certainly
to your benefit.
Reading lanes isn't hard, but it does take practice. The more you do it the better you will get at
it. It is also an essential skill to learn to become a better bowler, to exceed the 200 average
range. Always remember this, the more conditions that you practice on, the easier it will be to
tell what kind of condition you are bowling on. So continue to practice... practice... practice...
at several different bowling centers on several different nights.