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"The Bowling Book"

Reading Lanes
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.


Lane Conditions

When I think about lane conditions, there are several things that come to mind.
  • 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 and how.
Let's take these one at a time.

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.


Changing 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.


Other Bowlers

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.




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