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Lane Pattern Basics: An Overview of Blend, Taper & Application PDF Print E-mail
Written by Joe Slowinski   
Thursday, 20 September 2007
ImagePresented here is an overview of lane pattern characteristics. Have you ever thought about forward and reverse application of oil or lengthwise taper and crosswise blend?  If so, then read on.... Vincennes University Assistant Professor of Bowling Industry Management Gary Sparks posted the following response on the Bowl.com Coaching forum.  Sparks articulates the affect of various lane pattern characteristics in an easy-to-understand manner.  If you haven't really thought about the structure of a lane pattern, this will help you better understand.  After reading, it will improve your lane play knowledge and change how you prepare for league or tournament play. It is posted here with his permission.

 (* Used With Permission*)


To really find out how different oil patterns, let alone different oils and different lane surfaces, affect ball reaction, you would need to attend some seminars dealing with that subject.  Unfortunately, seminars such as those are rare for the general bowler so it doesn’t provide many opportunities for bowlers like yourself to pick up much knowledge.  An alternative might be to attend some pro shop seminars where lane conditions are commonly discussed to provide insight on how to match up to a particular companies’ equipment.

I will try to give you some basics on lane patterns, and then let you take it from there.

Generally, lane patterns are viewed from these perspectives; "crosswise blend" which is the volume of conditioner side to side on the lane surface; "lengthwise taper" which is the volume of conditioner from the foul line down to where the conditioner stops on the lane; the overall total volume of conditioner for that particular pattern, commonly referred to as "units" or "mils" (milliliters); and the length of the total pattern applied to the lane, i.e 35 feet, 39 feet, 42 feet, etc.

Crosswise blend gives us the "ratio" that you might have heard discussed in previous conversations.  For example, in Sport Bowling, originally lane patterns had to meet a 2:1 ratio for its crosswise blend, meaning that in general there could be no more than twice as much conditioner in the middle of the lane as there was on the outside.  Those ratios have since been altered and, effective Jan 1, 2007, the new ratio is 3:1.  As a comparison, its not uncommon for a "house shot" to have a ratio of 20:1.   What that means to a bowler is that the LOWER the ratio, the more difficult the shot will play as there will be less hold in the middle and less free swing out and still have the ball recover.

Lengthwise taper is much less understood by the average bowler, but in my opinion is probably just as critical, if not more so, in how difficult a shot may play.  Generally, the taper is going to give you an idea of how much "skid/snap" or "roll/arc" the pattern is going to have for ball reaction.  As an example, a pattern that has a short taper, means that the pattern's volume level going down the lane stays pretty high almost till you get to the end of the pattern, thus resulting in a ball reaction where it skids longer and thereby snaps harder on the backend.  A pattern that has a long taper is one in which the volume gradually reduces going down the lane and causes a ball reaction of earlier roll and a resulting arc pattern.  In my opinion, the overall length of the pattern is affected much more by the taper than it is by the crosswise blend.  As an example, let’s say you are bowling on a pattern that is applied to a total distance of 35 feet.  Let’s say that this same pattern also has a short taper.  As a bowler, what you’re going to find is A LOT of skid/snap with a pretty violent backend reaction.  Some bowlers may enjoy seeing their ball hook that  much but if they are trying to score, it makes it very difficult to control the backend reaction.

Of the items I mentioned above, the overall volume of the shot probably has the least affect, as the length that the conditioner is applied can make the "volume" almost meaningless.

Also, generally, shorter, lower volume shots will have a "breakpoint" (the distance down the lane where the ball makes its move to the pocket) that is farther outside, i.e. maybe around boards 4-5.  Longer, higher volume shots will typically have a breakpoint in closer to the pocket as the shot doesnt allow getting the ball that far away to the side, typically somewhere around boards 8-12.  This is a very common mistake that general bowlers will make, in that they will reverse these breakpoints and try to move in deep and hook the ball a lot on a shorter hooking pattern, and then they will try to move outside and play for tighter, longer shots.  Those mistakes fall right into the trap of the pattern and make it difficult to score consistently.

The terms you mentioned in your post, forward application, reverse application, have to do with when the conditioner is applied to the lane surface by the machine.  Most all of todays lane machines have the ability to put conditioner on the lane surface when the machine is running from the foul line down toward the pins (forward application) and also when the machine reverses and comes back toward the foul line (reverse application).  What this changes is the "taper" that I mentioned previously.  Once again, generally, if most of the conditioner is applied going down, forward, the pattern will have a shorter taper.  If most of the conditioner is applied on the way back, reverse, the pattern will have a longer taper.  If its about equal going down and coming back, then it provides more options on how the shot can be played effectively.

To try to sum up here, crosswise blend is going to tell you how much hold/away you are going to have on your line, the higher the ratio the more you will have, hence the easier the shot will play.  Lengthwise taper is going to tell you how early/late the ball is going to get into its roll after release.  A longer taper will induce earlier roll and a shorter taper will provide more skid.  Both of these are, of course, varied by the overall length of the pattern and the volume of the conditioner applied.

I hope this hasn’t totally confused you and at least somewhat answers a few of the questions you have.

Gary Sparks
Asst. Prof. Bowling Industry Management
Vincennes University
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 26 September 2007 )
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