Reading the lane

Even players with the best technique will falter if they do not know how to properly read a lane. With a myriad of different oiling patterns and balls having a great impact on a roll, successful bowlers must quickly learn to make adjustments to their game. Generally speaking, there are four main adjustments that a bowler can make to the way they are playing in order to cope with different alley conditions, summed up in the acronym ARSE, as coined by Suzie Minshew:

  1. Angle – As oil is displaced by the ball, players may find that their optimum target line to the pocket dries up. To counter this, they can take a small step towards the inside of the lane, using the boards to map out a new line. To strike the pins from the same entry angle as before, players will need to bowl a wider angle, using the target arrows as a guide.
  2. Release – Releasing the ball with more or less axis-rotation, or spin, can change the amount of hook on the ball. On lanes with heavier oil, the ball will skid for longer with less hook, so less rotation will be needed.
  3. Speed – On lanes with less oil, delivering the ball with more speed will ensure that it gets closer to the pins before it begins to hook inwards. As oil reduces friction, less speed is required on wet lanes to get the ball to come out of the skid and into the hook at the optimum point.
  4. Equipment – While players can learn to adjust their rotation and speed by making slight changes in the way they roll, different types of balls can also improve their performance. On oily lanes, rough balls will carry more friction, but if the carrydown of oil leaves a player’s target line too dry, switching to a smoother, shinier ball can help to reduce the friction so that the ball can skid.

Professional bowlers will often use a benchmark ball with characteristics that they are intimately familiar with to gauge lane conditions and oiling patterns so that they know which adjustments to make to their game.