How to Read an Oil Pattern Sheet: Understanding Bowling Lane Oil Patterns

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Pattern Specialist/Lane Technician John Janawicz describes how to read an oil pattern sheet and how it can impact your game. Oil pattern distance and oil pattern volume are a couple of things that players should be focusing on.

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27 Comments on “How to Read an Oil Pattern Sheet: Understanding Bowling Lane Oil Patterns”

    1. Tell me about it and I am sophomore year of college.😭🥺
      I really want to bowl but I ask my coach and teammates about it and I still dont get it

  1. So if the lane oil pattern is 42″ and you subtract 31 does that mean your target should be the 11 board or the breakpoint should be the 11?

    1. Hello.  This means the breakpoint should be the 11 board. How you get to the 11 board down lane depends on your ability and how the shape of the pattern is in the front and middle sections. You will also need to change angles as transition occurs on the pattern.Here’s some information on reading the lane that includes how the breakpoint is defined by more than just the balls roll. Also covered is pattern length, lane surface, oil, and shape.Reading the LaneIn league, tournament or professional play, knowing how to play the lanes is crucial. A 300 game is achieved by knowing how to make the right moves at the right time, not just repeating shots. Staying “ahead” of the lanes as they go through transition is key to perfection.Most bowlers know about the arrows, but finding the breakpoint and adjusting to that part of the lane is vital to giving you more area to play with. A quick method to determine where the ball should be leaving the end of the oil pattern is to simply apply the rule of 31. How do we do this? Subtract the number 31 from the distance of the oil pattern; this will give you the board number where your ball should exit the pattern. Nothing is definite, but this is a good guideline to finding the correct area to start and then make adjustments based off your ball reaction.Example: Pattern length 40 ft. – 31 = 9 boardNOTE: On a 40ft. pattern you want to see the ball exit the pattern (breakpoint) around the 9 board.Lots of science going on here.DistanceLane pattern distance dictates “breakpoint.” A bowler’s breakpoint is where their ball is furthest away from the pocket before making its move toward the headpin. Short distance patterns, 36’ and shorter, tend to have breakpoints closer to the gutter, while medium distance patterns, 37’-42’, are usually between the 8-12 boards. Long distance oil patterns, 42’ and further, will have breakpoints closer to the pocket or around boards 13-16. A breakpoint can be reached from multiple launch angles depending on the oil pattern.Beyond throwing the ball, making moves and knowing where to play, execution of the shot is essential to being successful. Let’s take a look at the many components to making the right moves and decisions and see how they factor in together.LanesTake into consideration the type of lane surface you will be bowling on. Wood lanes tend to hook more and/or earlier, whereas synthetic lane surfaces tend to be a little tighter and allow the ball to get down the lane a little further. If you’re a high rev-rate player, you may need to make adjustments sooner, while a straighter player will probably move less to combat the condition. Moves on the approach and lanes are done by moving your feet and your eyes to adjust your angle. Moving one or both is a personal preference geared toward your game and how you see your ball path.OilAs the lane pattern goes through transition, adjustments needed to stay in the pocket and score will be slightly different from player to player. Some may need to adjust their feet, some their eyes (target), some will get it done by changing bowling balls or adjusting speed and loft. When bowling a tournament, watching the bowlers on the pair you are moving to can help you make good decisions about any adjustments you might make in the first frame. If you notice most of the bowlers playing the same area, you can expect that zone to change quickly. Again, be aware of your surroundings and make adjustments a little more quickly than you normally do in league play.Making adjustments to the condition using hand positions or ball speed are good, but having the right ball can make all the difference in being comfortable and repeating shots.When you are bowling on a fresh oil pattern, starting with a stronger ball will allow the ball to be smoother off the hook spot giving you the information needed to determine what ball to use, where to play, type of release and speed. Watch how your ball rolls off the breakpoint and make your moves accordingly. As the lanes break down, switching to a weaker ball that skids down the lane a little further may help you combat early hook in the front part of the lane. ShapeThere are 39 boards on a lane and it is approximately 42 inches wide, which does not seem like a lot of room to play with compared to the length of the lane, which is 60 feet. (Foul line to head pin) Learning to see where your ball starts to read the pattern and watching the reaction as it is heading toward the pocket is more valuable than reading the lane left to right. Why limit yourself, when you have 60 feet to play with?Reading a lane condition front to back is identifying where the ball begins to lose speed. If a ball loses a lot of speed in the first 20 feet, you can expect less hook power or a smoother backend motion down lane. If the ball doesn’t lose speed in the front or middle sections of the lane, you can expect more hook down lane creating a stronger back-end reaction towards the pins.TIP: Practice with two balls, a stronger (early rolling ball) and a weaker (later rolling ball). Get lined up with one ball and then throw both of them in the same place, the same way. Train your eyes to see how early or late the ball starts to make its move toward the pocket. Watching ball reaction, knowing your equipment and knowing your breakpoint are keys to being one step ahead of your opponent.Thanks for continuing with the Bowling Academy.

    2. Naw Honestly Bro its more like it depends say the LANE SURFACE, REV RATE, THE BALL YOUR THROWING, AND AS WELL AS HOW THE WHOLE OIL PATTERN IS GOING TO TRANSITION. The Difference From LOW-HIGH VOLUME ALSO VARIES SIGNIFCANTLY, AS WELL AS THE SHAPE, SPEED, WHAT I SAID BEFORE ON LANE SURFACE OF REV RATE, AS WELL AS HOW YOU THROW THE BALL. Or MAYBE IT LOOKED LIKE The National Bowling Academy Helped you, but for my slower-medium speed more rev dominant style, The 11 Board even on 43-50 Ft on longer, DEPENDING ON VOLUME I throw generally either a Solid like a 900 Global Lunatic, Storm Sync, or if its reading too early, The HyRoad Pearl also works well, and for short patterns 33-38 Ft (yeah i know some say 37 or 38 is medium but my higher rev rate disagrees into thinking its SHORTER) I’m generally deeping my angle and throwing a HyRoad Peal unless its a Super Natural or a Rhino Urethane where as the angles look deeper from my style generally whether im standing right left handed and throwing left or if im standing left throwing right right handed, its like it depends on how the actual pattern plays etc etc, Oh and I honestly don’t know what I’d consider Medium as Besides 41 and longer, but anyone could of said 37,39,or 40 were all mediums, however to me those even play shorter, or maybe i gotta change something with my style or it would be LESS HOLD compared to the amount of oil im using on Modified Sport shots To My Preference, But whatever suites you bro

    1. Ronald Harris See if you can catch whoever oils the lanes or maintains the oil machine. They should have an idea of what pattern they put out, and you can go online to find out what the graph looks like.

    2. @SlimJimJoey I was thinking about this but do you think that the person would get annoyed? I guess it all depends… I just really want to start applying this information to my game.

    3. @JTJT More often than not, they’ll be happy to share it with you. It’s not like you can see the actual pattern on the lane itself, and you still have to put the ball in the right spot repetitiously. I know anytime I did it the lanes, I was eager to share the information with anyone who would listen, and I would give advice on where to play based on who it was. And it could play different each week based on a number of factors, even if the pattern stays the same.

    1. A basic is the rule of 34. Subtract 34 from the total distance of the pattern and you can sometimes get a read on where the break point could be

    2. No, you need to subtract 31. My oil pattern distance is 35 feet. So I do 35-31= 4. The 4th board is the breaking point

  2. Sometimes i hear bowlers talk about there were a “speed bump” on the pattern. What is that and cen you see it on the sheet?

  3. Bowl on a 33 Ft Shortened Reverse Block And MAYBE we can talk. How Would you like 33 Ft and it was flooded EVERY BOARD RIGHT OF 4-5? Any Takers?

    1. @nordattack  The biggest takeaway from this video for playing a pattern is the rule of 31 they mentioned right at the beginning. Pattern length minus 31 equals the board you should target as your breakpoint. Example…42 foot pattern minus 31 means your breakpoint target is the 11 board. By breakpoint, it’s the spot when the ball exits the oil pattern, so in this example that is 42 feet down lane. This is just a rule of thumb but it’s very good for a starting point. As for how you approach reaching that target breakpoint, that’s something that can’t be answered in the video. This is because there are too many variables such as lane surface, ball type (urethane, reactive resin, etc), ball speed, rev rate, etc. There isn’t a one size fits all approach to playing a pattern. You have to use this rule as a base and adjust from there for it to work for your own unique style.

    2. @Nicholas Henderson Thanks!
      What I really want to know is where to target at the arrows based on the pattern.
      I bowl straight, down and in, because I only have 145 rpms and 13 mph ball speed.
      I have no success opening up my angles because I am a Full Roller with zero tilt and the ball does not angle back or recover.
      So I must stay either closed down, or up the boards for success.

      How do I translate this to Sport shots?

    3. @nordattack No problem! And to me it sounds like you know your own game pretty well. You understand that there are certain limitations with lower revs and ball speed such as yours. Because of that, some oil patterns just simply might not be a good fit for you. Longer patterns I would think would be the toughest for you because they have less room for the ball to get to the pocket after the pattern ends, and less hook potential overall. Anything above a 42 foot pattern is considered long I believe, so if you saw a sport shot tournament with a longer pattern like that just be aware it may be very difficult.

      As for your question about where to aim at the arrows, I’m guessing you would be most successful playing straight as possible, which you said you do anyway. So if you’re aiming for a breakpoint around the 8 or 9 board (which is pretty common on typical house shot), aim for the same board at the arrows or possibly in a couple so you’re still swinging it out a touch.

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