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Bowling Lanes Are Like Snowflakes

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 3 4

Mental Bowling
Avid bowlers know that there is more to bowling than showing up, picking a ball and renting bowling shoes. Each bowling ball is different, some working better for some shots than others. Bowling shoes also are different with each pair and can change one’s game. However, bowling balls are not the only thing that can differ from game to game. 

While the bowling ball and shoes a bowler uses can be controlled by the bowler, the conditions of a bowling lane cannot. Each lane is different and requires a lot of mental energy on the part of the bowler to figure out the differences between lanes and how to bowl accurately given the conditions. 

Why No Two Bowling Lanes Are Alike

There are several reasons that each bowling lane is different. Older alleys may still have floors made of hardwood; newer alleys may use synthetic materials for their floors. These may look like wood, but do not have the same characteristics. Synthetic floors are smoother than hardwood lanes. While upgrading, some of the older bowling alleys, rather than ripping up the old hardwood and completely replacing the bowling lanes, choose to cover the old wood with a synthetic covering. 

This overlay, while it makes the lane smoother, also makes the lane thinner and softer due to the wood underneath. This impacts a bowler’s game in an entirely new way. If the lanes have not been resurfaced, they may have heavy wear and tear in the beginning portion of the lane, where bowling balls have the most impact on the floor boards. Because of this damage, the trajectory of the ball will be changed and should be planned for.

The Original Secret Behind Oiling The Bowling Lanes

In order to preserve the lanes’ surfaces, oil is used. This oil is spread in different patterns, depending on the lanes. There are even different names to describe some of these oil patterns, like the Christmas tree pattern. Each oil pattern affects the way the ball rolls down the lane. In the same bowling alley, there may be differences between lanes, depending on how much use the lane has seen on that particular day. Oil patterns can affect the way the ball rolls dramatically, and quite a bit of mental energy is required by pro bowlers to understand the oil pattern and how to adjust for it.

Bowling Lanes are Like Snowflakes

So, with all of these factors in place, bowling lanes are like snowflakes, in that no two are the same. Though they look similar wherever you go, when these factors of the surface of the floor and the oil pattern of the lane are taken into account, it is obvious that there is more to a bowling lane than one can tell just by glancing at it. Avid bowlers may form relationships with alley staff, so that they can find out about which lanes are used the most, what they are made of, and tips on the various oil patterns. Another important thing to take advantage of as a bowler is the practice round before a match, during which lane conditions can be determined before going for the best bowling score possible.


May 10, 2012 2:43pm
The tittle: "Bowling lanes are like snowflakes" made me very curious (coz I didn't understand how that could be so) - I love your answer: "Like snowflakes, no two bowling lanes are the same". Thumbs up!
May 10, 2012 3:44pm
LOL! Thanks. I'm glad that you enjoyed the article.
May 10, 2012 3:41pm
So true, every bowling alley I've been to (although not that many) has been different. Interesting article.
May 10, 2012 3:45pm
I don't bowl nearly as much as I once did, but figuring out the various oil patterns has always been a challenge for me.
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