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The Truth about Tournament Oil Patterns and Conversions

2013KegelTedThompson.jpgAt Kegel we get many requests for converting oil patterns to and from different lane machine technologies. Sometimes it can be for a specific tournament pattern or it may be a named oil pattern. Although we fully realize the intent, we also know that there are many factors other than the oil pattern that determine ball motion, and how easy or difficult lanes play.

One technical reason some oil patterns cannot be converted is simply because some lane machines do not have the capability to apply an oil pattern exactly like the machine it was made for. A few of the new longer Landmark Patterns are good examples as these patterns were designed specifically for the FLEX lane machine.

For example, the Eiffel Tower is a 48 foot Sport pattern and with the variable buffer speed upgrade feature the FLEX has, the last seven feet utilizes a buffer speed of 200 rpm which applies a very light film of conditioner in this zone.

If a lane machine does not have the variable buff option the buffer will be rotating at 500 rpm, and apply more conditioner to that zone, making the pattern play much tighter that it was intended to play.

That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun if applied with other lane machine technology or the pattern will be terrible, it just won’t “play the same”.

However, even if the oil pattern is matched up perfectly from one technology to the next, there can still be differences in types of conditioners used, cleaner type, cleaner dilution, lane surface friction, and lane surface topography.

Even bowler differences (who you will follow at the tournament) from your home center to wherever that tournament pattern will be used at can have a huge impact.

For instance, some lane conditioners play slicker or allow the ball to pick up earlier than other conditioners, some conditioner’s carrydown affect ball motion more than other conditioners, and some lane cleaners leave more residue behind than others causing different amounts of back end hook. The dilution ratio, the amount of cleaner to water mixture, also affects ball motion, especially at the back end.

For lane surfaces, conditioned wood lanes tend to hook more and earlier than conditioned synthetic lanes. Higher textured synthetic lanes tend to have an “arcing” ball motion, while smoother synthetic lanes tend to be more “skid-snappy”.

When practicing on a tournament pattern at home, you may be all alone or with a small group with similar styles. We know in today’s bowling environment using today’s equipment, it doesn’t take very long to change that oil pattern into something else simply by rolling balls down the lane.

Once at the tournament site however you will be following a much more diverse group of styles, which may very well transform that oil pattern into something different.

It’s not even uncommon for us to see the scoring pace change from different squads in the same tournament using the exact same oil pattern just by the style of bowlers on specific squads, or even by the type of bowling balls used by the participants on different squads!

Topography is also a huge variable when it comes to how a ball hooks (how a ball depletes energy) and how much it hooks. A portion of a lane sloped opposite the rotation of the ball will cause the ball to lose energy quickly, while a portion of a lane sloped with the rotation of the ball will cause the ball to lose energy slower.

These slopes on the lane surface can also help the ball move more easily towards the pocket, or make it more difficult for the ball to move towards the pocket.
A textbook example of how lane surface and topography can affect scoring pace is from the 2014 and 2015 Teen Masters. In this event, many of the participants played both years, all players use the same type balls, the same oil and cleaner were used, and the long oil pattern was exactly the same both years, so we can discount all those variables.

However, in 2015 the event was held at a newer installation and the lanes are predominately shaped with a certain type topography that is known to produce high scores; the overall scoring pace was 20 pins higher in 2015 than in 2014 and an abnormal amount of 300 games were bowled.

The 2015 environment also benefitted some players more than others as averages between the two events were 40 pins higher per game in 2015 versus 2014 for certain styles of play.

Kegel has mapped thousands of bowling lanes around the world and we have yet to find two lanes that have the exact same measurements with regard to lengthwise tilts, crosstilts, crowns, and depressions. We also have yet to find a perfectly level lane. It could be said that bowling lanes are like finger prints; no two are the same.

Therefore, perfect and exact pattern oil patterns, or conversions, GUARANTEE that ball motion will be different at home versus where you will play on that pattern at whatever event you are going to.

A good coaching tip is to practice on a competitive type oil pattern that has a similar distance to the tournament pattern you will be bowling on. This type of preparation will help you to keep an open mind and to be flexible when you arrive at the tournament site.

It is easy to get overly caught up in oil patterns with all the information and focus on oil patterns today. Unfortunately, more often than not, this closes the mind and shifts focus to “what should be” instead of “what might be”.

In conclusion, if you are practicing at home on a tournament oil pattern, and planning on competing or coaching in that tournament, take that oil pattern with a grain of salt and keep your mind open, very open. We can just about guarantee things will be different at the tournament site than at your home center.

By Ted Thompson

Author: Herbert Bickel
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