Tournament Prep: Lane Play

Tournament oil patterns vary in oil distance and oil volume. Having the right ball in your hand with the ability to manipulate your release, launch angle, and ball speed will help you “match up” to what you’re up against on the lane.

If you have access to the lane sheet for the condition you are bowling on, check out How to Read a Bowling Lane Sheet to get a better understanding of what that sheet is telling you.

Also, take a look at Next Level Lane Play: Understanding Rule of 31 and Ball Motion to help make better decisions on ball choice and targeting while you are in the thinking box, not the playing box.

Launch angle and balance arm

The direction of the bowling ball, once it leaves your hand towards the breakpoint, is the definition of bowling’s launch angle.

When you set up in your stance to play the lanes straighter, your shoulders need to be square to your target and your swing will also need to be in line with the target.

When you post your shot, your shoulders should be in the same position you started in when you set up on the approach.

A key component to achieving this while your feet are in motion on the approach is to have your balance arm (non-bowling arm) remain to your side. This will keep your shoulders closed when trying to play the lanes straighter.

When you are attempting to open the lane (throw the bowling ball out and have it hook back into the pocket), you need your shoulders to open up as well.

To increase your shoulder angle in your stance to match the launch angle you are trying to achieve, you’ll need to open up your stance.

Throughout your approach, keep your balance arm directly in front of you. This will help your shoulders remain open through the entirety of your approach while keeping your arm swing free and straight, allowing you to achieve your desired launch angle.

Release versatility

Another area that competitive tournament bowlers have in their bag of tricks is having multiple releases and knowing which situation requires which release.

The goal is to have as many releases between 0°–90° of axis rotation (amount of end-over-end or side roll the bowling ball has) and be able to increase and decrease your rev rate (the speed at which the ball rotates).

Your “A” release is what you naturally gravitate towards. It is your normal rev rate, rotation, and tilt. Generally, for most bowlers, it’s around 45° axis rotation.

If the lanes are transitioning and you need to open up your launch angle to hit your breakpoint, you’ll want to alter your rev rate by increasing it. To achieve this, cup your wrist slightly and throw similarly to your “A” release.

Decreasing your rev rate requires you to bend your wrist slightly back from your “A” release position. This will decrease your rev rate and allow you to play straighter with more predictable ball motion.

Altering axis rotation also allows for more and less hook by changing the way you hold and release the ball.

Moving your hand outward from your “A” release will make the ball rotate more end-over-end, allowing you to keep the ball rolling straighter down lane.

Moving your hand inward from your “A” release will make the ball change direction, allowing it to skid easier through the heads and make a more drastic change of direction towards the pocket when it hits the breakpoint at the end of the oil pattern.

Having as many adjustments as possible at your disposal will prepare you for any lane condition you will face in tournament play. Make sure your equipment is ready and your physical game is solid so you can make the best lane play decisions that result in success at your next competition.

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2 Responses to “Tournament Prep: Lane Play”

  1. Michael

    I was very interested to look at this article. But everything here is geared to a one handed bowler. The premise of your article applies to all bowlers, but you didn't provide solutions for two handers. Would be great if in the future you could include that growing group of bowlers.

  2. James Partridge

    I'll give it a try,went from 180 average a year ago,to a 150average this year