Watching other bowlers for the purpose of improving your play is what’s known as tracking. In this article, we’ll give advice that will help expedite the learning curve on how to gather information from other bowlers that will help keep you competitive throughout a league night or tournament.
Who best emulates your style?
If you are a straighter player, watch other straighter players with a good look into the pocket that are scoring well. There is no sense in watching the two-handed bowlers hook the lane when that is not what you are doing.
Where are they playing?
Start by observing where they are playing at the arrows. From there, watch the bowling ball’s motion and shape as it goes downlane and into the pocket.
Observe where the bowling ball begins to hook or turn back towards the pocket downlane. This is known as the breakpoint.
The breakpoint is located at the end of the oil pattern, where the friction or dry part of the lane begins.
Check out the “Breakpoint: How to Get Lined Up in Bowling” to learn more about how to find the breakpoint from reading a lane sheet.
Rotation off their hand
Hand position at the point of release dictates how the bowling ball rolls downlane. The bowler you are tracking will have a distinct hand position at the point of release that will make their bowling ball roll a certain way.
Knowing this can help you adjust if you are struggling. Check out “Axis Rotation & Axis Tilt: Bowling Release Adjustments” for more information.
How does their bowling ball react in the backend?
A bowling ball goes through three phases when going downlane: skid, hook, and roll.
The backend is where the roll phase happens, and how the bowling ball goes through the pins identifies if the bowler is matched up to the lane condition.
You will see the bowling ball roll end-over-end as it approaches the pocket. This means the bowling ball travels at the same speed as it is spinning. This gives you less pin deflection and a higher strike percentage. The bowling ball will roll off of the center of the deck.
What bowling ball coverstock are they using?
Is it dull or shiny? Remember, 75% of a bowling ball’s motion (the way it reacts on the lane) is credited to its coverstock. Shiny is what is known as a weaker bowling ball, and dull is a stronger bowling ball.
Check out “Identifying Strong and Weak Bowling Balls” for more information.
“Matching up” is a term loosely thrown around the bowling center. Matching up requires you to have the right bowling ball in your hand with the correct coverstock surface.
While traveling downlane, the bowling ball will have the proper speed and rotation for your style of bowling, and the bowling ball will go through all three phases of ball motion: skid, hook, and roll.
When the ball goes through the roll phase, it will enter the pocket at an angle that will give you the best chance at striking.
The release ratio is how fast the ball travels in relationship with how fast it rotates or spins.
Here is an example of a bowler releasing the ball at 21 mph and rotating the ball at 7mph, making it a 3:1 release ratio.
This means the bowling ball is rolling downlane three times faster than it is spinning.
As the ball travels downlane, the speed drops, and the rotation speeds up. The ratio matches up at the pins, 3:1, and gives the bowler the best chance at striking.
This bowler’s 3:1 release ratio matched up to the lane conditions they were bowled on. What happens if we use this same release ratio when the lanes have more oil?
The speed and rotation will not match up at the pins. Likely, the ball will skid too far and will not get in the roll phase and come up light in the pocket. So what do you do?
Change the ratio.
Reducing speed and increasing rotation will change the ratio for this lane condition.
Matching up is what every bowler is trying to do every time they throw the ball downlane. Some adjustments may be minimal, and others are considered big moves.
By having three different speeds, you can throw the ball with consistency, and the ability to throw the bowling ball with as little to as much axis rotation as you can will allow you to be competitive on any oil pattern.