So what is a house pattern? It's applying oil in such a way that the volume placed toward the center of the lane is higher versus the amount of oil that's place on the outside portion. This creates a curb or wall where when you tug your ball inside your target, the heavier concentration of oil holds your ball from hooking high in the pocket. Subsequently, when you miss outside your intended target, the increased friction causes your ball to lose speed and hook earlier which helps to get your ball back to the pocket. After you throw a number of shots, you can feel where your sweet spot is based on your ball choice, speed, rotation, oil pattern, and target. To the experienced bowler, you can find 5 boards or more that ALL hit the pocket. With all this striking, it's no wonder they don't care about spare shooting. It's all about the 5 bagger now.
Bowlers tend to spend more effort trying to rev the ball or use stronger hitting products that increase your angle into the pocket upping that strike percentage. Everyone wants a ball that goes long and strong now, skidding far down the lane and reacting ferociously. Bowlers are getting out of control, off balance, sacrificing accuracy and consistency for an almost reckless style all for the promise of higher scores. It's like challenging Tiger Woods to mini golf. Put the ball in the clown's mouth and it's an automatic hole in one. It's still golf but hardly similar to playing the US Open at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck. This in a nutshell is this sport's “slippery slope.”
Your alignment once you have the right zone doesn't change much. When the conditions transition after a game or two, that's when the oil starts to diminish in an area, most have a second ball to change to so that they can finish their session without having to move much. If you do move a few boards, it's probably plenty.
This environment is common during league and junior bowling and that's where the wide majority of bowlers play. They don't learn any instincts because they don't need to. Oil is the invisible opponent to finding proper ball reaction but most people just need to open their bag and grab another ball.
Now for more advanced conditions. This is where the real bowling is. Averages plummet back to normal, spare shooting becomes a premium and where you stand and what you throw are crucial. Oil ratios and pattern distance are what tells you how easy or tough a lane condition will be. At White Plains Bowl, we use a Kegel Ion Navigation machine and each condition is described in Kegel Kode. This is an explanation from their site:
"Until now, there have not been difficulty levels between 'House' and sport patterns. USBC's Sport Bowling is a good description of difficulty but the definition of 'House' only means what bowling has given to it.
With all that in mind, we created a series of patterns called the Kegel Navigation Patterns and are grouped by three levels of difficulty; Sport, Challenge and Recreation.
The Kegel Recreation Series of oil patterns are ratios of 5:1 or greater, the Kegel Challenge Series oil patterns are ratios between 3:1 - 5:1 and toughest of all, Kegel Sport Series oil patterns are 3:1 or less."
The KODE is a quick reference guide to the technical details of each pattern. You'll notice four numbers for each. The first two numbers represent the ratio of the oil pattern. For Beaten Path, which is 4541, the number 45 tells us the pattern has a side-to-side ratio of 4.5 to 1 at the 22' distance; Challenge.
The higher the oil ratio, the more oil to hold your ball from going high and the lower the ratio, the flatter the oil pattern. This means you have to be more consistent with your speed, direction and spin to get the same reaction.
The second two numbers represent the distance of the pattern where the number 41 tells us the pattern is 41 feet long. Kegel came up with a neat formula as a guideline how to attack their patterns. It's (PATTERN LENGTH – 31). This is the spot you want to exit the pattern to get the most area down the lane. So for Beaten Path with is a 41 foot pattern, you'll want your ball to be about 10, 41 feet down the lane (41 - 31 = 10).
Here are some other examples:
BOARDWALK 2435 4 board
WINDING ROAD 2839 8 board
BEATEN PATH 4541 10 board
ROUTE 66 4345 14 board
BOURBON 6240 9 board
So you see, the shorter the pattern, the more right you need to move and the longer, the more left. Does this seem backward? It should because we've been taught that when the ball goes high, you move left and swing more while if the reaction is weak, we move right. Why? The answer is pattern length. If the oil is 35 feet, moving left will only make it hook earlier. We aren't on a 45 foot house pattern with dry right and oil left. We have to get the ball farther away from the pocket so it has room to hook. On the pro tour's Shark pattern, most play deep inside because it's a heavy oil long pattern. Playing outside, the ball would get far too deep in the lane to recover, even for the super talented high rev players.
To bowl effectively on challenging conditions, instincts need to change, ball choices change, games change. Scores will go down, egos will get bruised. Honor scores won't happen all that frequently but when they do, it will truly be celebrated. This is real bowling where accuracy is a premium and execution is the key, not just your bowling ball. This is what the sport of bowling is all about and what's been lost for far too long.