Lane Pattern Analysis

Posted by Ronald Hickland on


We get many questions about lane patterns. Let me preface this by saying there are many, many patterns and as technology advances, there will be more to come. This is a general overview of how to read a lane graph, and how play the specific pattern called the Detroit Cup.

The blue graph above is the shape and length of the pattern from the foul line to the head pin from an overhead perspective. The shape of the pattern is similar to a Christmas tree. This is a common shape for many patterns today. The red and green graph above shows the ratios of the change in oil across the lane. In general, the higher the outside ratio, the easier the pattern. For example, the USBC pattern this year was 1.64 and a typical house shot (league pattern) is around 7 to 10. The ratio for the Detroit Cup this year was 3.29 - not as hard as the USBC pattern but not a walk in the park either.

Looking at the overhead graph, the darker blue represents a higher concentration of oil in general. However, the key thing to look at is the length of the pattern. For the Detroit Cup, the pattern is 41 ft. It’s also important to note the total volume of oil - 24.4 mL for this pattern. This is an appropriate volume of oil for this length of pattern, meaning it’s not too high or too low. If the volume of oil is higher, the ball will hook later than expected based on the length. If there is a low volume of oil, the ball will hook earlier. It’s also important to note the type of oil being used. At the Detroit Cup, they used the same oil in both tanks. It is possible to use more than one type of oil in the same pattern as seen in the Taj Mahal pattern above. In this case Fire oil hooks more than Ice oil so this can change how the pattern breaks down. The other thing you’ll notice is the amount of oil per board. Typically, this is 50 ul per board. However, it can vary as in the Taj Mahal pattern which is 40 ul. The lower the ul of oil the earlier the pattern will play.

Based on this information, we can begin to determine where your breakpoint needs to be. The breakpoint is defined as the apex of the hook (ie, the spot furthest to the right your ball with go for a right hander or furthest to the left for a left hander) With this pattern, your optimal breakpoint distance should be 36-38 feet which is 3-5 feet before the end of the pattern. This helps control your ball motion. The longer the pattern, the closer you want your right-to-left breakpoint to be to the head pin. With this pattern being medium length, you want your breakpoint to be between boards 5-10. for a shorter pattern and you would want your breakpoint to be outside of 5 board. This gives you a nice visual spot for you to get your ball to. Checkout the videos of Jimmy Cook who went to the Detroit Cup seminar and shot 300 during qualifying. Look where his breakpoint is, right between 5 and 10 board. There are 3 videos so you can see it from different angles. Nice game, Jimmy! There are things which can alter the breakpoint. The three main things are lane topography (the irregularities in the lane) and/or lane surface, which balls are being played on the lane and the lane transition.

The final step is deciding where you need to lay the ball down at the foul line to get to that breakpoint. This is based on your bowling ball and physical game so unfortunately, I can’t give you the magic answer for this one. Understanding a lane graph isn’t an absolute, but it is a good place to start and it’s way better than coming in with no plan at all. It can also aid you in selecting the appropriate equipment to bring, especially if you’re restricted by travel or tournament rules. You can always check out my arsenal review if you would like help with this.


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