How to Bowl Better on a Long Oil Pattern

how to bowl on a long oil pattern

The most common length for a typical house shot is probably around 40-feet.It’s hard to say for sure that this is the number but it seems to be close from my experience.

This length is also considered to be a medium length pattern in competitive circles meaning there are plenty of shorter patterns and plenty of longer patters that tournament bowlers will come across from week to week.

For the lower average recreational bowler the longer patterns tend to feel like they have a lot more oil on them and don’t hook as much but in reality many long patterns have the exact same amount of volume as a short pattern does.

Frequently the longer patterns are simply longer and more narrow and they end up using nearly the same amount of oil.

Obviously this isn’t a blanket statement, there are my long patterns that do indeed use more volume but it’s usually not as dramatic as you might think.

A 47 foot pattern is 34% longer than a 35-foot pattern and if the 35-foot pattern uses 24 units of oil then you might expect the longer pattern to use 35% more oil. In reality though this is rarely the case.

A longer 47-foot pattern could easily use only 27 units oil which is only 12.5% more oil than the 35 foot pattern.

The difference is in distribution – where the oil is actually placed on the lanes.

Shorter patterns tend to have a wider footprint in the front end of the lane. This is not always the case but it is fairly common and the width of the application in the heads frequently extends further down the lane than longer (skinnier) patterns.

With longer patterns their is much less distance to cover on the dry lanes that extend past the pattern so the ball will have to hook and roll very quickly.

It’s common to find the majority of bowlers playing much further inside throughout an event on the longer conditions because the pattern makes play to the outside very difficult to navigate consistently.

The rule of thumb in bowling is the rule of 31.

Take the pattern length and subtract 31 and that’s the starting point for where you want your ball to be as it exits the pattern although this doesn’t take into consideration ball speed, rev rate, trajectory, or breakdown.

Using the rule of 31 a pattern of 45 feet for instance would yield a pattern exit point of 14 which is way inside, almost in the zone of the low pocket.

Some tournaments even use patterns around 50-feet which totally throw the rule of 31 out the window.

You cant aim for the 19 board at 50 feet unless your ball is still crossing boards away from the pocket.

For highly competitive bowlers that have a lot of hand and ball speed the rule of 31 can be fudged a bit on the extreme ends.

a 39 foot pattern may make sense for an 8-board exit location and a 42 foot pattern may make sense to have an 11-board exit point but for the long patterns the exit point has a wall.

I find that the 13 board is roughly the furthest inside a ball can be on any length pattern at the breakpoint to consistently strike for most high average bowlers.

If a pattern is 45 feet and you project the ball from left to right exiting a 45-foot pattern and the 13 board it may float to the 12 board before hooking back to the pocket just 15 feet further down lane but this change in direction is hard to achieve the longer the patterns gets.

In my experience I like to use the rule of 31 as the thumb for patterns between 35 and 40 feet but as the pattern gets longer I switch to a 2:1 ratio. Each two feet in length beyond 40 feet the exit point should be an extra 1 on top of the typical 31.

42 feet minus 32 equals a 10-board exit point.

44 feet minus 33 equals an 11-board exit point.

46 feet patterns cater to a 12-board exit point.

48 feet patterns cater to a 13-board exit point.

50 feet patterns might work with a 14-board exit point.

and so on, although you don’t see many patterns longer than this.

Tricky thing is though that this is just a starting point. If you know the pattern is long then you know the exit point should be further inside but with low volumes of oil or for bowlers with high rev rates relative to their speed the break point may be further right.

If we take me for instance, I throw the ball around 18 mph at roughly 500 rpms. Assuming I’m throwing stronger equipment I can usually shoot for a breakpoint a little right of the rule of thumb.

If I were to throw the ball at 16 mph then I could easily stay to the right of the rule of thumb.

On the other hand bowlers that throw it 18 mph with only 250 rpms they may have to be left of rule of thumb.

A bowler throwing it 16 mph at 400 rpms may need to follow rule of thumb breakpoint estimates closely.

Everyone is different and it’s why guidelines like the rule of 31 should be just starting points for developing a game plan for scoring on a long oil pattern.

Whatever the length of pattern you bowl on strike percentage or carry percentage goes up when your ball enters the pocket in a full roll rather than while still skidding through the hook phase so the best way to play long oil patterns is to go with equipment that reads early in the mid-lane and doesn’t necessarily have a big flip left in the tank by the back-ends.

Sport conditions of all lengths tend to taper from the beginning of the pattern to the end of the pattern much less than they did back in the 80’s and even less than they do in recreational house shots. This means that if you throw a skid/flip ball it is most likely not going to read the pattern until it is too late to turn the corner and anter a stable roll.

Pearlized balls tend to be hard to control out of the super long conditions because they skid to long and turn hard sometimes to late meaning they hit the pocket without ever getting to an end-over-end roll. Although this might yield better side-to-side pin action overall pocket carry percentages tend to decline.

A better approach is to throw a ball that reads early and doesn’t continue hooking through the last 10 feet of the lane. This is achieved by throwing deep inside lines to your breakpoint as described above and letting the ball mostly roll out just before it enters the pocket.

Usually entry angle will suffer doing this but it will be easier to hit pocket by doing this… especially if you break the lanes down properly first.

How to Break Down a Bowling Lane

If you are playing a 45-foot pattern and are targeting the 10-11 board at 45 feet you can get there in one of three ways.

  1. You could throw up 7 and walk the ball up to 11 at 45-feet before it hooks a bit more into the 18 board at pocket entry just 15 feet further down lane.
  2. You could also throw between 2nd and third arrow to the 11 board down lane where the majority of the hook takes place resulting in a slightly larger entry angle with pocket impact occurring at the 17-board.
  3. You could also play a deeper angle maybe 4th arrow sliding into the 45-foot mark at the 12 board and turning the corner for a high pocket strike.

The commonality here is the ball needs to hook early despite the longer oil pattern and it needs to die in the backend to prevent skidding through the pocket which can result in lots of weak 10-pins, 5-pins, or weak 7-10 splits.

For me a long pattern almost always means I start by going straight up the boards at the breakpoint with a weak reactive ball. This will burn up the breakpoint faster via oil depletion while preserving the river of oil to the inside part of the lane.

If you can successfully go 12-board at the arrows to 9-10 board at the break point and hit low pocket shots that will either carry or leave you with makeable spares then an area will develop for you to exploit in later frames.

The 10-board at 45-feet on a longer pattern will not have a lot of oil on it so removing it can quickly result in a dry spot that can serve as a bumper for when I move inside and pick up my aggressive equipment.

After throwing 10-practice balls and maybe another game over the 10-board I can then move in with a more aggresive ball and shoot third or fourth arrow to the 11 board at the exit point and experience a nice bumper to the right that didn’t exist previously.

As that slowly starts hooking earlier and earlier you can then keep moving in throwing with a greater release angle to 12 at the exit point while maintaining a hook spot just to the right where you were playing previously maybe only a game ago or less even.

Some long patterns I find that I have to make somewhat major adjustments every 7-8 frames as the mid-lanes start showing signs of oil depletion.

So long as you start by really playing straight up from the get-go the mid-lane oil usually will hold up over a number of games before it truely feels burnt.

Another pro tip for you is to ball up and down as you make these adjustments to oil transition.

I may start with a weak reactive ball to open up a burn spot down lane but as I ball up and move inside sometimes it is easier to ball down as the mid-lane oil is depleted and use the same pattern exit location for another 5-6 frames before moving left and balling back up again.

Every pattern will be different however and the other bowlers on your pair will obviously make a difference too.

Don’t forget that urethane and plastic balls will contribute to carry down a bit too. A urethane ball ball going up the boards will push some oil into the breakpoint zone that you may be trying to deplete which can make the breakpoint a bit lazy. Always pay attention to what the other bowlers are throwing and where they are playing.

Try to exploit what they are giving you if you can.

How do you play a long oil pattern?

Do not try to play outside unless the mids are too burnt.

Instead play up the boards at the optimal breakpoint and then move inside to exploit any spot you carved if at all possible.

Continue moving left with your feet and hitting your breakpoint at boards slightly inside of your earlier games.

Eventually if the mid-lane burns up too much you can then pull out urethane or another early rolling ball and throw some straighter shots that may hook earlier than the pattern exit point and enter the roll phase before the usual breakpoint.

A ball in an end-over-end roll will not over react to the dry backends if it has already hooked and started to roll.