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Rick Benoit's Expert Bowling Tips

Difficult Lanes

      Hello everybody, I am sure that many of you will be able to relate to last week's lane observations. We were in Syracuse, NY for the ABC Masters. The pattern used was identical to that used for the rest of the ABC tournament. There is one major difference though: No matter what is put on the lane, it is important to understand that they change according to how they are played and the equipment used. So if you saw something different, it probably had something to do with how the lanes you bowled on were played. It will be interesting to see how my observations match up to what those of you that bowled on them saw.

      There were six squads of qualifying and the lanes were reconditioned after two squads of play. This is a very important issue. In a perfect world that would mean that each fresh condition would be the same. My observations did not see this, however. What I saw in the morning on the fresh pattern was not the same as what I saw in the evening on a fresh pattern. The difference is related to the cleaning process. I do not know the lane maintenance procedures of the ABC crew, but I do know that they did a lot better stripping job at the end of each day of competition than they did in between squads.

      Looking at the lane laterally, I will describe what I saw and my opinions about ball reaction in that portion of the lane.

      On the right side, outside of the 8th board, I saw enough oil to lay the ball down, but did not see a way to create much room in either direction of your target. If you wanted to play in this area of the lane you can expect your mistakes to leave some unique designs. In the morning, the backends were very clean and having the right surface to match your game would allow your ball to make a strong move on the backend. This would prove to be short-lived once the oil started to push down the lane. If you missed outside of your target, you were sure to see your ball hook less and, when you missed inside of your target, there wasn't much help there either. This part of the lane was more playable for the straighter players if they wanted to play close to 7 or 8. If your game provides revs in the front part of the lane it would be difficult to play this part of the lane for very long. The front of the lane would begin to break down and force you to project the ball towards the outside and that was not a comfortable feeling. It might come back but don't count on it.

      As we move further left on the lane there was a zone between 15 and 10 that seemed very playable. Using 9-10 as your breakpoint a bowler could match up his equipment with their style of game and create a little mistake room right. This part of the lane remained playable for the players with fewer revs in the front part of the lane most of the day. Carry seemed to be better if you could minimize your projection. In the morning the backends were stronger so it made it more difficult for the high rev players to play this portion of the lane. The backends were so strong that the high-rev player was forced to project the ball further right and that was disaster. The other option for the high-rev player in this portion of the lane was to move further left so he was able to match up his projection with his backend reaction still using 10 as his breakpoint. This led to the most challenging part of attacking this condition. The amount of oil in the heads from 16 to 21-22 made this part of the lane tricky. I found many bowlers trapped in this area, blaming themselves for bad shots when actually the problem was the need for oil in the front part of the lane. One shot would look good, then the next one would grab the lane early, delivering a "facial" and a difficult spare conversion. This was especially difficult for the players who hit the ball upward at their release. If a bowler was to recognize much success in this area for very long, a clean hand at the release was essential.

      When we moved deeper, we found the consistent push through the front part of the lane we needed, and once the track had enough play to open up, this was a good part of the lane to attack. On the morning "fresh" squad, it was not unusual to see players almost as deep in the front part of the lane as they were for the "burned" squad at night. This was to avoid the early hook in the front and necessary to allow for the strong backend reaction. It was a challenge for many of the players to understand the difference between the morning "fresh" squad and the later "fresh" squads. Many of them would watch the other squads, and assume that they would be able to attack the lanes the same way. The high-rev players that played in and had plenty of recovery on the morning "fresh" pattern did not have as much obvious recovery when they bowled the later "fresh" squads. This would force them to move right and then they would get early hook, or they would try and move both their feet and mark right and then they would have to deal with the hang to the right. The best move would be to stay further left and deal with the tighter backends with ball speed and equipment choices. Once the track opened up, the high-rev player was able to find the hook he had lost and he was off to the races. I really enjoyed the pattern because there was a lot of strategy involved and all styles had a shot. There was a time of day that either could take advantage of.

      I think the important factors to consider is how to deal with the early hook in the front part of the lane and how the stripping procedures effect the backend reaction. I would have to give the advantage to the player who has fewer revs in the front part of the lane, because they had to make fewer moves and carry seemed better for those who were able to keep the ball straighter through the front part of the lane.

      As far as equipment choices I felt balls that would not snap on the backend provided the best look and carry.

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