You throw your ball and it comes back on the ball return. You pick it up for your next shot and notice there’s a greasy circle all over it. You think to yourself, “ What is this stuff all over my ball”?
Years ago the lanes were made of wood, the first 15 feet was made of a hardwood like maple, to be able to withstand the impact of the ball coming onto the lane. The remaining 45 feet was made of a softer wood like pine which was less expensive. OIL was put on the lanes to protect this wood. Without the oil, your ball would spark and burn the lane from the friction!
During the 1940’s lanes were COATED with SHELLAC to protect the wood underneath from friction and impact of the ball. However, Shellac became more difficult to make during World War II, so they changed the dressing on the lane to Lacquer but this had a higher flammability, so they just decided to change the material the lanes were made of instead.
This lane OIL or Dressing placed on the lanes consists of about 95% MINERAL OIL and the remaining mixture is consisted of other solvents to help with ball friction and how far the oil gets pushed down the lane over a certain amount of games.
Even though today most lanes are not made of wood, oil is still put down mostly to challenge bowlers abilities by using specific OIL PATTERNS approved by the USBC (United States Bowling Congress). Oil also helps control how much the ball will hook. There are several different patterns that we will be discussing in some later blog posts.
Inside and outside TEMPERATURES can affect the oil and how your ball will react on the lane. I remember getting a really cold winter when I first began to bowl, and my scores were several pins down from what my normal average was. I was blaming it on the worker there who applied the oil to the lanes asking if he had put more down than usual. The guy in the pro shop told me they were putting down the same amount. I did a little bit of research and found out that it was this colder weather and the higher humidity we were getting with all the snow. My ball wasn’t hooking as much and was traveling down the lane farther before it started to hook.
The lane oil had become more congealed and the ball couldn’t begin it’s roll at the proper place as before. It was literally sliding on the oil causing me to get more splits than usual. The ball needed to be in it’s ROLLING PHASE when it hit the pins for the strike to carry.
So if the weather changes where you are, you need to pay a bit more attention to how the ball is going down the lane, and you also need to make more adjustments at the stance and where your is.
Normally your ball will start to hook into the 1-3 pocket (1-2 pocket for lefty’s) on the last 20 feet of the 60 foot lane, but if there’s a lot of oil or it’s congealed from colder temperatures, your ball will NOT be able to hook as much, but will SKID, so you must compensate for this by moving to the right at the stance.
Your ball picks up the oil and carries it down the lane (CARRY DOWN OIL) closer to the pins so after a game or two, your ball will start to hook later so you may need to move a little to the left.
The newer reactive resin bowling balls are made of URETHANE and tend to absorb a lot of this lane oil, I so it’s important to wipe your ball off every few frames to remove the oil. When the ball absorbs too much lane oil over time, it will NOT react the same. Try to clean your ball really well after about 12-15 games. They have ball cleaning products in the pro shop that you can use after your set of games is finished so your ball will be nice and clean before you bowl again. I would also sometimes SOAK mine in very hot tap water in the sink with “Dawn” liquid dish detergent for about 20-30 minutes and it cut through the grease really well. (I removed any hole tape beforehand). I was able to submerge the whole ball in the deep sink I had in my laundry room. If you have a small sink, just put in half at a time. By doing this, the ball will react when you first bought it for a longer period of time and you won’t have to buy a new one for awhile.
TIP: Most of the oil is to the CENTER of the lane. If you want your ball to hook a bit more, try standing to the right and aim between boards 1-5. Try this in your practice sessions to see what works best for you.
Please leave me any comments in the comments area, or any topics you'd like me to discuss here in my Blog. I have several we will be covering in the near future. I look forward to hearing from you.
Join me next week when I’ll be discussing some of the "Simple Oil Patterns" you will be encountering in league bowling.
Good luck and high scoring!!
Hello!! I'm not a professional bowler, but I have loved the sport for more than 45 years, averaged over 200 for several seasons, and learned quite a bit with research and experience.