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Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc.



The importance of ball motion

By Douglas Wiedman

Visualize the lane in three sections: head, midlane, and back end (figure 12.2). The head is the front part of the lane where the heaviest oil is found. How heavy that oil is—its depth—will determine how soon the ball makes the transition to a midlane motion. As the oil tapers out, the ball starts to hit the midlane.

In the midlane, the ball stops skidding and starts moving in the direction of the side roll. This is not an abrupt change. The ball skids less and less as it starts to pick up increasingly more side roll, giving the ball a smooth arcing (hook) motion on the lane rather than a sharp angular change in direction.

Ideally, the ball stops skidding entirely in the back end. It is now in a full end-over-end roll. If there is excessive oil or if the ball was thrown too hard, the ball might still be skidding at this point. If the ball is in a skid, it will tend to deflect when it hits the pins. When the ball is in a true roll, it maximizes the traction effect between the lane surface and the ball surface. The friction between the two surfaces keeps the ball from deflecting off the pins. It will drive (hold line) all the way through the pins.

As the ball passes through each section, it moves smoothly through three phases: skid, hook, and roll. With the advent of newer ball technology, three distinct elements can be used to manipulate these movement phases: surface, construction, and balance.

Although the surface of the ball is always in contact with the lane, and thus always influences the nature of the ball’s movement, it is easier to consider each technological element as influencing just one part of ball motion. This section gives you an idea of the complexity of the relationship between the ball in your hand and the lanes you are bowling on. We discuss the influence of technology in more detail a little later in the step.

Skid Phase

The amount of oil on the lane and the velocity of the ball largely dictate the length of the skid phase. The more oil, the less traction the ball has. Likewise, if the ball is thrown very fast, it will tend to hydroplane on the oil (similar to driving too fast on icy or wet roads).

The technological element that influences the skid is ball surface. If there is too much skid, the ball will not move into the hook phase soon enough to bring the ball back to the pocket. In extreme situations, the ball will skid as it hits the pins and will deflect more easily than normal. The friction between the ball’s surface and the lane surface helps resist deflection.

When confronted with too much skid, you have a few options:

  1. Move away from the center. During the setup, move toward the edges of the lane. Releasing the ball from a wider position will compensate for the angle lost from the reduction in ball reaction.
  2. Reduce ball speed. Being on a lane with lots of skid is like being stuck on ice. Revving the engine only spins the tires in place. Give the ball time to dig into the lane and establish traction.
  3. Use a ball with higher surface friction. Get rid of those racing slicks and put on the studded tires. In other words, try using a ball with a rough surface. Many balls on the market have a high coefficient of friction. Try one! It will grab the lanes better.
  4. Change your release. Try to get the ball down onto the lane sooner. A high rev rate will only make the ball hydroplane on the oil. Instead, use a heavy roll.

Some bowling centers choose not to put a lot of oil on the front part of the lane. This is noticeable when the ball moves into its hook and roll phases much sooner than expected. Sometimes the bowler himself causes this to happen.

Drying out of the lane heads is a natural phenomenon of the game. As a bowling session progresses, more and more of the oil is removed by the action of the ball. In particular, if many bowlers roll the ball over the same area, they will wear out the oil on that part of the lane. One of the key elements of lane adjustment strategy is to pay attention to where other bowlers are playing the lane. Expect changes on those parts of the lane soonest. Using very aggressive equipment—a ball with a dull or textured surface—with a high degree of friction will also cause the lane to change more rapidly.

If there is too little skid, use the opposite strategies:

  1. Move the setup position more toward the center of the lane. This increases the launch angle to the target, sending the ball wider before it starts to hook. In addition, the center of the lane frequently has more oil.
  2. Increase speed or loft. Letting the ball travel through the air longer is a way to preserve ball energy. The less time the ball is on the lane, the less opportunity it has to create friction.
  3. Switch to a ball with a smoother surface.
  4. Use a drive release. Keep the motion passive. Reduce hand action.

Hook Phase

As the ball comes off the oily part of the lane, it starts to generate friction and slow down. As it slows down, it will start to move in the direction of its side roll. The stronger the side roll (or axis rotation), the sharper and more abrupt the change of direction. In addition, if the transition from the oily part of the lane to the dry part of the lane is very distinct in the midlane region, the change of direction will be abrupt. Some centers have a very defined line between where the oil stops and the dry part of the lanes begins. For certain types of bowlers, this radical change of direction makes it hard for them to control the ball’s movement. Other bowling centers allow the oil to taper off gradually (called the buff zone), which permits for a smoother transition from skid to hook.

Adjust ball speed to alter the hook point. Increasing or decreasing ball velocity has an important effect on how soon the ball starts to hook. Greater speed drives the ball farther down the lane, delaying the hook. Slower speed allows for an earlier transition into the hook.

An early transition will help the ball create an angle to the pins, which is important on oily lanes when ball reaction is minimized. A sharp late hook, though somewhat unpredictable for the less-skilled bowler, has benefits. The longer a ball skids, the more energy it retains because it is not losing as much energy to friction. Balls such as these will move into the roll phase very late; much more of the ball’s energy will be put to use at the pins. A late-hooking ball has the potential to come in at a sharper angle. As discussed in a previous step, the more entry angle a ball has going into the pins, the larger the strike pocket and the error margin.

Ball construction also affects the hook point. Bowling balls have two basic types of internal construction based on their center of mass (the point at which the mass of the ball is concentrated). If the center of mass is positioned away from the geometric center of the ball, the ball is said to be surface heavy (figure 12.3a). The center of mass makes large, slow circles, which allows the ball to retain energy. This is an excellent ball to switch to as the lanes dry out.

Balls that have their center of mass concentrated in the middle are said to be center heavy (figure 12.3b). Instead of big, slow circles, the center of mass makes small, quick ones. These types of balls rev up. They are an excellent choice for lanes on which the ball is a little hesitant to hook.

Roll Phase

The ball is in a true roll when the rotational direction and the translational direction are the same. Ideally, the ball should be in a roll just before it hits the pins. When the ball makes contact with the pins, it is at the point of maximum surface contact. The interaction between the lane surface and the ball surface will help the ball hold the line. In addition, all of the ball’s energy is directed forward. This, too, decreases deflection. If the ball is still hooking when it hits the pins, then it is still skidding.

If the ball starts rolling too soon, friction will cause it to bleed energy. Watch the ball’s movement to ensure it enters this final transition at the correct place. Ideally, you want to see no more than three full end-over-end rolls just before the ball contacts the pins.

The degree of side roll affects how quickly the transition occurs. If the ball hooks and rolls too soon, tone down the release. If the ball is not getting to a roll at all, find a part of the lane that has more friction and less oil, or reduce ball speed.

The balance of the ball influences how soon the hook turns into a roll. Both dynamic and stable drilling layouts are available. Dynamic drillings (figure 12.4a) are essentially imbalanced. The core of the ball wobbles, and the ball’s effort to find a stable rotation point creates a stronger ball reaction. These balls read the midlane sooner, and the transition into the hook and roll happens sooner. Dynamic balls are great on medium-dry to medium-oily lanes. The ball’s reaction, and subsequent angle to the pocket, is strong and predictable.

Stable drillings essentially eliminate core wobble. They are designed to create a smooth arcing motion. When the lane is fairly dry and the ball hooks more uncontrollably, or when the lane conditions are spotty and less predictable and you want a ball that will behave itself, a stable drilling helps restore a measure of control. A surface-heavy ball with stable drilling is useful for very dry lanes, especially dry back ends when the bowler needs to get the ball down the lane and still have a predictable hook. A center-heavy ball with stable drilling performs well on an oily or spotty lane when the bowler wants a strong, predictable arc to the pocket.

If the lanes are dry, the transition into the hook and roll happens too quickly. The hook becomes uncontrollable, and the ball loses energy before it hits the pins. If the lanes are very oily, no amount of dynamic imbalance will change the movement of the ball in time. There is no sense forcing the ball to hook if that’s not how the lanes are playing. On extreme lane conditions, stable drillings (figure 12.4b) are your best option. Choose stable, surface-heavy drilling layouts for dry lanes and stable, center-heavy layouts for oily lanes.

This is an excerpt from Bowling.

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