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Bowling On A Christmas Tree Pattern
The Christmas tree pattern is accomplished by applying oil to a desired distance on the first five boards of the lane. Then the amount of oil and the distance is increased about every five boards moving into the center of the lane. Therefore, the focus of the heaviest oil is between the 15 and 25 boards in the center, where oil is applied at the longest distance point down the lane.
The Christmas tree pattern is vastly different from the normal house shot that most bowlers find in league play. The amount of oil and the distance applied is what gives the Christmas tree pattern its character.
So, how does the Christmas tree play compared to a blend or a heavy oil pattern? A "blocked" lane condition (where the lanes are oiled from the 10 board on the right to the 10 board on the left, with the outside boards being generally bone-dry) results in a "hold area" giving bowlers a larger margin of error to hit the pocket. By hold area, we mean that large sections of the lane are dry enough that the ball will make contact with the bare lane and then hook rather than hang out flat or slide into the gutter.
A Christmas tree will not play that same way because of the additional units of oil every five boards. You must change your point of attack to the pocket. You also must make adjustments as the lane changes and take into account the point where the ball begins to turn towards the pocket (breakpoint) in relation to the target at the arrows.
If you try to play the Christmas tree pattern the same as you would normally play a standard house shot proves to be destructive to not only your score, but also your confidence. Instead of playing up the oil line or allowing the ball to follow a ridge of oil to the pocket, you must determine your own breakpoint on the lane based on how you throw a certain ball then consider the options to reach that breakpoint.
When the lane begins to break down, your adjustments should be more angular than parallel. When bowling on the Christmas tree pattern, there is no oil line down the lane to hold the ball to the pocket. Playing direct, as if there is a prominent oil line, generally will not achieve the desired effect unless you are extremely accurate.
On the normal house shot for right-handers would move their feet and target left to stay with the oil line as the condition breaks down. However, when you are bowling on a Christmas tree pattern it is more important to move your breakpoint out because there is not a significant oil line to hold the ball to the pocket. To avoid early hook, right-handers must project the ball further to the right and the opposite is true for left-handed bowlers. Making parallel moves by moving your approach stance and target the same number of boards will generally continue to result in the ball hooking past the pocket. This is because there is not an oil line to hold the ball to the pocket.
A better adjustment is to make angular moves, meaning your feet more boards than you move your target. Here is an example of an effective adjustment, moving your feet three boards on the lane and only one board at the target, or move five boards with your feet and two boards at the target and so on. Therefore, resulting in the desired breakpoint, rather than counting on an oil line that does not exist.
We keep mentioning breakpoints, but where should the breakpoint be? This will depend on the distance of the oil pattern. When a lane is oiled 40 feet, there is only 20 feet of back end available for hook. The breakpoint will be closer to the pocket than if the lanes are oiled to 35 feet. The more back end available to allow the ball to hook, the further right the ball has to be projected before it hooks to the pocket. Different bowlers will attack the breakpoint differently since there is no defined oil line to play. Strategy will differ based on ball speed, release, and choice of equipment. You will get a feel of how the lane is dressed and on what equipment to choose during practice before scoring begins.
Although, in general, bowlers who throw harder with fewer revolutions may play more, direct to the breakpoint than a player who throws a slower ball with more revolutions. A bowler using a ball with a dull finish can play where there is more oil on the lane and project to the breakpoint while a ball with a polished/shiny finish will allow the bowler to approach the breakpoint at a more direct angle of attack.
Even with these adjustments, there still is only a small margin for error since there is not an oil line to hold the ball to the pocket. Due to this fact, this explains why there is more than one way to play the Christmas tree pattern and why strategy is important. Just lining up by noticing where others throw at the arrows is not enough to determine your breakpoint. There can also be times when you can find more than one way to hit the pocket, however one may carry better than the other.
You must be able to recognize the Christmas tree pattern and the distance the oil is applied, being accurate, being consistent, and making timely angular adjustments are the keys to mastering the pattern. Also, remembering that making adjustments that you might make on the standard house shot will not always give you successful results.
On average, the normal league bowler will not encounter this condition often, but when you do encounter this type of pattern, you will recognize it and make the correct adjustments to your game.