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Bowling Lane Oil Carrydown

Dealing with and adjusting to bowling lane oil carrydown is made easier if you understand more about how it occurs and why. In the modern sport of bowling, we must take into consideration that every time a bowling ball is delivered, the lane condition changes. Whatever oil pattern is put down at your local bowling center, the length of bowling lane oil carrydown extends beyond the final distance the oil pattern is applied to the lane surface. Every time a ball is thrown, it picks up oil and carries it down to the drier part of the lane.
If, for example, an oil pattern distance is 40 feet before the dry, high friction portion of the back end of the lane comes into play, the oil carrydown may stretch an additional 5-7 feet to a total of about 45 - 47 feet from the foul line but shows only as streaks or stripes of oil. These oil streaks or stripes are developed from the ball passing through the heaviest concentrations of oil on the front end and on the mid-lane and with the oil being retained in the coverstock of your bowling ball which, in turn, literally streaks the oil onto the dry portion of the back end of the lane as the ball travels on its path to the pins.

Carrydown streaks of oil are not always consistent in width nor the same length of streaks. In the case of a highly textured, solid coverstock bowling ball, say textured to perhaps a 500 grit finish, the pores in the ball surface will capture and retain oil as the ball rolls through the heaviest concentrated area of lane oil. Once this ball passes the final distance of oil application, the oil retained in the coverstock will leave the widest possible streak on the lane because of the amount of oil retained in the ball surface due to porosity of the ball and because of the "wide footprint" a solid, pliable coverstock material develops while in contact with the lane surface.
A bowling ball with a low surface porosity such as a stiff, pearl coverstock finished to perhaps 2000 grit or greater will retain less oil in the pores of the ball than does the solid and porous coverstock bowling ball when passing through the same heavy oil areas of a given lane. The pearl coverstock will develop a "narrow footprint" when traveling down the lane surface and the corresponding stripe of carrydown oil will be narrow with slightly less volume of oil than the stripe produced by a porous coverstock ball.
The impact or effect on ball reaction as a result of carrydown varies in accordance with the overall distance the oil pattern is applied to the lane surface. Short relative distances of oil application, say 35 feet distance, coupled with heavy concentrations of oil in the front end of a given lane will produce long oil stripes or oil streaks as carrydown and will require fewer number of bowling ball deliveries in the same areas of the lane to complete a significant amount of carrydown. This carrydown will noticeably extend ball skid beyond the distance of skid length when the ball traveled on the freshly oiled lane with no deliveries.
Once a player sees the carrydown on freshly oiled lanes affects his or her ball reaction, then it is time to make an adjustment. Typical adjustments by experienced players are first done by means of a lateral or parallel adjustment and/or a speed adjustment before making a bowling ball change.
The carrydown effect on a short distance oil pattern will become noticeable and influence ball motion more so than a long oil pattern distance, say 42 - 45 feet of oil distance. When a ball travels in a long distance of oil on the lane surface, it has less distance of dry back end to change direction and to travel before impact with the pins than does a ball traveling on a short distance oil pattern. It is for this reason that long oil patterns with some carrydown will generally produce longer skid length and less hook on the back end of a given lane than on the short oil pattern.
It can be said, therefore, that the three factors most affecting ball motion changes resulting from oil carrydown are the distance of the lane oil pattern, the number of deliveries made on a given lane in a given period of time, and the coverstock porosity and surface traction generated by bowling balls.
What can become tricky is when a variety of coverstock bowling balls are delivered on the same lane from a variety of delivery angles. As example, handicap leagues with sprinklings of low and mid average bowlers often use many angles of delivery and a wide variety of bowling ball coverstocks. The carrydown streaks of oil, if inspected after the league is completed, will show streaks of oil in more locations and at varying distances of streaking on the back end of the given lanes than will a scratch league with high average players, as example, on the same oil pattern inspected after the completion of the league play.
In fact, often times on short or mid oil pattern distance applications, the carrydown will concentrate in an area which actually helps the high average player. A high number of ball deliveries in the same portion of the lane will achieve "carrydown hold area" on the back end to help hold the bowling ball in the pocket. This affect is lessened somewhat on long distance oil patterns but still remains a factor for better players.
On mid and long distance oil patterns, usually between 38 - 45 feet of oil distance application, the carrydown affect reduces the ability of the bowling ball to hook a great deal on the back end of the lane simply because the ball has less distance to travel on the high friction portion of the lane. For this reason, particularly for power players or those players who hook the ball a great deal, choosing a bowling ball with low track flare and/or low differential of RG or a ball with a layout pattern to minimize back end hook matches best on these long distance oil patterns with the carrydown effect. Low flare bowling balls will also match well for up-the-boards bowlers with less revs and less hook potential than power players.
On short distance oil applications with heavy concentrations of oil, the maximum affect of carrydown occurs and that is when players should be prepared to make adjustments with release angles measured to the break point, with hand position changes, or with bowling ball changes. Speed adjustments can sometimes be effective when carrydown occurs but caution should be taken if you slow ball speed more than one or two miles per hour to avoid the ball hooking at an unpredictable point down the lane. Short oil distance applications after the carrydown occurs will allow use of medium or high flare potential bowling balls and layout patterns which also influence increased hook potential because the ball has more time to react and travel on the back end of the lane than on a lane with a long distance oil pattern plus carrydown.
Experimentation with bowling balls, with adjustments, and on lane oil patterns of varying distances will help you become a better bowler after oil carrydown develops on the lanes where you are competing. In fact, one technique most bowlers seldom use is to practice immediately after bowling on freshly oiled lanes in competition to test other bowling balls, other ball surface preparations, new layout patterns, and alternative delivery angles on the lanes. Most bowlers will practice before a league and/or in early in the afternoon on a very different lane condition than what they will face on freshly oiled lanes for league or tournament play.
It is difficult to improve playing the lanes after oil carrydown is developed if you do not practice on a carrydown condition and test all of the available variables in real time, so to speak. Remember, adjustments vary from player to player based on ball speed, rev-rate, axis tilt, the bowling ball coverstock, the layout pattern in use, and the accuracy of a given player. Practice on lane conditions with the oil carrydown in transition and after the transition is complete will help you make good adjustments during competition.

This article and all other articles are posted in the "BowlVersity" section of our site and some in our Newsletter service. Feel free to post your comment after the article and share your experiences regarding oil carrydown, or on any article topic, with our community visitors. We do our best to research and provide useful information for bowlers of wide ranges of experience levels. Your comments are very welcomed to help fortify our information content.
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