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RAPID TRANSIT: How Do The Pros Stay Ahead of the Transition

Like most sports, bowling has its fair share of rituals. One of the most frequently played out rituals is what could easily be called the Transition Dance or the Lane Migration. Regardless of whether you’re bowling on a house pattern on league night, or on Professional Bowlers Association conditions at the Tournament of Champions, the lanes continually change. As oil picked up from the front of the lane is carried down lane, those changes are going to affect the path of your bowling ball.

As a result, the bowlers start to resemble a chorus line, continually shifting on the lane to make the proper adjustment. A game later, they’re on the move again in search of the new line to the pocket. One of the keys to success, then, is recognition of changing conditions and wasting as few frames as possible before making the proper adjustments.

In other words, the players who recognize the transition earliest tend to be the most successful. Not surprisingly, the race to stay ahead of the transition is fierce on the PBA Tour. What are the red flags that the pros look for? And how do they adjust? Listen and learn.

Bill O’Neill: You just have to pay attention and move before you split. If my ball is rolling early and I go high flush a couple shots in a row then I leave a 4 pin I know that my next shot is going to go Big Four if I don’t move. How much the ball is hooking will determine how much I need to move.

Chris Barnes: Watching your ball has a lot to do with it. That’s why I always use colored grips, because it’s easier to see where and when the ball starts to make its move. That’s one of the things about using an earlier-rolling ball. You’ll see it start hooking sooner and then flatten out a bit. Then you know the transition is coming. Bump it in a little bit and get ahead of that move. There are other indicators. Of course, a 4 pin is a sign that the lanes are starting to hook more. Flat 10s are normally a sign that the lanes are hooking sooner and bleeding the energy out of your ball. A 9 pin and 3,6,10 are good indicators, assuming you know the difference between a good shot and a bad shot. Paying attention and watching around to see what others are doing gives good information as well.

Jason Belmonte: You have to keep focused and keep your eye on what your ball is doing. Being one of the guys who has a lot of rotation, I’m further left than most guys to start with. Transition happens a little later with me and my moves aren’t all that drastic. When I have to make that move it’s normally just a couple of boards left. Also watch the other bowlers you’re paired with. Let’s say the players in your group all struck the frame before you moved pairs. If you come to a new pair and they all go Brooklyn with their first shot on the new pair, that’s pretty good indication that the lane is hooking a little more. And vice versa if they miss the head pin to the right. So there are things to look for that will help you make your best guess. That’s one of the beauties of bowling. Every adjustment is blind. You can’t see the oil and don’t know where your hazards are. You have to make the best guess possible, and then after you throw the shot you have to make another adjustment.

Kelly Kulick: If I can figure out the answer to staying ahead of the transition I might win again! You do have to look for signs. The guys that see it the best are the most successful. Typically, the back end gets tighter. Most of the men move left and go to a stronger ball. I can get caught a little in the transition because I’m usually an arrow to the right of them, so when I move left I move into where they started. The warning signs come when the ball pushes a little further down the lane. You might see a 2 pin or a weak 10 pin. Watch how your ball rolls off the end of the pin deck. Is it deflecting? If it is still moving into the 8 pin chances are you’re still in pretty good shape. But if it starts to run too long and deflects, it’s time to move or make a ball change. It may call for a slight angle change as well.

Wes Malott: There are warning signs that will tell you it might be time to move. A flat 10 pin or a 4 pin are indicators. The flat 10 tells me the ball is burning up early and hooking early. That tells you it’s not driving. Then, when you do get it to “face up” it leaves a 4 pin. That tells you to switch to something that gets down the lane a little bit better with a little more angle. That’s a typical move. Another scenario is that the ball starts going too long or not reading early enough. At that point you need to determine which one it is. That’s what makes this game tough. Even players at our level might see it one way when in truth it is the other. Hopefully if we make the wrong decision, we can recognize that quickly. I think the pros know how to read off their bad shots as well as off their good shots. We understand what our bad shots do and how they feel, and we adjust off that. Also, out here on tour you’re with the best bowlers in the world. Go out and find the one’s that are bowling well and see what part of the lane they’re on and what ball they’re throwing. Ideally, you like to find a bowler with your style, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Chris Barnes, being one of the best of the best, is worth watching even though we don’t throw the same. I know the differences in our games, so there’s still value in me watching him.

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