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Ball Motion & The Bowling Lane, Originally Posted: 1/9/2014; Updated: 12/24/2022

For you information buffs, here is some information related to bowling ball motion and matching the lane in three corresponding sections.

For those of you who do not care to think as much about this, simply allow your bowling ball be your guide as it travels down the lane and make adjustments as you need them from your own “bag of tricks.”

It becomes fairly simple to visualize how your bowling ball reacts as it travels down the lane when you understand how the ball changes motion through the three sections of the lane.

Once you get an idea of what to expect regarding bowling ball motion, your task in selecting the right ball and selecting a desirable delivery angle in which to play the lanes becomes a simplified task.

Let’s begin with general matters of bowling ball motion. When a bowler delivers a ball, the bowler imparts four forces to the ball:

1. initial ball speed

2. initial rev rate

3. initial ball axis tilt

4. initial axis rotation

As a bowling ball travels down the lane, it passes through three phases of motion and two transition points:

1. the skid phase

2. the hook phase 3. the roll phase

The skid phase varies slightly in distance based on the volume of oil on the front end of the lane, on the bowling ball you select, and on your ball speed and delivery style.

The ball will transition from skid to hook at the beginning portion of the 2nd section of the lane, known commonly as the mid-lane.

The hook phase is in the mid-lane as your ball travels from the first angle transition to the breakpoint located about two-thirds distance down the lane on the back end of the lane.

The roll phase begins at the breakpoint in the 3rd section of the lane commonly known as the back end. The 2nd angle transition from hook to roll occurs at the breakpoint and the ball will then roll at its constant angle of entry into the pocket.

Once the ball reaches its’ entry angle at the second transition, the entry angle will remain the same until the ball hits the pins, a scientifically accurate description of bowling ball motion tested and proven by USBC scientists.

It can be a simple task to think of the lane itself in three sections. Since the lane is about 60 feet from the foul line to the head pin, think of the lane in three 20 foot sections.

The 1st section from the foul line to about 20 feet distance beyond the line will have the bowling arrows positioned from about 15 feet to near the dovetails or splices slightly beyond the arrows. The image of splices and arrows appears on synthetic lanes where as they are real on wooden lanes.

It is in this 1st section of lane where your bowling ball will skid before transitioning into the hook phase of motion.

The mid-lane, the 2nd section begins about 20 feet of distance beyond the foul line to about 40 feet distance down the lane.

It is in this section where your ball direction changes angles slightly appearing to straighten from the initial delivery angle established in the 1st section of lane. The ball will hook very gradually until the ball travels to and reaches the breakpoint on the back end of the lane.

In this section, your ball will be in the hook phase of motion and change directions more dramatically a second time at breakpoint and enter the roll phase, where it establishes it's angle of entry into the pins.

The 3rd section of the lane is the final 20 feet of distance where the breakpoint is located and where the pin deck begins.

The breakpoint varies in overall distance from the foul line based on the final distance the lane oil conditioner is applied to the lane surface and based on the bowling ball you use.

The breakpoint is generally 5 - 7 feet distance past the final oiling distance at or near 45 feet down the lane in the 3rd section of lane. Remember that the back end of the lane is dry and is the highest friction portion of the lane.

Once the ball hooks at the breakpoint, it will travel to the pins in an established rolling motion at its angle of entry into the pins.

Your ball will not increase its angle of entry on the back end of the lane but can lose a degree or so of angle of entry due to excessive oil carrydown.

Keep things as simple as possible. There is no need for you to become a scientist to understand bowling ball motion and the lane.

Because there are so many great choices in today’s bowling ball technology, manufacturers typically describe their products and the advertised ball motion for each product by using this three section lane reference system.

It is important to develop a simple and clear way of understanding ball motion and the lane.

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