How to Read a Lane Oil Pattern Sheet

how to read a lane graph

There are lots of different oil patterns out there in the wild. In fact there are millions of combinations of oil distance, volume, and oil placement, that can all determine how and when your bowling ball will react on the lanes. This combination also multiplies when you factor in variables such as lane surface, oil viscosity, and weather into the mix.

How can I make sense of it all?

As you head off to nationals, the state tournament, or even some local side tournaments you make see a program sheet hanging somewhere, or what is called a ‘lane graph’. If you happen to see one of these hopefully this article will help you make heads or tails of the information given to you. It might even help you with a starting point on where to play the lanes.

A Short History Of Lane Oiling

Way back when lane conditioner (or oil) was put on by hand using a bug sprayer (yes really, like in the cartoons) or with a mop. There was no pattern just a long block of oil. Bowlers would hope for consistency by how good your laneman was. How steady his hand was, and if he had the skill to keep consistent pressure on the mop from lane to lane. What if the normal laneman got sick on your league night? You would probably have a different shot!

Now we have super high tech all in one machines that will strip, clean, and oil down to a single board precision to the exact microliter of oil volume we want on each board. They work a lot like a laser printer moving a fluid head back and forth over the lane depositing a precise amount of oil across a defined area. It can also travel at different speeds, changing the amount of oil deposit and buffed at each section. If the machine is traveling quickly, less oil is being applied, if it’s moving slow, more oil is being applied.

How to read the Program Sheet

Looking at the top of the page you’ll see the name of the event or the shot that is being put down for the event. The box below that holds the basic information for the shot. The most important information here is going to be the length of the pattern, and the total oil volume. The third key piece that will help you line your shot up is the the forward pass details, on the right side of the sheet. It’s called the 2 to 2. This is how many passes the oil head will make from board 2 to board 2 going down the lane. The more passes (or loads) they put on the outside will limit your ability to swing the ball outside.

how to read a lane graph
Important parts circled in red

Oil Pattern Distance

If we use the rule of 31 you can take the overall oil pattern distance, subtract 31 to get your approximate breakpoint board. If the pattern is 38′ you would subtract 31 and have a breakpoint of board 7.

2 to 2 Passes

Using the 2019 Team Open shot from above you can see they have 7 passes on 2-2. This will severely limit how much you can swing the ball on the outside part of the lane. Looking at this part of the graph combined with your breakpoint you should start with a down and in shot.

Total Oil Volume

The third key ingredient to reading a lane graph is the oil volume of the shot. Most average house patterns are between 23-24mL.

  • Low volume oil patterns 22mL and below
  • Medium volume oil patterns 22-26mL
  • High volume oil patterns 26mL and higher

Using the oil volume will determine what ball and coverstock you should use for the lane. Higher oil volume would usually mean a more aggressive coverstock and ball. You may still see aggressive hooking on high friction surfaces even with higher oil volume.

Using these 3 tools available to you might make your next tournament a little easier to get lined up.

Good luck bowlers!

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UPDATED MAY 9TH 2020: Berks Lanes Latest UpdateRead More