Bowling’s Golden Rules – Part 4

Play what is in front of you


Previously in this series, we discussed bowling ball fit, execution as an art form, and the importance of ball motion. The fourth golden rule is tied closely to the importance of ball motion and is a very simple concept: play what is in front of you.

This rule is a little bit of a play on words, and it is hopefully also a one-line thought to get you back on track or to keep you on the right track if and when you may be struggling to find the right place to play on the lane. It’s not necessarily about what to think, but to teach yourself how to think and when to think that way.

As a play on words, there are two potential meanings:

  • Play each lane and the pattern as it is now, not based on what you were expecting to happen. Remember that when you bowl with different types of players, the oil will move around differently—even on house shots.
  • Literally to play in front of you, meaning that on tougher patterns it is better to play straighter lines through the front of the lane, especially on fresh conditions.

What is there versus what you expect

A lane pattern is only there in the oiling machine in name only. Once you lay down that pattern in a center, it becomes a different pattern due to the many variables that make our great sport such a challenging one. The most influential variables include lane topography and the type and age of the lanes. Josh Blanchard’s recent article gave us a crash course in these details.

Other variables include—but are not limited to—the type of lane machine, the type of oil used, the type of cleaner, the lane maintenance schedule, the humidity levels at different times of the day, etc. The list goes on and on. All of these factors will have an influence on how and where you start to play the pattern, but once you start bowling, it’s about what you see in front of you.

Maybe you’ve looked at a graph of the pattern or have been told what is being laid down by other players. Or worse, you’ve played on the pattern before in your home center and maybe even on the same lanes, ...

Andy Penny

About Andy Penny

Andy Penny has coached several national teams and operated a pro shop for over 35 years. He is a USBC Gold coach since 2009, a BowlU Skill Development coach since 2013, and an ETBF Level III coach since 2017.