Article Contents

  • 1. Important points to consider first
  • 2. Parts of the ball reaction
  • 3. Find both oil lines
  • 4. A practical example

One of the most overlooked, yet often discussed, mental skills in bowling is the ability to read oil patterns. Reading oil patterns is the mental ability to map the location and volume of oil placed on different sections of lane by watching the ball’s reaction.

At an advanced level, bowlers can mentally picture the oil pattern, similar to mentally imaging a geography map, in order to create the most area to score well. Identifying the most effective path to the pocket will increase pocket hitting and carry percentages and maximize margin for error. As suggested by Susie Minshew’s audio CD titled, Whoever Finds It First, Wins!, reading oil patterns is similar to painting a picture where every shot is like a stroke of paint on a canvas. Every delivery is one shot of the overall picture and after many shots, you should develop your Mona Lisa called the oil pattern. This article will explain a method of reading oil patterns that I have developed during my competitive bowling and coaching experience.

Important points to consider first

To begin, a few comments should be emphasized. First, to effectively read oil patterns, consistent shotmaking is essential. If the bowler’s delivery is inconsistent, other error-ridden factors could potentially explain the ball reaction. Second, a benchmark ball should be used. That is the ball with a predictable ball reaction that is used for reading patterns. Finally, reading oil patterns is an ongoing learning process. Each shot changes the oil pattern as a result of the ball collecting and depositing oil on its way toward the pins. Thus, it is important to always watch the ball reaction even on bad shots to pick up clues to the changing oil pattern.

Parts of the ball reaction

Former Team USA head coaches Fred Borden and Jeri Edwards, in their book titled Advanced Adjustments – Knowledge is the Key, provided a description of key ball reaction components and divided ball reaction into three parts: distance, ...

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Chris Mesagno

About Chris Mesagno

Dr. Chris Mesagno is a senior lecturer in Exercise and Sport Psychology at Federation University Australia and received his Ph.D. from Victoria University (Australia), specializing in Sport Psychology and Motor Learning. Dr. Chris is a competitive bowler of 30 years, he was a member and assistant coach of the University of Florida bowling team from 1998-2001, and he is both a Tenpin Bowling Australia Level 1 Certified Coach and a USBC Bronze Level Coach.