Tech Talk: By Mike Lastowski, USBC Gold Level Coach

Filling Frames I

Many years ago, famous bowling coach Bill Taylor stated there are two accurate measures of the quality of one's bowling. Those two measures are Pocket Hitting Percentage and Pocket Carrying Percentage. Regardless of the bowling environment, be it easy or difficult, those hitting the strike pocket most frequently and converting a high percentage of those pocket hits into strikes are the most successful. Your choice of bowling balls can play a significant role in creating a successful bowling experience. If your personal technique, bowling ball and lane condition are poorly matched you are almost certainly in for an unpleasant bowling experience. The job of the staff of Shotmaker's Pro Shop is to stack the odds of bowling success in your favor by combining your skills with equipment that creates a good match to the lane conditions on which you bowl. Bowling ball designer Mo Pinel often says: "You can not out-execute bad ball reaction". I could not agree more. Additionally, I would add: "You can not buy a good game". You must create a good game through knowledge, practice and experience. Combine all that and your chances of becoming a good bowler vastly increase.

Part I: Your Arsenal

A player's approach to bowling can be simplistic or complex. The most simple approach is for the player to utilize only one bowling ball and do their best to score. That is o.k. if the player is willing to accept limited success and what might seem to be unlimited frustration. If that is your favored method, I suggest you utilize a medium bowling ball in all respects. Medium cover stock, medium r.g., medium differential, etc. Learn to roll it normally, faster, slower, with less turn, with more turn, from the outside, from the inside and all points in between. Or, be a purely social bowler and roll it the same way from the same spot day in and day out and accept what happens. Have fun! Just don't expect to achieve too much. On the other hand, a slightly more complex approach to the challenge of creating bowling success is to utilize a three ball arsenal in an attempt to make success easier to achieve. A three ball arsenal consists of a spare ball, a hooking lane ball and a non-hooking lane ball. Semi-serious players in today's bowling environment can get by with such a three ball arsenal. Taking things more seriously, a four ball arsenal would be as follows: spare ball, dry lane ball, medium lane ball, wet lane ball. The super serious tournament bowler would best be served by a six ball arsenal: spare ball, dry lane ball, dry to medium lane ball, medium lane ball, medium to wet lane ball, wet lane ball. Most players are best served by utilizing either a three or four ball arsenal. Now here is the most important thing to remember about putting together an arsenal of bowling balls: the spare ball is the common denominator in every arsenal. In fact a strong case can be made that the spare ball is the most important ball in your arsenal. I know - how boring! But, ask yourself this question: How many strikes must I roll to make up for each missed spare? And if your opponent does not miss many spares how will you ever roll enough strikes to win?

Part II: Spares

I strongly suggest your next purchase be a spare ball. If possible - and for some players it will not be possible - you want a spare ball that will allow you to utilize your strike ball release and still convert the ten pin for right handers or the seven pin for left handers. If you can not convert your corner pin spares with your strike ball release, learn to roll your spare ball as straight as possible! Practice, practice and practice some more. The spare ball should be a hard surfaced ball with a simple pancake style weight block. Keep the surface smooth but not polished. Frequently sand the ball's surface with a 4000 Abralon pad to avoid hydro-planing on the heavy concentration of lane oil applied to the center portion of most lanes. Drill the ball right over the label with one half to three quarters ounce of negative side weight. Another useful hint is to utilize reverse pitch in the fingers to eliminate any tendency to hook the ball. Simply put - straighter is greater. The straighter the spare ball rolls the more the variable of the lane condition is taken out of play. So there you have it. Build your bowling ball arsenal upon the solid foundation of a good spare ball and your scores will increase. I guarantee it!

Next time we'll discuss strike balls.
Filling Frames II

Currently, bowling might best be approached as two separate games: 1. strikes, and 2. spares. Successful bowlers are proficient at both games and therefore proficient at the overall game of bowling. Previously, we discussed the use of a dedicated spare ball to increase our chances of success. Now let's discuss strike balls.

Part I: My Theory

I have long believed the pin deck is the most important part of the bowling lane. After all, our objective is to roll a ball down a sixty foot long lane and topple as many of the standing tenpins as possible. All pin action takes place on the pin deck so that is where I focus most of my attention. Please try to follow my line of thinking. When you roll a really good strike what does your ball's trajectory look like from approximately ten feet in front of the pins until impact? I've noticed my good strikes all look alike and I think yours do also. Regardless of the lane condition - wet, medium or dry - our objective is to create that same good trajectory between approximately fifty and sixty feet from the foul line. As lane conditions vary from extremely low friction to extremely high friction your ball's reaction also varies considerably. I view the lane's first fifty feet as a puzzle to be solved so that the ball's trajectory for those last ten feet will have that required good look for a high pocket carry [strike] percentage.

Part II: The Strike Ball Arsenal

Using an arsenal of several strike balls rather than only one is an attempt to counter the affect varied lane conditions have on the reaction of your strike ball. Slick lanes that hinder hooking action require aggressive strike balls able to hook even on the slick low friction surface. Dry high friction lanes require the opposite. Low friction strike balls tend to tame down the high friction of the lane surface to allow proper ball trajectory. And of course, medium lane surfaces require medium bowling ball surfaces. The above describes a nice and neat concept. Too bad it's not that easy. If it were that easy all you would have to do is use your medium strike ball on medium lane surfaces, sand it for slick lanes and polish it for dry lanes. That idea will work to some extent, but when lane surfaces get more extreme bowlers are best served by being able to pick and choose from an array of strike balls. The array of strike balls allows the player to continue to utilize their most natural technique of delivering the strike ball and to closely match varied strike balls to varied lane conditions for predictably good results.

Part III: Lane Dictates Strike Ball Selection

The bowling lane always dictates how it should best be played. It is never the other way around! Realizing that fact will save you great amounts of frustration. Generally speaking, the following guidelines apply to matching bowling balls to lane conditions: Wet, slick, little-hooking lane surfaces require balls with solid reactive resin urethane particle cover stocks, low radius of gyration values, high differential values and rough surface textures. Medium, or what most players refer to as "normal" lane surfaces require either regular solid or pearlized reactive resin urethane cover stocks, medium radius of gyration values, medium differential values, and smooth textured surfaces. Dry, mega-hooking lane surfaces require pearlized weak reactive resin urethane or regular non-reactive resin urethane cover stocks, high radius of gyration values, low differential values, and highly polished surface textures. Simply put, as the lane surface becomes more aggressive you want to lessen the aggressiveness of your ball's surface, general construction characteristics and drilling lay-out. Vice-versa when the lane surface is less aggressive. In that case you want the ball to be more aggressive. That is why medium balls match up best with medium lane surfaces.

Part IV: The Human Element

Ball construction, drilling lay-out, surface texture, etc. are all important, but you still have to roll your ball down the lane in an attempt to topple the pins. If you roll the ball at a quick pace with lots of spin your style is hindering your ball's transition from its initial skid into a hooking action then into a rolling action prior to impact with the pins. On the other hand, players who roll their ball slowly create the opposite situation wherein the ball's transition is naturally too quick and therefore needs to be retarded a bit for improved results. The above paragraph illustrates the importance of having the staff of Shotmaker's Pro Shop watch you actually roll a few strike shots and determine several things, such as: positive axis point, rate of ball rotation, ball velocity, and general ability to properly align yourself to the bowling lane condition. The more the pro shop knows about your game the more accurately they are able to match you to your bowling lane condition. Next time we'll discuss actual drilling lay-outs to best control your bowling ball's transition from skid to hook to roll. Properly controlling transition generally leads to more strikes, which also leads to easier spares which then leads to increased enjoyment.
Filling Frames III

In Filling Frames I I discussed the advantages of having an arsenal of bowling balls and the importance of the spare ball. In Filling Frames II I discussed an array of strike balls to conquer various lane conditions. In Filling Frames III I'll take a specific look at how the various types of strike balls could be drilled and surfaced in an attempt to maximize your scoring potential.

I. Lane Conditions:

Regardless of the lane condition, remember what you are trying to do - which is to hit the strike pocket and knock down all ten pins. To consistently convert pocket hits into strikes usually requires the ball to try to move to the left after hitting the headpin [for right handers] or to try to move to the right after hitting the headpin [for left handers]. In other words, we want the ball to fight to eliminate excessive deflection upon contacting the pins. Let's put a "value" of ten on your good strike shot. Sometimes the lane surface provides a level of friction we'll label as a five. Therefore, your ball must provide a level of reaction valued at a five to combine with the lane's value of five to create the value of ten required for your good strike shot. Sometimes the lane only provides a value of two, requiring the ball to provide a value of eight in order to achieve the required value of ten. A "seven" lane needs a "three" ball, etc., etc. Look at the chart:
Strike Balls & Lane Conditions
Wet Medium Dry
Lane Surface 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Ball Reaction 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Total 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10
Obviously, different lane conditions require different strike balls in order for the bowler to be properly matched-up to their environment. Hence the need for an arsenal of strike balls that produce different reactions upon different lane surfaces. Additionally, as every ball is rolled down the lane the lane's conditioning oil is moved, picked up by the ball and/or redistributed by the ball to another location upon the ball's path, etc. Therefore, as your session progresses and the lane's surface changes, you may be required to change your strike ball in an attempt to remain matched-up to the "new" lane condition.

II. Bowling Ball Reaction

We want the ball to achieve a good heavy roll just prior to contacting the pins. Therefore, slick lanes, which retard ball reaction, require balls that transition quickly from skid to hook to roll. On the other hand, dry lanes which accelerate ball reaction require balls that transition slowly from skid to hook to roll. By now, you have probably correctly determined that medium lanes require a ball that transitions from skid to hook to roll at a medium rate. Several things work in unison to create a ball's general rate of transition from skid to hook to roll. The most significant are: surface texture, general ball design, drilling lay-out and cover stock material. We try to utilize the best attributes each of the listed items can provide in combination with the others to create the desired ball reaction. The desired reaction is to have the ball precess into a good heavy roll five to ten feet prior to contacting the pins.

III. Creating Desired Ball Reaction

Note: For a detailed explanation of the Dual Angle Lay-Out Method for drilling bowling balls see the staff at Shotmakers Pro Shop and /or the MoRich Bowling website. A. Fast Transition: Best used on slick, oily lanes. Either solid reactive and/or particle cover stock with a rough texture - maybe 500 or 1000 Abralon. Low radius of gyration with a high differential and a fast spin time on the Determinator. Drilling angle of approximately 10 to 30 degrees, pin to positive axis point distance at or near 3 3/8", and an angle to the vertical axis line of approximately 20 to 35 degrees. B. Medium Transition: Best used on medium oiled lanes where there is no problem obtaining a moderate amount of ball reaction. Solid reactive cover stock with a smooth but not polished surface texture - maybe 2000 or 4000 Abralon. Faster ball speeds start with a 2000 surface, normal and slower ball speeds start with a 4000 surface. Medium radius of gyration, medium differential and a medium spin time on the Determinator. Drilling angle of approximately 40 to 60 degrees, pin to positive axis point distance approximately 1 1/8" to 2" more or less than 3 3/8" [ slower speeds go longer than 3 3/8", faster speeds go shorter than 3 3/8"], and an angle to the vertical axis line of approximately 35 to 55 degrees. C. Slow Transition: Best used on dry, hooking lanes. Pearlized mild reactive or regular urethane cover stock with a smooth and /or polished surface texture - maybe 4000 Abralon or 4000 Abralon with polish. Faster ball speeds start with a 4000 surface, slower ball speeds start with a 4000 surface and then polish to a high luster. High radius of gyration, low differential and a slow spin time on the Determinator. Drilling angle of approximately 70 to 90 degrees, pin to positive axis distance of approximately 5 5/8" to 6", and an angle to the vertical axis line of approximately 55 to 70 degrees.


The strike ball arsenal is designed to create different ball reactions. Various ball reactions allow the bowler to best match-up to their ever changing lane surface environment. Do not fall into the trap of having a favorite strike ball because as soon as you do you will move to a lane where it won't react the way required for maximum scores. Utilize your strike balls the same way a mechanic utilizes a 1/2", 3/4" or 7/8" wrench. The mechanic picks the correct tool for the job at hand, not loving one wrench more than another. Do the same with your arsenal of bowling balls and your level of bowling success and satisfaction will surely rise. I guarantee it!