This month’s Inside Line feature article is about key items on the KEGEL FLEX program sheet of both the Team event and the Singles and Doubles event oil patterns for this year's USBC Open Championships.
Oil Pattern Distance
Oil pattern distance is one of the main key items to look for on any program sheet. The distance tells us how much dry back-end area is within any one pattern and can give us a good idea of where to play on the lane, providing the lane surface is fairly neutral. Essentially, the shorter the oil pattern is, the farther towards the outside portion of the lane one should play, and the longer the oil pattern is, the farther inside a pattern might play. Of course there are other variables that can affect this theory; like the amount of conditioner on the outside portion of the lane, the shape (topography) of the lane surface, and the friction of the lane surface. However, knowing the distance of the oil pattern, and how it affects your particular style of play, can help you line up quicker than not knowing this important pattern detail.
The distance of the oil pattern can be found at the top left corner of the KEGEL FLEX program sheet.
Oil Per Board Value Number
The Oil Per Board value, found at the top right of the FLEX oil pattern program sheet, is the size of the oil stream in microliters - the higher the value, the larger the oil stream, and the larger the stream, the more conditioner is applied to the lane.
Number of 2-2 Loads
The Number of 2-2 loads can often be a measure of difficulty. Think about these loads as the base of the oil pattern and all loads inside of the 2-2 loads are the shape of the oil pattern. The more 2-2 loads the more difficult an oil pattern will play because once there is a certain amount of conditioner across the entire lane surface, the shape of the oil pattern becomes less relevant.
At this year’s Open Championships, the 2-2 loads make up 12.95 milliliters of the total volume of the 27.05 singles/doubles oil pattern and 14.80 milliliters of the total volume of the 26.90 milliliters team event pattern. In comparison, in most house patterns the 2-2 loads make up 3.7 milliliters of the total volume of the pattern which is in the 22 milliliter range.
The 2-2 loads are normally the first loads on the forward pass and the last load before the buff line in the reverse pass.
The FLEX lane machines in use at this year’s championship have four buffer speed options, which are noted on the program sheet by the numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4. Number 1 is what we call slow buff, and it has a speed of 100 RPM. Number 2 is medium buff and has a speed of 200 RPM. Number 3 buffs at 500 RPM and is the default speed that is used on previous models such as the Kustodian ION and Kustodian Walker. Number 4 is high buff and has a speed of 720 RPM. (Note: Individual FLEX owners can customize the buffer RPM settings for their needs, so you may see different numbers on different program sheets.)
The different buffer speeds on the FLEX allow us to do a couple things; one is it allows us to fine tune the front to back taper of the oil pattern without changing lane machine drive speeds. The other is it allows us to condition the lanes in less time by allowing us to apply more conditioner in the front part of the lane without slowing the machine down, as we would have to do in machines with single speed buffer motors.
In short, the faster the speed of the buffer brush, the more conditioner can be applied in any one section of the oil pattern. Conversely, the slower the speed of the buffer brush, less conditioner will be applied to the lane surface.
You will notice on this year’s championship patterns the choice of using buffer speed 4 in the front part of the oil pattern on both the forward and reverse pass of the pattern. Medium and slow buff is not used in this year’s patterns.
The Load Structure
As previously mentioned, once there is a certain amount of conditioner on the lane the load structure becomes less relevant. However, one thing to note this year compared to recent years, and a house pattern, is how none of the loads are “stacked up”. This means the inside load streams are spread out across the oil pattern which makes the pattern a simple blend, or crowned oil pattern (See graphics above).
Because of this type load structure there is not a defined oil line anywhere throughout either the Team or Doubles/Singles event patterns which places a premium on consistent shot making and accuracy. Only once bowling begins, and depletion takes place, can an oil line be developed if, and that is a big if, everyone plays in the same place from the beginning of practice to at least through the first few frames of game one. This is called “managing the oil pattern” in modern bowling vernacular.
This year’s USBC Open Championship should prove out to be one of the lower scoring championships in recent years simply because of the flatness of the patterns. However, it should also prove out to be one of the most competitive because when scores are lower, the gap between the higher scores and lower scores is much narrower.
In closing, if you have not already made the trip to El Paso, practice your spare game, have a good game plan with your teammates, and let your ball be your guide.