We all know there are many variables that come in to play when “reading” an oil pattern. We need to decipher the length, the volume and the shape. But, what about the surface the oil pattern is applied to? Does it play an important or insignificant part?
First, let’s try an understand lane surface hardness. Not all lanes have similar hardness. Sward measurement measures this hardness. I’ll do my best to break down the differences by offering a comparison.
Guardian: A thin film lane overlay is known to be the softest of bowling lane surfaces. This can have a hardness reading of 15-25 on the Sward scale. This thin film is a temporary fix for badly worn or damaged wood lane surfaces.
Wood with a urethane top coat: This is the most common of wood lanes. Prior to the urethane top coat, lacquer was used. Urethane replaced lacquer, since it is less flammable and less costly. The Sward hardness of this surface typically is around 25-35.
AMF Synthetic HPL and SPL: The HPL surface is known to be one the highest-scoring available. Its Sward hardness comes in at 50-65, depending on the year made and the age. The SPL surface is slightly more durable, with its Sward rating of 60-70. Its footprint look also is slightly different.
Brunswick Anvilane and ProAnvilane: These two types of synthetic surfaces tend to be slightly harder than most. They come in at around 75-90 on the Sward scale.
As for lane play on wood vs synthetic, one would assume wood would hook earlier and slightly more. This can be true, but a lot depends on the condition of the wood, condition of the urethane coating and the oil pattern.
In most cases, I will argue that wood lanes tend to break down quicker, and the transition may be more dramatic. Since the lane surface can be more porous, the oil can seep into the cracks between the boards, too. Add in the fact that the surface hardness is softer, more hook will occur.
Equipment variables must be tailored per individual. I personally prefer pearlized covers and higher pin locations once the lanes have transitioned some on both surfaces.
On fresh oil, I generally will use slightly earlier, scuffed surfaces and pins positioned below the fingers. I do this because on fresh oil, there is enough oil in the fronts (first 20 feet) and midlane (20-40 feet) portion of the lane. The backends also are clean, so there is less need for an angular breakpoint shape.
In conclusion, softer lane surfaces like Guardian and wood will have more friction and can require balls that hook less.
Added length also may be required if the bowler can’t create enough ball speed.
Oil transition generally will occur sooner on softer surfaces as well. The opposite of these traits occur on harder lane surfaces such as AMF or Brunswick synthetic lanes.
The bottom line is become more adept at reading oil patterns and staying open-minded. I say this because fresh oil patterns don’t last very long. Oil depletion and oil carry down will keep you guessing quite often.
Bowl well, everyone!