Bowlers arrived at Harvest Park Bowl in Brentwood on Monday night to find vipers strewn across the lanes … well, the Viper pattern, to be technical. But it made for a pretty cool visual, didn't it? It seems the HansonRealEstate.com Scratch League has been transformed into a PBA experience league for the next four months. PBA experience leagues allow bowlers the opportunity to bowl on the same oil patterns as the pros. There are five patterns that the professional bowling association (PBA) uses on a regular basis: the Viper, Scorpion, Chameleon, Shark and Cheetah. These patterns vary in the configuration of the oil across the lanes as well as the length to which they're applied on the lanes.
The way in which oil is laid down dictates strategy. For example, the Shark pattern applies 44 feet of oil, typical house patterns run around 39 feet, and forces bowlers into the center of the lane. This is because a ball thrown on the outside of the lane will not find enough friction to make it back to the pocket. Conversely, the Cheetah pattern, with only 35 feet of oil, forces bowlers toward the outside of the lane because there is not enough "hold" in the middle. This means that if you tried to play the Cheetah like the Shark pattern, your ball would find friction (on the section of lane without oil) too early and hook right into the headpin, most likely resulting in a nasty split.
The league kicked off Monday with the draft, resulting in 10 three-bowler teams with combined averages between 580 and 603. And then many bowlers got their very first taste of what the pros face week in and week out on the Viper pattern. The Viper pattern measures 37 feet and as such allows for multiple lines to the pocket. Bowlers on Monday generally started on the outside of the lane and migrated left as the oil carried down and the lanes broke down.
So how did the bowlers fare on the sport shot? The leagues' composite average was 18 pins lower than on the house shot. What's remarkable about this is that it is almost exactly what the United States Bowling Congress (USBC) predicted would happen. The sport's sanctioning body employs a scale for adjusting from a sport shot, such as the Viper pattern, to a house shot. This scale delineates that a 196-average bowler, the composite entering average for the league, should average 177, only one pin below Monday's tally.
Regardless of whether the USBC is clairvoyant or just experienced, the shot came as a rude awakening for many bowlers in the league. Only time will tell if they can learn to tame the wild beasts. So for now, keep your eyes and ears open for vipers, scorpions, sharks and cheetahs at Harvest Park Bowl. If you're not alert, they can all jump up and bite you when all you need is a mark in the 10th.
For more information on PBA oil patterns or PBA experience leagues, visit www.bowl.com and follow the sport-bowling link at the top of the page. Or take your chances and visit the wild on Monday nights at Harvest Park Bowl.