Much like playing football on turf instead of actual grass, the sport may remain the same, but your game must be adjusted if you are to be successful on synthetic lanes. Largely considered the preference by younger players, synthetic lanes are beginning to show up in more and more bowling alleys across the country. The changes stem from the composition of the boards, and you must fully understand before the differences of wood lanes and synthetic lanes before entering a game-time situation.
Bowling’s central organization, the U.S. Bowling Congress, is in charge of setting the standard for all bowling lanes’ width, length and composition, in cases of tournament play. Most bowling alleys meet this industry standard in hopes of having tournaments endorsed by the Pro Bowlers Association (PBA) come to their lanes. While some matches are still played on wood lanes, those in the industry believe synthetic lanes are going to be the lanes of the future.
Since the creation of the USBC, bowling alleys have typically always used wood lanes with some type of cover or conditioner on the lanes set by the organization. Before urethane coverings, alleys used lacquer, but found the covering to be too soft for the constant pounding of bowling balls. Urethane provided a much stronger covering that, when properly oiled, could provide bowlers with the high scores they expected and demanded.
Synthetic lanes are a notable discovery for the USBC because they are even more durable than the wood-coated urethane lanes. Also, while synthetic lanes do require oil to reach some of those higher scores, the lanes noticeably distribute the oil better and provide for a more consistent play area over the course of a match.
The first thing bowlers must adjust when on synthetic lanes is the board they release their ball on, particularly bowlers who bowl with a curve. Due to the different composition under the ball, the ball is going to curve and move at different places and speeds than it would if it were on wood lanes. Because of this, bowlers must aim their bowling balls at different boards, depending on if they are on synthetic or wood lanes.
Due to synthetic lanes distributing oil evenly throughout the course of a match, alleys are beginning to spread oil across the entire lane more than ever before. This results in most balls slightly curving all the way down the lane. On wood lanes, oil typically gathers at the front or back of the lane, so players, deep in a match, can expect a severe curve or “break” on the ball in the middle section of the lane.
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