I once bowled a tournament at my home house in Bloomfield, CT (RIP) where 14 out of 16 finalists were left-handed. Somebody asked, “Is this some sort of special left-handers only tournament?”
I bowled NEBA in Laurel Lanes this past weekend. They put out a sport shot and no lefties made the finals. See the pattern here.
Were either of these situations “fair?” No. What did they have in common? The oil patterns were symmetrical – that is, identical placement and amounts of oil on both sides of the lane.
The problem with symmetrical patterns is that lanes change over time and there are more righties than lefties. If the lanes start out hard, the right gets easier and the left stays hard, so lefties can’t keep up and usually miss the cut. If the lanes start out easy, the scoring on the right deteriorates while lefties keep their great look down the stretch and will often win. This is why lefties dominated NEBA for a good part of its 50 year history, until NEBA got smart and started re-oiling for the finals.
Here’s the lesson: if you are going to make them hard, make them a little easier on the left (for example, put less oil outside or a little more in the middle). If you are going to make them easy, make them a little harder on the left (e.g. put more oil outside or less in the middle). You have to experiment, and of course it depends on the lane surface, brand of oil, number of games, and other factors. But even the worst attempt will improve where it stands today.
Smart lane men already know this (as does the PBA). But, sorry to say, most people just download the symmetrical pattern (or use the preloaded one in the machine) and press the button, which means it is going to be unfair to somebody.
The lefty/righty issue is hotly debated and has created a lot of hatred and resentment between lefties and righties. It’s too bad because it is so easily explained. Fixing it takes some playing around, but it can be done.
And by the way, am I writing this because I missed the cut at Laurel? Absolutely! But to be honest and fair about it, it has hurt the right more than the left over the years because even in tournaments the tendency is to wall them up in an effort to “please the customers.”
One last thing – congrats to Tim Banta for besting the venerable Bill Webb at Laurel!