Experienced bowlers know that it takes more than a good arm swing and a well-placed center of gravity to get a perfect game. It’s not just about the shoes or the ball weight, or how hard you should throw the ball onto the lane. Sometimes, it’s about the lane.
If you see two guys at All Star or Zone talking about the weather, they’re not trying to start a conversation. The key to a smoother bowling experience actually lies in the quality of the weather. And we weren’t joking when we said your bowling shots are better in Antarctica than anywhere else in the world. Read more to find out why.
The Type of Wood Affects Your Shots
Here’s an interesting fact: most materials on Earth expand when heated and shrink when cooled. For most types of wood, it follows this natural phenomenon. So how do lanes stay level when wood breathes?
The answer is pine.
Pine wood is the most preferred type of wood for building bowling lanes. It’s a softwood so it doesn’t have the durability or strength oakwood has, but it’s stiff and makes for an even lane. The reason why pine wood is preferred over other types of wood is its resistance to shrinkage or expansion. It doesn’t breathe with the weather.
Old bowling alleys would have made use of pine wood, with most commercial bowling centers placing pine wood planks on the midsection of the lane. The placement matters, because pine isn’t used to take a beating. It’s prone to denting, so other types of wood are used. The area where the bowls hit the most often is made of maple.
But this was the practice before the 1980’s. Since then, material engineers have made more suitable replacements – synthetic wood, and other t
There’s a reason why most bowling alleys have several dehumidifiers running. It’s to keep the interiors dry. And we weren’t joking when we said your bowling shots would be perfect in the Antarctic – it’s the driest place on earth.
Now, what does humidity have to do with lanes? We did say that most materials on earth expand when heated, or shrink when cooled, but that rule doesn’t apply to water. Wood itself should shrink or expand depending on the weather, but if you factor in moisture, things become a little more complicated.
Let’s say you’re a bowler from Arizona. The weather is generally warm and dry. Your bowling center always has the AC on to prevent the wood from expanding or distorting, and to help you and other players from sweating out too much.
You can expect to have a smooth bowling experience because there’s less distortion on the surface of the lanes. It’s also easier to predict where the hook will be.
The only issue is the viscosity of the oil – in colder weather, oil tends to increase friction, so you can see sharper hooks.
If you’re in a bowling center near to the north where the managers focus more on reeling in customers instead of giving players the best experience, things might be different.
In humid weather, the wood will expand, causing the transition to have unexpected results. However, warmer oil tends to produce less friction, so there’s also a chance your balls will go to the gutter instead of hitting the pins.
While this article discusses the effects the weather has on a lane, it’s worth noting that you can factor in your body’s performance in different types of weather.
The way you position your fingers over the holes will be different in hot and cold weather. If you’re near the tropics, your hands are more prone to sweating, so handling the ball will be more difficult. Similarly, in cold weather it’s easier to fit your fingers in the holes, but it’s also more difficult to perform swings as your muscles become rigid.
Are there things we missed in this article? Feel free to add your comments below!