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Sport Shot Bowling: What Is It, Oil Patterns, Shots, and More

Seven lanes displayed with a focus point on a ball return, and four bowling balls are visible. Due to the sport oil pattern, the bowler has to decide which ball to use for a strike during sport bowling.

As a bowling newbie, there are many terms you’ll need to familiarize yourself with, including sport-shot bowling. It’s one of those terms that often leave beginners confused.

If you’ve heard the term before and are unsure what it means, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll not only define the term but also tell you everything you need to know about it. Let’s get right into it!

What Is Sport Shot Bowling

So, what exactly is sport-shot bowling? In short, the main goal of sport shot bowling is to create a more challenging lane condition for the bowler using an oil pattern. Sport shot bowling is a type of bowling typically used in competitive leagues and tournaments.

To understand sport shots, you first need to know a little about oil patterns. Oil patterns are created by applying oil to the lane in a methodical way.

The oil is then allowed to dry, which creates the desired pattern. The type of oil pattern used will determine how the ball will react as it rolls toward the pins. 

In a typical house pattern, the lane is oiled down in a straight pattern, with the oil concentrated down the middle of the lane and scantily applied along the edges of the lane (near the gutters).

This picture shows the difference between a typical house shot verses a sport pattern and sometime you can use a house ball or plastic ball to pick up spares.
RCraig09, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This is done to make it easier for the bowling ball to travel down the lane and hit the pins versus the gutter. This results in fewer gutter balls and makes scoring easier overall.

However, in sport patterns, the oil is concentrated at the beginning of the lane and gradually gets lighter the closer it gets to the end of it. Like your typical house shot, there’s oil near the gutters, but not much.

The result is a more challenging lane condition that often makes scoring more difficult. Why? Because there’s a greater chance of your ball veering off to the side as it rolls down the lane.

Key Takeaways

  • Sport-Shot Bowling Defined: It’s a competitive bowling style featuring challenging lane conditions with unique oil patterns, different from the easier house shot. This setup tests a bowler’s skill and adaptability.
  • Oil Patterns Importance: The oil is applied strategically across the lane, influencing ball movement and scoring difficulty. Unlike house patterns with more oil in the center, sport shots distribute oil to create a tougher bowling environment.
  • Benefits of Sport Shot: Enhances bowling skills through demanding conditions, offers an exciting competitive atmosphere, and prepares bowlers for high-level competition by requiring precise shots and strategic play.
  • Drawbacks to Consider: Sport-shot bowling can be more costly due to the need for specialized equipment and presents a steep learning curve, potentially frustrating for beginners unused to challenging lane conditions.
  • Advice for Beginners: It’s recommended to start with standard house bowling to grasp basic skills before attempting sport-shot bowling. This approach helps avoid early frustration and allows for gradual skill improvement.

Benefits of Sport Shot Bowling

You know exactly what sport shot bowling is. Now, let’s look at some of its benefits. Once you do, you’ll realize some of the many merits of this oil pattern. 

First and foremost, sport-shot bowling is a great way to refine your bowling skills. Because the lane conditions are more challenging, you’re forced to make adjustments in your approach and technique. This can only serve to improve your skills as a bowler.

Secondly, sport-shot bowling is more exciting to some than standard house bowling. The special lane conditions make for a super competitive and exciting atmosphere.

And lastly, sport shot bowling prepares you to bowl against some of the best bowlers in the world. If you’re looking to take your game to the next level, this is an excellent way to do it.

Drawbacks of Sport Shot Bowling

Of course, sport-shot bowling isn’t without its drawbacks. We’ll go over some of the cons of sport-shot bowling below.

Sport shot bowling is more difficult than your typical house shot. This is to be expected, given that the lane conditions purposely make it hard to hit the pins. This can be frustrating for bowlers who are used to the easier lane conditions you’ll find at your local bowling alley.

Sport-shot bowling can also turn out to be more expensive than your usual league or tournament. This is because it often requires special equipment, like a different type of ball, special gloves, and tape.

However, this cost only applies if you’re determined to bowl on a sport shot. You can always choose to play on a house shot instead and save yourself some money.

For avid bowlers and those who play competitively, the pros of sport shot bowling far outweigh the cons. Beginners often don’t feel the same way.

FeatureHouse Shot BowlingSport Shot Bowling
Oil PatternConsistent oil in the center, less on edgesVaried oil distribution, challenging patterns
Scoring DifficultyEasier, designed for fast scoring paceMore difficult, demands precision
Skill DevelopmentGood for beginners, less technicalEnhances skills, requires understanding of lane oil and ball hook
Equipment NeedsStandard bowling equipmentMay require specialized balls, gloves, etc.
Recommended ForBeginners and casual playersCompetitive and professional bowlers
Typical ApproachPlay down the middleAdjust angle, break point, and play deep inside
ObjectiveFun, casual play with higher scoresSkill refinement and preparation for professional competition

How to Get a Strike on Sport Oil Patterns

There’s no foolproof recipe for success when it comes to bowling on a sport shot. But, there are a few things you can do to give yourself a better chance of getting a strike.

To begin, it’s essential to choose the right ball. Choose a ball that’s heavy enough to power through the oil but not so heavy that it hooks too much. A urethane ball is often a good choice for bowling on a sport shot.

Yet, many pros are able to get a reactive resin ball to work on it as well. You don’t want to bowl on a sport-shot oil pattern with a plastic house ball. You’ll have a tough time getting into the pocket.

You’ll also need to adjust your starting position and your release point to account for the oil on the lane surface. If you usually approach the lane from the middle, try going in from the right.

And release the ball a little earlier or later than you usually would. Don’t forget to throw with a healthy amount of force. You’ll need to put some muscle behind that ball to make it work.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. The best way to find what works for you is to try different techniques and see what gives you the best results. And be patient. It takes time to master your throw on a sport shot.  

House Shot vs Sport Shot | How to Bowl on a House Shot and Sport Shot | Attacking the Difference

Should You Try Sport Shot Bowling as a Beginner?

Now that you know everything there is to know about sport shot bowling, the question remains: should you try it as a beginner? The answer is probably not.

If you’ve just started getting into bowling, it’s best to stick to the basics and bowl on a house shot. You can always try sport-shot bowling once you’ve mastered the basics and are looking for a more challenging experience.

If you try sport-shot bowling as a beginner, you’re likely to get frustrated and discouraged. The last thing you want is to give up on bowling altogether because you found it too complicated.

So, if you’re new to the game, stick to a house shot for now. You can always try sport-shot bowling once you’ve got a little bit more experience under your belt.

What Is the Hardest Bowling Pattern?

If you ask bowling experts what the hardest bowling pattern is, many of them will tell you that it’s the U.S. Open pattern used in the U.S. Open tournament. This pattern is considered “flat,” with the same amount of oil placed all over the lane.

Ask The Pros: What's The Most Difficult Pattern You've Ever Bowled On?

You’ll need an extremely precise shot to hit a strike on this bowling pattern. We’ll suffice it to say that this bowling pattern is uniquely suited to professionals. 

Other bowling patterns that are considered difficult include the PBA viper, shark, scorpion, Carmen Salvino, Don Carter, and more. A particular pattern forces bowlers to adapt to the specific characteristics of the pattern laid. If you want to know more about oil patterns, check out the Professional Bowlers Association oil patterns page. You’d be surprised by how many oil patterns there are. 

So, there you have it – everything you need to know about sport-shot bowling. If you’ve got your footing in the sport and are looking for a new layer of fun and competitiveness, give it a try.

Just be sure to choose the right equipment and adjust your approach and release until you find the sweet spot. And don’t forget to practice a ton!

You won’t be an expert overnight, but with a considerable time commitment and effort, you’ll see some real improvement.

Amateur Bowler vs. US Open Oil Pattern #2 | 37' FLAT | Ten Pin Life

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My Final Words

Transitioning from the familiar territory of house patterns to the rigorous demands of sport-shot bowling introduces bowlers to a world where lane oil intricacies, ball hook dynamics, and pin placement strategies take center stage. Unlike the predictable nature of house patterns that favor a fast scoring pace, sport shots challenge bowlers to understand the subtle interplay between ball hooks, breakpoints, and lane oils. This shift necessitates mastering multiple play angles, from playing deep inside to targeting the correct breakpoints for effectively striking the head pin.

As bowlers progress from first to second-generation patterns, they learn to adapt their shots for different patterns, demonstrating a good shot doesn’t just hit the correct target but also navigates the unique conditions of professional bowling lanes. This journey from beginner to adept not only hones one’s skill in pin bowling but also prepares one for the competitive spirit of professional bowling, where understanding and leveraging these nuances can turn the tide in one’s favor.