If you've bowled to any extent, you likely realize that there's a little more to the game than just showing up, renting a funny-looking pair of shoes, picking any old ball, and tossing it down the lane.
There are, in fact, many mental aspects to the game, and experienced players use these to their advantage when they're head to head against another bowler.
Physical conditions are also a significant aspect of the game, and these can vary tremendously.
While bowlers can control some of the physical aspects of the game -- the type of ball, shoes, physical stance and delivery method -- one thing no bowler can control is the condition of the bowling lane.
No two bowling lanes are similar in every way, and because of this, much of the competition in bowling comes down to determining the unique characteristics of a bowling lane, and using them to your advantage.
Some of the things that will make a bowling lane unique include floor surface, quality and condition of the lane, oil patterns and usage patterns.
The lane surface at a bowling alley may be made of hardwood or, especially at modern centers, of synthetic materials. In some cases, older wooden lanes have been overlaid with synthetics, creating yet another variation in flooring material.
Hardwood lanes are rougher than synthetics. Wooden floors overlaid with synthetics are thinner than fully synthetic floors, and are softer.
In older alleys, older, worn floors may have damage within the first few feet of the lane -- where bowling balls hit the lane the hardest -- and this damage can influence the trajectory of the ball.
Oil is used to help preserve the lanes' surfaces, and it is spread in many different patterns. Each of these patterns, and some have special names, will influence the roll of the ball in a different way.
Even within the same bowling alley, there can be differences from lane to lane. A lane that has been in heavy use throughout the day will have less fresh oil remaining. The oil may have begun to dry, and if you are bowling long after the spread, this can also impact your game.
While at first glance, bowling lanes may seem the same from one alley to the next, you can now understand just how different they might be.