Terms and Definitions

Competitive patterns

These styles of patterns have crosswise pattern ratios that range from 3.1:1 to 4.5:1. These ratios offer players the ability to learn and improve their skills to become better players.

Crosswise ratio

A calculation consisting of the average units of oil on boards 18 left to 18 right, divided by the average units of oil on boards 3 to 7 left and right.


The region of the world a bowling center is located, the type of temperature and humidity changes seen throughout the year, the type of lane surface and surface topography, as well as the types of players. The environment often dictate the maintenance necessary for the center to perform, as well as, the type of supplies that are used.

Lengthwise ratio

A calculation of the units of oil applied in the front of the pattern divided by the units of oil at any other given distance within the pattern. Strong (higher) lengthwise ratios typically promote more predictable ball reaction and pattern transition allowing more styles of players to have an equal advantage. Weak (lower) lengthwise ratios create more transition of the oil pattern both beyond and within the pattern and eventually favor certain styles of players.


A term used to explain the slipperiness of a lane conditioner. A high lubricity lane conditioner plays slicker causing the bowling ball to lose less speed and hook less. A low lubricity lane conditioner causes the bowling ball to lose speed at a faster rate creating more overall hook.

Pattern transitions

There are two phases of pattern transition. The first phase is the action of stretching the oil pattern often referred as “carry down”. The second phase of transition is “breakdown” within the conditioner pattern. Different types of conditioners will transition differently based on the durability of the product as well as the lubricity.

Recreation patterns (aka house patterns)

The style of patterns that have steep slope and crosswise ratios greater than 4.6:1. High ratios combined with steep slopes make the conditioner pattern conducive for high scores. These patterns are very common in the United States and some other regions around the world.

Recreation strategies

The type of strategy commonly used on recreation patterns that allows players to use greater angles to the break point without worrying about pattern transition. Recreation strategies are less sensitive to bowling ball choice and release type. However, this strategy does not work as well on competitive or sport patterns.

Response time

Measures how a bowling ball responds to friction. A fast response time means that the bowling ball responds quicker when it encounters friction. Slow response is just the opposite. Lane surfaces, lane conditioners, and player releases may also be quantified by response time. Refer to Brunswick’s response time scales for more information.


The crosswise transition from higher units of oil to lower units of oil. Strong slopes transition across a low number of boards while weak slopes transition over a greater number of boards as seen in sport patterns.

Sport patterns

USBC compliant patterns used for Sport Bowling Leagues and tournaments. These patterns have crosswise ratios of less than 3:1 and also need to meet the minimum requirements (3 units of oil) as outlined in the USBC System of Bowling. Sport patterns are the most difficult of all the patterns for players to bowl on.

Sport strategies

This strategy requires the players to manage different aspects of the game including managing angles, selecting the proper bowling balls, choosing the proper place to stand and throw the ball, as well as managing the pattern transitions.


The physical shape that a bowling lane takes after installation. The topography consists of crowns and depressions, crosswise tilt of the lane, and lengthwise tilt. Crowns, depressions, and crosswise tilts make up part of the environment and are regulated by the USBC with maximum tolerances no greater than 40 thousandths of an inch or approximately 1 millimeter. However, lengthwise tilts of the bowling lane are not regulated.