Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Wheels Are In Motion

Over the past years, I've heard time and time again, complaints that there is no one out there trying to make our game better.  I cannot lie and say that I haven't thought the same at times as well.  This blog however, brings you hope from those feelings.  My girlfriend Jen got her hands on an interesting bit of reading material recently that I thought should be shared on here.  It seems that the Bowling Proprietors' Association of Canada (BPAC) are working hard at understanding our game in hopes to improve it in time.

The BPAC decided to contact the United States Bowling Congress Equipment Specifications and Certifications team (USBC) in hopes to shed some light on the equipment we use in 5pin bowling.  This team was called in to do some testing in Windsor, and more specifically Playdium, to do some primary tests on our bowling pins, their bands and our bowling balls.  While I won't get too involved in the specifics on the tests, I will say that the tests run on our equipment may really go far in the future into understanding what works in our game and where our game can improve. 

As previously mentioned, the tests were very basic to say the least.  They spent time testing the hardness of the equipment used with a durometer.  They used equipment brands that are commonly found in 5pin bowling centres to get an accurate read on conditions that we would see on a nightly basis in our leagues, or in tournaments.  Then, trying different combinations of pins and rubber bands, they tested how the pins reacted when impacted by a ball.  They recorded where pins landed through a high speed camera so that they could understand how hardness variations can affect how the pins react.  They learned that the harder the pin/band combo was, the less dynamic the reaction was.  This means that the harder the pin was, the less reaction the pin got when struck by a ball and the softer the pin was the more reaction the pin got when struck by a ball.  From their tests, they also concluded that the harder the pin/band combo was (wood pins registering the hardest) the more time the pins spent in the air.  Conversely, the softer the pin combo was, the more time it spent on the pin deck. 

Coming from a "power player" aspect, my thought is that I would prefer a softer pin/band combo as opposed to a harder one.  The speed of my ball will impact the harder pin in a way that would send it into the air, which would be a disadvantage to me.  Being a power player, I need to keep the pins lower in order to make contact with the other pins.  Striking the softer pin would give me this result.  I could also see how a harder pin combo could be more beneficial to a "finese player" with a softer pin dying on the pindeck, stopping it from striking other pins.

Another section in testing completed was on bowling balls and their effect on pin action.  They tested 2 ball sizes (4 7/8" and 5") and 2 different materials (phenolic and rubber) that are commonly found to be used in 5pin.  To no surprise, when tested with a durometer the phenolic ball was harder than the rubber one.  An interesting note however, was that the dynamic of the ball was almost exact on the 5" ball regardless of the material of the ball.  The 4 7/8" ball received a lower dynamic reading than the 5" balls.  Going back to my game, I have used a 5" ball longer than I can remember and although I have several 4 7/8" balls, I rarely use them.  I find that the pin action with my 5" ball greatly increases as opposed to my 4 7/8" balls.  (I also use the 5" ball over a 4 7/8" ball in Duckpin, strictly due to the fact that the 4 7/8" ball sends the pins too high to score well.)  Really, from the testing of the USBC, I have learned why I prefer the 5" ball over the 4 7/8" in my game.  To understand what works best for your game, will obviously help increase your chances at success. 

If anyone wants to see the specifics on the testing that was done by the USBC for the BPAC, shoot me an email at and I can find a way to send them to you.  I have taken the information that I have read from these tests and have applied them to how my game works for me.  I have used the 5" ball for it's dynamics, allowing for high impact speeds, and it's size to keep the pins lower to the pindeck.  With the information that I learned from the testing I can make adjustments to my game if I find that the conditions call for it.  If I find that I'm playing somewhere where the pins seems to be dead and dying on the pindeck, I know that using a smaller ball with a hard material base may lift those pins enough off the pindeck to keep them from dying and increase my scoring.

I think that this testing is important to learning your game and what equipment changes affect pin action.  However, I think that the MOST important thing about the testing is the testing itself.  Steps are being taken to better understand our game and improve it in the future.  The BPAC does care about our game and are trying to take steps to making the game better down the road.  This is proof of that and I believe this is only the beginning of what they have in store for us.  Happy New Year everyone and look for my next blog on Monday.

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