Common Layout Questions

By Michael Cousins
Working in a shop day-in-and-day-out, routinely, on a day-to-day basis, I am asked question after question about layouts. What does this layout do? What if I put the pin here? Why isn’t my pin in the same spot as my teammates’ ball?

Given all of the questions I receive, and based on some recent Facebook dialogue started by one Matt O’grady, I decided it would be good to take a somewhat in-depth look at layouts, pin positions, and bowlers’ Positive Axis Points (PAP).

First thing is first, and I cannot stress this enough, the importance of finding a bowlers’ PAP before drilling a ball is paramount in creating proper ball motion and shape. Every bowler releases the ball in their own unique, personal manner; the way in which we exit the bowling ball dictates our PAP. Therefore, each bowler has their own PAP, which is unique to that individual bowler.

The only way to properly and accurately layout a bowling ball for a bowler is to use that bowler’s PAP, coupled with either a Dual Angle Layout method or the Vector system, both of which are systemized methods of laying out bowling balls for a specific bowler.

Based on the bowler’s PAP, the pin location can, and often times does, vary. For example, having the same layout as another bowler does not mean the pin location is the same. However, it does mean that the pin location relative to the bowler’s PAP (pin-to-PAP distance) is the same.

This is important to both know and understand. I am constantly hearing people say that they told their Pro Shop operator to drill the ball the same as their friend’s, but they didn’t listen, and that the pin is not in the “correct” place. While this can, sometimes, be an error by the Pro Shop operator, it is, more than likely, because that bowler’s PAP is not the same as his/her friend’s.

As a result, bowler’s need to not be so concerned with where the pin is located on the ball, but, rather, where the pin is located from their PAP. In other words, you need to be concerned with where the core is positioned within the bowling ball relative to your personal PAP.

This leads me to my next topic: understanding the term “negative” when referring to layouts. This is a common misconception that bowlers seem to have. Anytime they see the pin left of the center line – for a right handed player – they instantly jump to the conclusion that the ball is drilled “negative” or, in other words, left-handed. While this is, sometimes, though very, very rarely, the case, it is more often than not due to the bowler either having a) a lower track or b) a layout with a farther pin-to-PAP.

As Mr. O’grady referenced in his Facebook post, he – like many Pro Shop professionals – get asked many times if a layout like this – one with the pin left of the center line (again, for a right-handed player) – would work for them? This, as I have been saying throughout this entire article, is totally dependent upon that bowler’s characteristics and PAP.

It is immensely important to factor in a bowler’s PAP, ball speed, rev rate, axis rotation, and axis tilt before determining if any layout will truly “work” for that bowler. Therefore, it is impossible to accurately answer that question without knowing all of the other variables. That is why it is so important to build a solid relationship with a pro shop operator that knows you, your characteristics, and takes the time out to identify your PAP.

All of that being said, while having the pin left of the center line does not usually equate to a “negative” layout, depending on the bowler’s characteristics, it is very possible that putting the pin that far from his/her PAP could cause major problems; again, no layout is truly for everyone.

Now that we have addressed that misnomer, let’s address the next question that I am sure many of you are asking yourselves after reading this: what is a “negative” layout? Some believe that in order for a layout to be truly “negative,” the pin must be farther than 6 ¾” from your PAP.

However, after speaking with our own John Gaines, this is actually another common misconception. When referring to pin distance from PAP, it is actually all about degrees. And, when it comes to degrees, as I am sure all of you know, there are no negatives; it goes from 0 degrees to 360 degrees.

To put this into perspective, John has laid out some examples for us to look at: a ball with a 0″ pin-to-PAP is, obviously, a 0 degree layout in relation to your PAP. Where as a pin with a 6 3/4″ pin-to-PAP, which is sometimes incorrectly viewed as a “negative” layout, has a degree of 90, which is, as you can see, a positive number. To split the difference, let’s look at a 3 3/8″ pin-to-PAP, which, by all accounts, is considered a very strong pin. It, as one would expect, has a degree of 45.

When it truly comes to a “negative” layout, what this really refers to is static weights. Therefore, it is not the pin location that determines whether or not a ball is drilled “negatively,” but, rather, the Center of Gravity.

The common theme behind both of these misnomers, according to Gaines is readily evident: verbiage, or lack thereof. In our sport, we are in desperate need of a universal language that all can relate too. This, however, poses a serious problem, and is not something that we can fix over night.

In many cases, bowlers are attempting to say the same thing, and in many of those cases, the bowlers are actually spot on, but their verbiage is so different, that they’re disagreeing with one another while, at the same time, actually attempting to say the very same thing.

When it comes to layouts and bowler’s PAPs, there is a lot to be said. Far too much to cram into any one article. And while I don’t expect this piece to answer all of your questions, I do hope it shed some light on a commonly misunderstood aspect of bowling.

In my opinion, one can never learn too much. Ask questions. Educate yourself. Don’t be afraid to learn and grow. And most importantly, share what you’ve learned and educate others. If you find any of this confusing, and believe me, you won’t be alone, feel free to ask myself or Mr. Gaines any question you may have and we will do our best to help you out!

2 thoughts on “Common Layout Questions

  1. Dave R says:

    I have a Blue Hammer, the pin is one inch right of the right finger hole, I’m right handed, my track is just left of the holes, my ball speed is 11.5 mph, I don’t know my rev rate, axis rotation or tilt. I have a Storm Rocket Ship, the pin is one inch below the finger holes centered. I have a DV8 Ruckus Schizo Pearl, the pin is 3/16ths above the right finger hole. The urethane Hammer is controllable, I can keep it in or right of the pocket. The Rocket Ship & Ruckus Schizo won’t stay right of the head pin. My highest average is with the Hammer. What to do?

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