By Michael Cousins
Amongst many right-handed bowlers, there seems to be this misconception that the other side of the game – left-handed bowling – is the “easier” game. There is no doubt that it is a different game than right-handed bowling. I won’t even begin to argue that. However, to call it “easier” is a gross misnomer, and it ignores a great deal of variables that one must take into consideration.
In an attempt to put it into perspective, I decided to talk to a bowler that is – in my personal opinion – one of the most talented left-handed players in the entire southern region. For those of you that haven’t heard of him, though you inevitably will one day, his name is Anthony Caso, and he just so happens to be one of our BowlersMart store managers (Shore Lanes).
Let’s begin – the following text comes directly from Mr. Caso, himself:
I’d like to start by saying that I am, in no way, shape, or from, complaining about being left-handed. Inversely, I’m not complaining about the right being easy, either. It’s simply a different game in all facets. I’ll start with lane play and how lane surface and patterns dictate what most lefties, of any and all styles, must do.
Most lane surfaces don’t have a defined track on the left side. Even in the cases that we do, it’s far less defined than the right, making any pattern we face play flatter on our side. That, coupled with the types of oil and the amounts of oil, they are using to combat these super strong coverstocks on the bowling balls of today, it becomes harder to find any kind of area or margin for error.
So, with the combination of not having any lane help and the patterns being made the way they are, we are, more often than not, forced into stronger balls with surface, or forced to play a zone that doesn’t last very long.
By having to use bowling balls with stronger covers and surface, we sometimes see an undesired shape. If we use a lot of surface to get our ball to slow down, we are taking away any hold that might be there. However, if we use less surface, our ball is more likely to miss the midlane because we don’t have near as much lane friction as the right side.
That’s why you see so many right handers using urethane on more and more patterns these days, because the lane is allowing them to do so and it keeps them in a better zone on the lane for a longer period of time.
The question has been asked “why don’t more lefties use urethane like the righties?” It’s simple, unless we have an extremely high rev rate (Jesper or Buttruff) it’s nearly impossible to get our balls to see the lane the right way AND be able to strike enough to keep up with the righties doing the same thing.
Now I will go on to adjustments, and how the amount of traffic on both sides drastically changes the way both sides need to play the lanes.
If a pattern is shorter, and basically forces you to play a certain part of the lane, we don’t run into as many issues with the right-handed traffic effecting us like we do on practically any other sport condition.
When we start getting into patterns where the righties have to start moving further and further left to find oil, they actually begin to take oil away in the first 15 feet or so on our “side” of the lane. Now, why is this a bad thing if we always complain about not getting our ball to hook, so to speak? Well, if a bowling ball uses too much energy, too early – in the front part of the lane – it becomes harder to predict ball motion, and even harder to strike.
So, when the righties make their way over to 5th and 6th arrow, which is happening quicker and quicker every single tournament, it seems, they begin to make our bowling balls hook in the wrong part of the lane, making our ball reaction more sensitive to both oil and friction.
Now, why don’t we try to play 5th and 6th arrow like they do? There’s a few reasons for that as well.
First off, speaking for myself, it’s by no means my “A” game, because we never get to play there and there’s almost no way to simulate those conditions in a practice environment short of going to a tournament and wasting your money.
Secondly, it goes back to where the oil is being taken off the lane and what that does to a bowling ball. There may be oil in the first 15ft or so if we get into 5th and 6th arrow. However, in the 20-30 foot range it is a desert due to all the rev rate and surface used on that side. If we were able to get our ball through that there’s still oil 40-45 feet down the lane. That’s where the whole “lefties play the same area” saying comes into play so often.
We are forced to play the same basic area on everything because of lane surface and a lack of productive traffic on our side of the lane.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the righties have their own problems, as well.
I’ve been asked “have you ever had to loft the gutter cap?”, or “Have you ever had to make a 6 and 3 on your next pair because your ball hooked?” My answer is no every single time, because I don’t see that type of change on my side.
However, my response to them is this: almost every right hander in the game that plays this sport at any kind of competitive level knows what they are getting into every time they bowl.
More often than not, they know their ball is going to hook, and they are going have to get left and sometimes they are going to have to loft it. And while that is in no way easy – it takes an immense amount of physical talent to be able to this with regularity – it is at least consistent week-to-week.
I would like to ask a righty if they ever go into a tournament, moving pair-to-pair, having to bowl on a lane that’s practically untouched every single game, week in and week out. It makes it very difficult.
I think it is fair to say that the fresh is always when the lane is at its toughest and most sensitive. What the righties have going for them is that there are a lot of them, breaking down the lanes, opening them up, and making it easier to score. But that simply, in most cases, is not the case on the left side. If you’re unable to hit the fresh, you’re likely not going to bowl well on the left side, because the fresh, or at least some version of it, is what you’re going to see almost every single game, every single week.
No matter what hand you use or what side of the lane you play, this sport is very difficult at the highest level, no questions asked. But it just seems that lately even the most talented lefties are finding themselves behind the eight ball with the lane conditions, lane surfaces, and equipment.
What are they going to do about it? I don’t know. I know that I, personally, am trying to grow, adapt, and modify my game in order to better my odds week-in-and-week-out. Will it work? I don’t know. Only time will tell. But I am not going to continue to do the same thing hoping for different results.
Again, as I prefaced this article already, I want to emphasize that I am not trying to complain. I am not in any way saying right-handed bowling is easier than left-handed bowling. I would NEVER make that argument. And I don’t personally think anyone should. But to ignore that the two games are entirely different is ignorant.
In league bowling or when they’re on the softer side, there is no doubt that being left handed can be an advantage. There is simply less traffic, and the lanes do not break down as fast, allowing us to stay in the same zone longer. But, conversely, when they’re on the harder side, that advantage simply doesn’t exist.