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House Oil Pattern


Bowling ball rolling toward pins
Dennis O'Clair / Stone / Getty Images

Quick Info:

Length: 32 feet (buffed to 40 feet)
Oil Volume: Moderate


The house pattern is the standard oil pattern you’ll find in any bowling center. While it might vary slightly from house to house, the general idea is the same: more oil in the middle and less on the outside (between the 10 board and gutter).

How to Play the Pattern:

The house pattern is designed to be forgiving. Since complete novices are using this pattern during open bowling, a bowling-center operator doesn’t want to make things hard on them and risk losing business.

Since there’s very little oil outside the 10 board, the lanes are very forgiving if you miss to the outside. There’s plenty of time for the ball to recover and get back to the pocket. Likewise, with the extra oil in the middle, if you miss to the inside, the oil will let the ball carry farther down the lane before picking up some traction at the end. Either way you miss, the pattern will do its best to get your ball to the pocket.

Regardless, you should always throw some practice frames to figure out how the lane is playing that night. Since everyone from league bowlers to five-year-old kids are using these lanes, the oil can be erratic. Sometimes it’s better to play inside (aim at or near the third arrow), sometimes outside (second arrow). Once you figure it out, get ready for high scores.

You may have noticed the phrase "buffed to 40 feet" above. This means the oil is applied over the first 32 feet of the lane, then buffed onto an additional eight feet. If the lane was oiled the length of 40 feet, too much oil would be pushed down the lane, resulting in very frustrating conditions for the novice bowler.

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