Breakpoints and Drawing Lines on the Lane
( Part 2 )

by Ron Clifton

    When I say breakpoint, I am NOT talking about the moment you left just one too many 10-pins and decided to throw all your balls in the river. I am talking about a spot down the lane where the ball starts to hook toward the head pin. If you followed last month's coaching tip on how to find your breakpoint, you are ready to learn how to use it. Keep in mind that this tip is mostly for bowlers that hook the ball.
    First of all, as with everything in bowling, there is no one system that works for everyone on every lane condition; but you will find that on most lane conditions, your best carry percentage will place your breakpoint between the 5 and 8-boards, 40 feet or so down the lane. This will give you a good angle of attack on the pocket for your best carry percentage. This also puts the ball outside the river of oil that runs down most house oil patterns between the two 10-boards. Itís very important to have your breakpoint outside that deep oil. A lot of the 10-pins I see left in league come from the bowler not getting the ball outside the 9-board at the breakpoint. The ball looks great to the bowler. He hit his mark and threw the ball well, but there stands the 10-pin. This happened because the ball hit the 9,10, or 11-board at the breakpoint and never had a chance to grip the lane well enough or have enough angle to carry. Most bowlers do not notice where their ball is at the breakpoint, so they just feel like they got robbed.
    Now that we have learned to watch our ball at the breakpoint, how do we use it in a targeting system? First of all, decide what part of the lane you are going to play around the arrows. This will be dictated by the oil pattern on the lane and how much it is hooking, but letís say we want to cross the lane at the 3rd arrow.

Walk up to the foul line and look at the 7-board down the lane where your breakpoint lies. Then draw an imaginary line from that 7-board back through the 3rd arrow to your bowling shoulder. We now have a line to throw the ball down. You can target with your eyes anywhere along that line, but for most people itís easier to just look at the 3rd arrow. We need to make sure that when we deliver the ball we are facing our breakpoint so the ball will travel along our imaginary line. Because our balls go straight once we release them until they get to the breakpoint, we donít have to try and make the ball follow our line, it just will. The idea of course, is to throw the ball, crossing the 3rd arrow and continuing to the 7-board at the breakpoint before hooking to the pocket. Now donít expect to actually nail the 7-board at the breakpoint every time. How accurate you are at the breakpoint will depend on the level of your game. The best pros on tour can hit a breakpoint about 2-boards wide, while the best amateurs will be closer to 3-boards wide. The goal for a good league bowler should be about 4-boards.  

Here Jimmy Martin lines up to throw the ball from around the 4th arrow to a breakpoint of 7, 42 feet down the lane. The red line shows the actual path he wants the ball to follow. The blue line is drawn from the breakpoint to where he is actually standing. Jimmy knows he is going to drift left as he makes his approach, so he takes that into account.  

When you are first learning to draw a line to your breakpoint, you may need to walk up the the foul line a see where you need to end your approach. Get into your finishing position as if you were just releasing the ball and notice the direction you need to be facing and what board you wish to slide on to follow the red line. 

I placed 2 pieces of tape on the lane, 41.5 feet down the lane: one on the 5-board and one on the 9-board. The idea is to go between them. Jimmy is a good enough player he can throw between them, hit them or go around the outside one if I tell him to.  

Notice the ball goes straight for about 4 feet before it turns left to head for the pocket. The breakpoint is not a single point on the lane, but we treat it as such for lining up. 

One of the most important things about having a line to throw down is to know when we really didnít throw a good shot, even if the ball still went into the pocket. On the first day of geometry class, they told you it takes two points to make a line. Using just the 3rd arrow as the only target is not good enough because that is a single point on the lane. You can cross that point in any direction. That means you could hit the 3rd arrow, but only make it to the 10-board at the breakpoint instead of in the area of the 7-board. On a league shot, that ball may still go into the pocket; heck it may even strike, but often it will be a 9-count. On a flatter oil pattern like they use on the pro tour or at one of the megabucks tournaments, the shot will go through the nose or even cross over. Knowing and watching your breakpoint can keep you honest, even on the easiest of lane conditions. If you are paying attention, you will know if you made a good shot or if the lane man got the strike for you.  

    This is how we use our breakpoint as part of a targeting system. So when you hear me say ďare you hitting both targetsĒ, you will know what I mean. You will have to make adjustments depending on the lane condition and know what to do if you make your breakpoint and the ball fails to go to the pocket. Using the breakpoint, we can shorten the lane to about 20 feet. That's because we only have to worry about what the ball does between the breakpoint and the pocket. We need to pay very close attention to the ball and how it is rolling the last 20 feet of the lane. I will discuss that next month in Part 3 of ďBreakpoints and Drawing Lines on the LaneĒ. 

Bowl great!
Ron Clifton

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