Bowling on Synthetic Lanes vs Wooden Lanes: Which is Better?

There are two main types of bowling lanes: synthetic and wooden. Each type of bowling lane has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Male bowler standing on bowling lane and poses with ball

In this blog post, we will discuss the pros and cons of each type of lane, so you can decide which is best for you!

Bowling is a popular sport that people of all ages can enjoy but did you know that the type of lane surface you bowl on makes a difference? You can put the same oil pattern on a wood lane surface and a synthetic lane surface and they will play differently.

Wooden Lanes

wooden lanes are the original bowling lane

The surface of the wooden bowling lanes is softer than the surface of the bowling balls. What does this mean for you, the bowler?

The wood lanes will eventually become damaged and need to be resurfaced.

Wood lanes have a softer surface than synthetic bowling lanes, so they absorb oil faster. This means that bowling balls will hook sooner and their down-lane reaction will generally be less drastic when compared to synthetic lanes.

The older the wooden lanes are, the faster they will absorb oil. This means that your moves will be quicker as the oil pattern breaks down when bowling on older wooden vs. newer wood lanes.

Synthetic Bowling Lanes

Ball on lane, bowling game concept, nobody

The majority of bowling centers have synthetic lanes. The surface is harder than the bowling ball surface so it will not show wear and tear.

Compared to wooden lanes, synthetic lanes make bowling balls skid farther down the lane and have a more drastic back-end reaction. The X factor when bowling on a synthetic lane surface is to know which type of lane you are bowling on, AMF or Brunswick.

There are two types of synthetic lanes – Brunswick and AMF. Brunswick lanes are lighter in color and less saturated than AMF lanes. You need to know which type of lane you are bowling on because the way the oil pattern is on each surface will make the ball roll differently.

The Brunswick synthetic lane surface has less friction than the AMF synthetic lane surface. This means that the bowling ball will hook later on the Brunswick synthetic lane surface than on the AMF surface. The timing of when the lanes transition and how they transition will also be different.

There are two main types of synthetic lanes. Each type of lane behaves differently, depending on how old it is. In addition, the way a particular pattern of oil behaves can also vary depending on the manufacturer of the synthetic lanes.

Performance Advantages of Synthetic Bowling Lanes.

  • The I-joist-supported foundation minimizes floor movement and results in less stress on the lane surface, meaning fewer blemishes.
  • The only lanes built using Laminated Strand Lumber (LSL) underlayment board, which provides more strength than fiberboard/MDF, resulting in greater uniformity/consistency than wood and greater moisture resistance.
  • This type of construction is very strong and will not separate or come apart.
  • The bridged foul lines provide greater strength by eliminating the seams.
  • The wider, 5-foot seamless textured approach eliminates the slide-area seam to enhance the structural integrity.
  • Anti-skid pin decks help keep pins from sliding out and going too far.
  • This surface is easy to take care of and does not need to be resurfaced.

Aesthetic Advantages of Synthetic Bowling Lanes.

  • The natural maple color gives a bright and light appearance that is attractive.
  • The patented edge-to-edge and full-lane-plus-approach glow effect provides an unbeatable Cosmic Bowling® experience.
  • You can customize your bowling alley with lane graphics or your center’s logo to market your center in an innovative way. Contact your Brunswick representative for USBC-approved options.
  • This is a warning label that says the surface is safe to walk on when wet. The label has been approved by the USBC.

Scoring Advantages of Synthetic Bowling Lanes.

  • Synthetic lanes have a wide lane approach makes it easier for bowlers to get their footing right and feel more confident while bowling.
  • Surface markings, such as release dots and lane arrows, can help teach bowlers how to play the game. The markings act as visual guides to help players stay in the correct lane and release the ball in the right spot.
  • A flatter, smoother surface will help the ball move more consistently and reliably.
  • There are a variety of ways to slide on snow and ice, depending on the conditions. Some techniques work well in icy conditions, while others are more suited for powdery snow. No matter what the surface, though, using some kind of textured approach is generally more consistent and reliable than just relying on your balance alone.

Friction and Ball Reactions

lane surfaces

The way balls travel and hook (meaning they curve to the left or right depending on which hand the bowler uses) can be influenced by how smooth and soft the lane material is.

Synthetic lanes create more friction than wood lanes. This means that balls bowled down synthetic lanes often produce a snappy ball reaction.

Synthetic lanes are smoother than wooden lanes. This affects the oil used on bowling lanes, causing it to stay on the lane longer. For newly-laid oil, this can reduce the potential for ball hooking.

The opposite is true, though, once the oil dries; when this occurs it is the synthetic lanes that create more opportunities to hook.

Wear and Tear

Wood surfaces need to be reconditioned more often than synthetic lanes because they are softer. Synthetic lanes wear down differently depending on the manufacturer.

Studies from the United States Bowling Congress indicate that some synthetic lanes perform best just after installation, while others make higher scoring playing surfaces after being worn in for a few years.

What’s at your bowling alley?

unlike wooden lanes synthetic lanes are less maintenance.

Chances are that your local bowling alley is using synthetic surfaces. Typically bowling alleys hold on to their wood lanes as long as they can, but maintenance can take a toll on profit.

Moving into the synthetic lanes can offer some advantages to both the bowling alley and the bowler.

Some people prefer wooden lanes because they think it gives them more control over their ball. However, with proper care, synthetic lanes can offer a consistent surface that is easy to maintain.

When choosing a lane, it is important to keep in mind your own skill level and what you are looking for in a game. If you are a beginner, synthetic lanes may offer an advantage. If you are an experienced bowler, you may prefer the challenge of wood lanes. No matter what your preference is, both types of lane can provide a fun and challenging game.

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