Most people nowadays like to see BIG hook, but is it ideal to have the ball hooking so much? What is the affect of high entry angles?
I won’t go into the virtues of “straighter is greater” in this article but wanted to specifically touch on entry angle. There has been a theoretical assumption out there for some time that 6 degrees is the ideal entry angle. I will not go into scientific depth or calculations here, but will argue that 6 degrees is quite steep and may not be the ideal entry angle after all, especially for a typical house shot.
For best carry, entry angle can not be viewed alone. You need to also consider the board the ball entering the pocket, i.e., the entry board. There is conflicting research out there on this. For a long time, it was thought that 17.5 board entry is the ideal for carry. Later research found it to be closer to 16 or 16.5. This could spur some argument, but I will give you my own observations using Ebonite Digitrax.
I think 6 degrees of entry angle at the 17.5 board is simply way too much entry angle or way too much of the head pin to carry consistently. I believe this is why so many times we see 8 or 9 pin leaves these days. At that kind of entry angle, many times the ball just continues past the ideal strike position throughout the pin deck. For a righty, this causes the ball to continue to drive with little deflection past the 9 pin. High entry angles can also cause lots of ringing corner pins. That’s where the 6 wraps around the belly of the 10 violently without knocking it down. That is when the ball is coming behind the head pin, in other words, the board of entry is slightly light and the ball is entering the pocket at a high entry angle.
Another thing I’ve found is that many times with that steep of an entry angle, another culprit that reduces carry is the phase of the ball when it hits the pocket. I think guys who can generate high entry angles sometimes do not allow the ball to transition through it’s phases properly before it hits the pin deck. Specifically, the ball goes from slide to hook phase, but then never transitions to roll phase quick enough before it hits the head pin. For the best energy transfer, a ball needs to be rolling into the pocket, not hooking into it. When a ball hits the head pin still hooking, it completely alters the concept of proper entry angle.
What is the ideal entry angle anyway?
Well, I won’t tell you 5.59 or something like that. There is pretty clear evidence that some entry, generally 4 and above is needed to get the best carry. I will not dispute this. I just dispute the blind targeting of 6 degrees. I think between 4 and 6 will be ideal for a given night, on a given condition. OK that might sound flaky not to give you a specific answer, but I really don’t think there is a blatantly specific answer as others have suggested. I would basically suggest that over 4 is needed for any chance of scoring above par. 6 degrees is pushing the upper limit. I would suggest that between 4.5 and 5.5 is ideal. So if I had to pick the one ideal angle, it would be 5.
For example, I am a tweener. I can personally generate quite high entry angles with slower speeds, up to 7.4 according to Digitrax. I am able to generate entry angles of 6 degrees regularly but don’t find that’s where my ideal carry is. Statistically speaking, the closer to 5 degrees I am, the higher my carry percentage is. My carry is quite good with the Storm Natural for example, but my entry angle is always between 4 and 5 degrees, averaging 4.7 to be exact. Urethanes will generally not produce as high entry angles because they go into the hook phase very early on the lanes. They don’t wait for dry boards to transition from slide to hook. The other thing about urethane is that because it hooks so early, it’s almost always guaranteed to be rolling by the time it hits the head pin. This guarantees good energy transfer.
With 4 to 5 degree entry angles, you generally only worry about corner pins or a 4 pin if it’s a little high. What I find is that when you are at 6 degrees or higher, any back row pin is a risk to leave, as well as the occasional big split. However, I find this occasion happens more often for the big hook, as I’m sure most of you can attest.
OK, so what do we do??
I will address three possibilities:
- Stronger ball
- Move in (at the breakpoint)
- Move deeper (at the arrows)
1. Stronger Ball
One way to combat these higher entry angles: bowlers who generate these higher revs and higher speeds may need to look into a stronger ball as an option. Why? Because they will need a ball to burn up more energy in the midlane, allowing it to properly transition to roll before it hits the pocket. Burning up a little earlier tends to reduce the entry angle.
So let me tie this whole concept to my own experience this year. I have been struggling with carry much of the year, averaging just under 220. To be fair, like most of us, I get a lot of help from the house shot to get balls into the pocket. I’m getting entry angles in the 6s all the time, but my roll causes a quick transition from skid, hook, roll. However, that late transition had the ball still hooking just in front of the head pin. I have been leaving ringers galore.
2. Move your breakpoint in
So what do I do? Well, I decided I needed to cut down my entry angle. How do I do that? Play more in the oil! With my hand, using the second breakzone (5-9 board at the breakpoint), the ball just breaks too hard. Remember that the breakpoint is somewhere close to 40 feet down lane. This zone on a house shot is relatively dry to feed lower rev releases to the pocket. This is where most house bowlers carry from. To cut down entry angle, I moved into the third breakzone (10-14 board). So I got deeper with my feet and moved my target at the breakpoint closer to the headpin and kept the speed down.
3. Move your target deeper
Imagine a hockey stick shape for the ball motion to the pocket. If the shaft is parallel to the gutter, than the blade has a sharp angle to the pocket. However, if you angle the shaft in relation to the gutter, the blade will lose some angle to the pocket. This is one way to cut down entry angle, getting deeper on the lane. That’s why you see some Tweeners and Crankers get deeper than Strokers.
However, on a house shot, when the breakpoint is progressively drier towards the gutter, reactive balls react very aggressively to the dry and thus can still generate very high entry angles back to the pocket. The risk now is leaving flat corners because despite having a high entry angle, the ball has completely rolled out using much of it’s energy to “make the turn”.
This is where I believe it is important for bowlers who have higher than average rev rate consider using a breakpoint further into the oil. This will allow the ball to retain some energy because it is not hitting a wall of friction. It will also cut the entry angle down, which I believe will help carry.
Here’s a real world example:
I can play 12-14 at the arrows to 5 at the breakpoint and get the ball to the pocket. This can generate entry angles from 6 to 7. Increasing speed can cut the entry angle down.
I can adjust to play 15 to 10 and get the ball to the pocket. I cover less overall boards because I am playing in the oil. The ball needs to cover less boards back to the pocket and also will generate entry angles more consistently between 4.5 and 5.5.
For guys with more hand, I think this is an ideal area to play a house shot. Don’t be afraid to get into the 10-12 area at the breakpoint. This will cut down on entry angle and increase the room you have to play the condition.
For Strokers, playing a more direct line from the outside works very well because they will naturally generate less entry angle. I ran Digitrax on one of my teammates who is a high average stroker. With him playing the Motiv GT1 and Storm Furious, and me using my Storm Natural. Our lines to the pocket were identical. They were completely indistinguishable on the Digitrax tracking, with us generating the same overall shape for ball trajectory and the same exact entry angles.
So there you have it, I think the ideal entry angle is closer to 5 degrees than 6 degrees.
Consider using a breakpoint further in if you’ve got some hand and you might be surprised to find more room and carry.
OK, let the comments fly.