Breakpoint in Bowling: How to Target?

breakpoint in bowling

Do you know how to read the bowling lane accurately? Great job if you do! Many advanced bowlers with decent averages still cannot figure that out. So do you want to stay ahead? Then you should learn everything about your bowling ball, lane, and the transition, and that includes the breakpoint. So what is a breakpoint in bowling terminology? How do you find it and adjust accordingly to play better? Hop in, we are about to take a ride to have more knowledge on bowling! 

What is Breakpoint in Bowling?

Have you noticed that your ball starts to break during its journey as it goes up to the pocket? Simply put, the breakpoint is the location where that happens. By definition, it is the point where your bowling ball makes the maximum change in direction during ball travel in the trajectory. When your ball reaches its breakpoint, it changes the directions inward and of course, toward the pocket.

Breakpoint greatly depends on the lengths of the bowling lanes. The lane distance dictates where the breakpoint of your ball will be. Usually, the breakpoint is considered when the ball is the most distant from the pocket right before it rolls toward the headpin. Lanes with short distance patterns (e.g.- 36ft or shorter than that), have breakpoints closer to the gutter. When it comes to medium distance patterns (lanes that are between 37ft and 42ft), the breakpoint takes place at the 8-12 boards. As for long-distance patterns (42ft or more), generally have breakpoints near the 13-16 boards or close to the pockets.

You can reach the breakpoint from multiple angles. But which one is right for you? It depends on your bowling ball and lane conditions Many bowlers often get their shots messed up because of not having the best breakpoint. Hence, pro bowlers need to practice consistently to perfect their breakpoint. By perfecting the breakpoint, they can keep their bowling performance and the accuracy of the shots compatible.

How to target in breakpoint?

Determining the breakpoint when you are bowling is very important. Many players, even after years of practice cannot target in breakpoint correctly. This is why some engineers from USBC have developed a formula that will help every bowler to find out the approximate breakpoint as per the oil pattern. The formula is called “Rule of 31”.

First, you will have to take the length of the oil pattern and then subtract 31 from the length. This will give you an estimation of the breakpoint at the end of the pattern. It will be a basic starting point guideline for a better target in the breakpoint. At the same time, it will also give you an idea about which board your bowling ball is going to be on as it takes an exit off the oil pattern.

If you’re not clear yet, let me give you an example— let’s say, the lane you’re using is oiled and the oil pattern is 42 feet long. Now, subtract 31 from 42, which gives you, (42-31) = 11. this number, 11 is indicating that your breakpoint will be around the 11 board.  So, in that case, you will have about a three-board area (around the 10-12 board) to target and hit at the breakpoint. This will surely take your bowling ball to the pocket and hit the pins.

Do remember, this is just an estimation, it is not precise. A number of factors can affect the ball’s motion, breakpoint, and entry into the pocket. The lane surface, the type of oil applied on it, the bowling balls, etc are some of the major factors that can affect the breakpoint. Now you must be wondering, can you ever know the optimal breakpoint distance? This also depends on the above mentioned factors.

Most professional bowlers, when they are setting the target, can easily move their eyes from board to board. This helps them to adjust their breakpoint distances better. The simple trick is that—

For a shorter oil pattern, you should expect to have your breakpoint closer to the gutter, and most importantly, it should be a bit closer to the foul line.

As for a longer oil pattern, you should be wanting your breakpoint to be farther inside, yet closer to the pins.

What does it mean when a bowling lane is tight?

First, answer me this— have you ever heard anyone say “this bowling lane is tight”? Did you understand what they meant by that? Well, no worries if you didn’t. We have the answer for you here!

Basically, when a player says the lane is tight, what the person means is— the lane is 43ft or longer than that, has an excessive volume of oil, and there is not enough room for error. On such heavily slick lanes, you cannot control your ball motion as you usually do on other lane patterns. The tendency of your ball to go straight is more likely, as the heavy oil prohibits the ball to hook much on the lane.

A tight lane can mean a lot of things to a lot of players. Some personally believe that tight lanes mean tight backends. This means when you carry down a duller ball, it burns up and provides less reaction on the backend. Many bowling centers often renew their lane conditioning machines and they do it using a stripper. That leads to poor machine functionality and maintenance that prevent the stripper to work properly and hence you get below-standard ball performance.

So, yes, tight lanes do not always mean unwanted heavy volume and less miss room. You can experience poorly maintained backends with THS that will make you feel that the lane is tight. Even a reactive resin bowling ball won’t be able to help you with friction.


Bowling goes beyond throwing the ball at the right time, making the right moves, and knowing how and where to play. Indeed the execution of the perfect shot is an unavoidable matter for being victorious. Your score depends on that. Knowing breakpoints and learning how to set targets for better shots are important. This article has given you a clear knowledge about what this is and how to make decisions when you see a bunch of matters factor in together. So be well-prepped before your next tournament or league game.


I’m an aspiring bowler with an immense love for bowling. I started playing the game at a very early age and it’s been an integral part of my life ever since.

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