Kegel Alcatraz Oil Pattern: What You need to Know

Alcatraz Oil PatternJust like Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, the Alcatraz oil pattern is inescapable, but not impossible (Yes, I’m talking about the 1962 Alcatraz Escape). The Alcatraz bowling oil pattern is a bit tricky, unlike any other Kegel landmark pattern. Even the top-ranked best bowlers can mess up their game if they don’t play this pattern right. Due to its unique features, one needs to be extra careful while facing the challenge of their lifetime on this bowling lane pattern. If you’re here reading this article, I’m assuming you will soon face this oil pattern. So how do you get this pattern under control? Find out what I have said about this challenging bowling oil pattern.

What is the Alcatraz oil pattern?

It is common for bowlers to complain about the Alcatraz oil patterns. Because it is a pattern from Kegel’s sports series, the difficulty of this pattern is totally justifiable. This Alcatraz oil pattern (2038) is a 38 feet long oil pattern with 50 uL (or multi uL) of oil on each board. Yes, the length may give you an easy “escape route” impression, but don’t get fooled by that!

Now, let’s take a look at the overall scenarios of the Alcatraz oil pattern. The total amount of Forward Oil is 13.7 mL and Reverse Oil is 11.15 mL. So you will get a Total Volume Oil of 24.85 mL on this bowling pattern. So, you can see, the volume is pretty decent for a 38 feet distance pattern. However, the ratio is 2.19:1, so the pattern is going to play a little flat.

To lay out this pattern on a lane, the Flex bowling lane conditioning machine is used. Generally, Fire and/or Ice conditioners are applied on the lane with the Flex Lane Machine Program settings. However, your local house may decide to customize the settings a bit if they intend to.

How to bowl on the Alcatraz oil pattern?

Well, you know me! First, what I like to do is use the standard rule of 31 to have a basic idea of where to start. What did we learn earlier? The length is 38 feet. So, as per the formula— Pattern Length (PL) – 31 = number of the board where you can expect to see the breakpoint. So, 38 – 31 = 7. Hence, it would be wise for you should start somewhere close to the 8 board. Don’t go any further than the 9 board.

This pattern forces you to play neutral, meaning, you cannot move too inside because it’s too short to let you do that. Alcatraz also prevents you to play from too outside because it’s too long to handle that. The problem bowlers commonly face is that this lane pattern is way too restricted. You have to be always on point. If you miss your target just by a board, ready to face the consequences.

To better understand this sports bowling pattern, take a look at its pattern sheet. You will immediately notice that Alcatraz is heavily slick in the middle and the outside is also comparatively slicker. So watch your moves, my friends! If you’re intending to move too inside or too outside, don’t forget about the heavy concentration of oil. Remember, control is the key. So just stay consistent and control your equipment without making any mistakes.

Because you can’t move too inside or too outside, your bowling ball should not go completely straight, nor make an extreme curve. To make the best out of the Alcatraz pattern, you will need the right bowling ball and excellent control and accuracy. To achieve that, practice is the key. Go roll your ball on different boards and identify what works for you best.

Considering the volume of Alcatraz, it looks like the pattern won’t break down easily. As a left-hander bowler, you’re more likely to play from the inside. When you notice the lane drying up, you can go for one of these two options- 1. Move a little (let’s say 1 or 2 boards) toward the left. Or, 2. You can switch to a pearl bowling ball with a high-polish finish. Because the pattern is pretty short, you won’t experience any long skids.

Lastly, for my fellow right-handers, don’t forget to have fun keeping the ball to the right. But don’t get too careless or comfortable doing that. If you move a bit too right, your ball will end up breaking farther on the outside and deliver a terrible outcome. Keep an eye on your rev rates and speed. Throwing a little too hard will make your ball go straight into the gutter. Slow rev bowlers are safe on that matter. As long you maintain accuracy and make your ball break on the 7 board, you are good to go.

Which bowling ball is best for this pattern?

In terms of the right bowling ball, the Alcatraz oil pattern is highly controversial. Some say a urethane bowling ball is a big no-no, while others claim a urethane bowling ball is an ultimate savior. But here’s what I believe— avoid stronger bowling balls at all costs! They are always hard to control which is exactly the opposite of what you need to play this pattern.

If you roll a weaker ball near the second arrow and successfully make sure the ball doesn’t go any further out than 8 or 9 board, then you’re pretty safe. If you think a stronger bowling ball will help open up your angles, you’re wrong! Don’t make this mistake that many bowlers often do.

If you think urethane bowling balls will do you good, go for Hammer Black Urethane bowling ball without any second thought! If you’re opting for solid reactives, the Hammer Web Tour is a nice pick, I guarantee you!

Choosing a bowling ball with great accuracy and amazing controllable backend will do you good. The Motiv Tribal, Motiv Venom Shock, Radical Conspiracy, Motiv Primal Rage, Ebonite Aero, Motiv Raptor Talon (with a bit of surface), etc are some of the good options if you want to see satisfactory results on this challenging sports oil pattern called Alcatraz. The Roto Grip MVP and Storm Snap Lock are also some excellent choices.


That’s it for today, folks! That’s all I had to say about this terrific oil pattern. Remember, this is just a basic guideline for better understanding this oil pattern, not an entire tutorial. So without further ado, grab your bowling ball and start preparing for your big day. Nothing can stop you once you are well-practiced. Take care and Good luck!    


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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