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Weekly Q&A with our favorite PBA Hall of Famer, Len Nicholson!!

Good morning, y’all!! Getting a late start this morning, but HAPPY WEDNESDAY!!

How about we check in with our favorite PBA Hall of Famer and Podcast host, Len Nicholson, for a little Q&A? I’ll go first to get us started, but y’all (@everyone)drop some questions in the comments as well. Lenny knows everything and everyone one in bowling, especially the legends, so fire away.

Here’s my question… We’ve talked about lane conditions A LOT because well, you’re you, the original lane man. But running tournaments I often wonder, is it really helpful for bowlers to know the pattern before the tournament? And, why or why not?

Vincent Ortiz

Just gonna put this out there. Back in the day when Len was dressing the lanes, by hand I might add the tour players had to figure out for themselves what ball to use and how to use it. There wasn’t a graph to look at, there wasn’t any info from him given on length or volume, there wasn’t even a thought on topography! And from that era came a lot of bowlers that are still bowling on tour. Mostly the senior tours but still out there.

Does anyone know what pattern is used at nationals? No but from previous years you bowl it you begin to learn how to bowl nationals.

Does anyone know the typical house shot you bowl on? Again no but you learn to adjust and figure it out each and every week.

So in my humble opinion just once try a unknown pattern and don’t reveal it till it completed and see how people liked it or hated it.

Phil Platko does this numerous times thru the season to the junior gold bowlers and yes they complain but they learn from it and adjust..

Len Nicholson

Group expert

Well said, Vincent.

In most sports, players are dealt with unknowns.


"What pitch is coming?"


"What play is the offense going to run?"


"How is the wind going to blow on every hole?"

(those are just a few examples).


Hall of Fame PBA Tournament Director Harry Golden, used to tell the players ......."Let your ball be your guide".

Vincent Ortiz

Len Nicholson well I had to opportunity to work at Gable House Bowl back in the day when I first saw you dressing the lanes by hand and had the chance to hear the players talk about what they were seeing with each other. Quite the experience I must say, to watch guys like Pete Weber, Amleto , Parker Bohn, Marshall Holman just to name a few man were they good.

Len Nicholson

Vincent Ortiz YEP - them were the days. Gable House is gone and many of the all time greats, are as well. The human race (in general) are like bowlers. By that I mean - times change (like lanes) & humans must make adjustments.

Sherri Morgan White

Vincent Ortiz

As you know, with each scratch only event I’ve done, I’ve only revealed the pattern length prior to the event. After the event, I’ve shared the pattern graph so everyone could see what they bowled on.

I’ve done this because for the most part, scratch bowlers are typically more experienced and have a better understanding of ball motion. This makes it easier for them to read the lanes to make appropriate adjustments and ball choices.

For handicap events, I typically disclose the pattern prior to the event. Some ask about the pattern, some don’t. My only concern is that bowlers who lack experience will see the pattern graph and get locked in to their idea of how the pattern should play and not make the right adjustments or ball selections and get completely frustrated when it doesn’t play as expected.

Andrea Castillo

Sherri Morgan White hey my friend. Just my 2 cents 😃 most TRUE handicap bowlers are not going to know how to read the pattern graphs, so I wouldn’t worry too much about the bowlers getting stuck on where it should be playing. I’d bet the scratch bowlers are the ones saying that (this pattern isn’t playing like it should). I know I’m guilty of that for sure lol

As one of your Tuesday Tips, you should try to find a video on how to read those graphs.

Victor Letourneau

Vincent Ortiz You know... when Lenny started dressing lanes, everyone had just one rubber ball, so there's that... 😁

Victor Letourneau

I read in an article many years ago that PBA Champ Mike McGrath bowled the entire 1968 season with ONE BALL...

Len Nicholson

Victor Letourneau YES Frenchy, that is true in 1971. BUT, very soon there after came hard plastic, soft plastic, soft (porous) rubber, urethane and on and on. Balls changed, lanes surfaces changed, oils changed, etc, etc. ALL MEANT ADJUSTMENTS.

John Van Metre

Mr Len Nicholson, I have a question for you that is not about oil patterns. My question for you is this; everyone has a point when they are on top of their game and can do whatever they want or need when they want or need to do it. What do we do when we aren’t at the top of our game? We all hit slumps at various times. When you hit your slump/s how did you get out of it? Practice? Time away? New fit? New ball? Try different areas/zones? Trying a different approach or different equipment to tournaments/leagues/practice?

Thank you in advance for your thoughtful answer as I am finding myself stuck in a slump.

Sherri Morgan White

John Van Metre great question😊

John Van Metre

Sherri Morgan White thanks!

Len Nicholson

To me a "slump" is similar to a plane crash. MORE THAN ONE THING IS WRONG. You need a coach that has knowledge and a great set of eyes. I can not guess what your problem is. It could be "this" or "that" or a combination of more than one thing. If you were sick, a doctor would need to examine you and send you for a series test.

GET A COACH - good luck.

Len Nicholson

GREAT question, Sherri.

A carpenter needs all his tools when going on a job. As does a doctor, OR ANY other worker who uses "tools".

HOWEVER, the great doctors and the great carpenters SHOULD have an idea of what they are going to use.

In my opinion, if you have 20 balls - more than likely, some of them react the same.

Watching the pro's on tv, they have 4 or 5 ready to go. Too much info in advance is not always the answer. I do know what I would do. CURIOUS??

Go ahead and ask.

Sherri Morgan White

Len Nicholson definitely! What would you do?

Len Nicholson

Sherri Morgan White Lanes are not flat

Lanes never play exactly the same from morning to night UNLESS THERE IS A HUGE BLOCK. If that is the case, you only need a ball that is comfortable in your hand because you should hit the pocket every shot. If you aren't striking and everybody else is - it's NOT the ball.


HAVE A SPARE BALL THAT ALLOWS YOU TO MAKE ALL YOR SPARES . If you aren't, work on your spares when you practice.

There is more - a lot more. Be back later.

Tim Smith

Yes 100% helpful and the professional thing to do in my opion.

No one wants to drag in unneeded bowling bags and no one wants to be bowling on pattern only to find out the ball that would have given you the most margin of error is sitting in your trunk our even worse at home.

For example if you have a 1:1 or 1:3 ratio pattern that's 35' I know there are certain balls I need to have in my bag. Also it allows for a better understanding of were the exit point of the ball should be plus our minus a few boards.

Plus depending on the ration of the pattern your going to have a general idea of the scoring pace so in the event the pace is 230 but your shooting 200 you know I need to make a adjustment to be on pace our the flip side.

I am hitting the pocket but the ball is not really going through the rack correctly so I am leaving alot of corner pins and grinding out 205 but it's a very flat pattern I may opt to just control the pocket vs making a adjustment for carry that on flat pattern could lead to splits and now you fall behind the pace of the cut for no reason.

So the information helps in making faster decisions which can lead to better scoring.

Plus there is no down side you still need to make shots.

Also consider why does almost every major tournament PBA,PWBA Major amature tournament all post the pattern.

Sherri Morgan White

All great points. Thanks, Tim😊

Roman Montoya

I say let people know. It’s not often that a lane plays the way it “should”. Too many factors, topography, oil machines that for whatever reason don’t work properly (Queens tournament) to many bowlers not understanding how to play or properly break down patterns…the list goes on. Post it because it’s not going to play like it should anyways

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