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How to Play the Sphinx Oil Pattern?

How to Play the Sphinx Oil Pattern? - Bowlingview

Bowling is a fun sport that requires both technique and strategy.

While you might have a great throw, the condition of the lane can significantly affect your bowling ball’s trajectory.

For the uninitiated, bowling lanes are not flat and dry; they are coated with oil patterns that can vary widely, making each game unpredictable and exciting.

This guide focuses on one specific pattern, the Sphinx Oil Pattern.

This pattern will challenge even the seasoned bowler, but fear not! We’ll guide you on how to tackle this tricky pattern, adjust your throws, and increase your chances of striking success.

Understanding Bowling Lane Oil Patterns

What are Sport Patterns?

In bowling, sport patterns are conditions created on the lane by the way oil is applied from gutter to gutter.

These patterns are designed to challenge bowlers and test their skills. They have a lower ratio of oil in the middle of the lane to the side of the lanes, leaving less room for error.

In comparison, the PBA (Professional Bowlers Association) uses various bowling sport patterns in their tournaments to keep the competition competitive and exciting.

Among these sport patterns, you’ll find the Sphinx pattern. Part of Kegel’s Middle East category of sport shots, the Sphinx pattern presents a unique challenge to any bowler.

It has a length of 40 feet, which isn’t too short or too long, but the way the oil is applied and its volume make it a tricky pattern to master.

Decoding the Sphinx Pattern

Named after the Great Sphinx of Giza, the Sphinx pattern has an oil layout similar to the reverse image of a sphinx.

This pattern’s total oil volume is relatively high, which makes it an oily pattern. Its ratio is also flat, meaning there’s oil evenly distributed from the gutter to gutter, creating an equal amount of friction across the lane. This flat oil condition will test your precision because there’s less room for error; if you miss your spot, the ball reaction can be unpredictable.

Equipment and Preparations

Before we dive into the steps to play the Sphinx pattern, let’s review the “must-have” and “nice-to-have” items for this guide.

Category Equipment/Preparations Description
Must-Have Bowling Ball A reactive ball is ideal for the Sphinx pattern. Reactive balls are made of material that grips the lane better, offering a hook advantage when hitting the pins.
Shoes Specialized bowling shoes offer better control and stability on the approach and during the throw.
Nice-to-Have Bowling Glove A bowling glove can aid in providing a more consistent throw, as it stabilizes the wrist and gives better grip on the ball.
Microfiber Towel A microfiber towel is used to keep the bowling ball clean. During a game, oil from the lane, along with dirt and dust, can accumulate on the ball’s surface, potentially affecting its performance. Wiping down the ball with a microfiber towel can ensure that it maintains consistent performance throughout the game.

Playing the Sphinx Oil Pattern – Step by Step

Step 1: Understand the “Rule of 31”

In bowling, the “Rule of 31” is a simple guide to determine where your ball should break toward the pocket (where the headpin is). You subtract 31 from the total length of the oil pattern to find the breakpoint. For the Sphinx pattern (40 feet long), your breakpoint should be around the 9th board from the gutter.

Step 2: Choose Your Starting Position and Target

Stand on the side of the lane opposite to your bowling hand (left side if you’re right-handed and vice versa). Aim your bowling ball to hit the spot around the middle of the lane at the breakpoint. For right-handers, this would be around the second arrow from the right gutter.

Step 3: Apply the Correct Throw

The Sphinx pattern tends to play better with a straighter trajectory. Given its even oil distribution, you don’t want to hook the ball too much; otherwise, it might end up in the gutter or miss the pocket. Your throw should be straight and strong, aiming at your target spot.

Step 4: Adjust and Adapt

In the early stages, the lane condition is at its oiliest. As the game progresses, the oil will wear and transition due to the bowling balls rolling down the lane. You’ll need to adjust your target spot and the amount of hook you apply. If your ball starts to skid too much, move your starting position a bit to the inside and aim more towards the center of the lane.

Step 5: Practice and Learn

Bowling on sport patterns like the Sphinx is a learning process. You might encounter many styles of play that work. Continue practicing, monitor your ball’s reaction, take advantage of the dry areas as the game progresses, and you’ll soon be on your way to mastering the Sphinx oil pattern!

Pros and Cons of Playing the Sphinx Oil Pattern

Just like any other oil pattern, playing the Sphinx oil pattern comes with its advantages and disadvantages. Your experience with this pattern will largely depend on your skill level, adaptability, and understanding of the game. Let’s look at some pros and cons of playing the Sphinx Oil Pattern.


  1. Skill Improvement: The Sphinx pattern is challenging, and it can significantly enhance your bowling skills. By learning to play this pattern, you’ll develop better control, precision, and consistency with your throws.
  2. Understanding Lane Transition: The Sphinx pattern forces you to understand and adjust to lane transitions better. It teaches you how to observe changes in the lane condition and alter your strategy accordingly.
  3. Versatility: Playing the Sphinx pattern can make you a more versatile bowler. The knowledge and skills you gain can be applied to other sport patterns, improving your overall game.
  4. Enhanced Strategy: The Sphinx pattern encourages strategic thinking. You must continuously adapt and modify your throw, which can lead to improved decision-making abilities in bowling.
  5. Better Ball Control: The Sphinx oil pattern, due to its challenging nature, will necessitate better ball control. This improves your ability to throw straight and accurately, crucial for any bowling game.


  1. High Difficulty Level: For beginners or casual bowlers, the Sphinx pattern can be daunting due to its even oil distribution and length. The margin for error is significantly reduced compared to more common house patterns.
  2. Requires Adaptability: If you are not used to changing your bowling strategy in response to changing lane conditions, you might find the Sphinx pattern challenging. The oil wear and transition require constant adjustments in your throws.
  3. Precision is Key: Unlike other patterns where you can sometimes get away with a less than perfect throw, the Sphinx pattern is unforgiving. Any slight error can lead to missed pins or gutter balls.
  4. Demanding on Equipment: Playing the Sphinx pattern could require more specific or higher-end bowling equipment (like reactive bowling balls) to get the best results.
  5. May be Frustrating: For those used to seeing high scores on house patterns, the shift to a challenging pattern like Sphinx might be initially frustrating. It takes time and practice to achieve high scores on this pattern.

Final Thoughts

Bowling on the Sphinx pattern is challenging, yet it’s an excellent opportunity to improve your game.

With its even oil distribution and length, it forces you to focus on precision, strategy, and adjusting to lane transitions.

Hopefully, with this guide, you are better equipped to face this sport pattern and take your game to the next level. Remember, every error is a chance to learn and grow as a bowler.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Sphinx oil pattern can be a difficult one to master, depending on your skill level.

It requires pinpoint accuracy and good decision-making skills as you try to move the weight of the cue ball around the table.

Once you understand the basic principles behind it, however, it can become second nature and you will be able to use this pattern effectively in your games.

The best bowling ball to use on the Sphinx oil pattern is a medium to heavy oily/reactive resin ball.

This type of ball will provide enough traction and hook through the heads, allowing for better control of the breakpoint and overall shot accuracy.

Additionally, a medium-heavy weight will help you generate more power when needed. Choosing the right coverstock for your game can also be beneficial in maintaining optimal performance across all oil patterns.

The best line to play on the Sphinx oil pattern is a high-risk, high-reward type of shot that puts your accuracy and strategic decision-making skills to the test.

It requires playing tight angles off the rails or cushions with minimal deflection while using a low spin ball for maximum control. When executed properly, this pattern can provide you with excellent options for pocketing balls and setting up future shots.

To make it even easier, using a Low Deflection (LD) cue with a softer tip helps maximize spin production even more.

Some tips for bowling on the Sphinx oil pattern include: choose a medium to heavy oily/reactive resin ball to provide enough traction and hook through the heads; play a high-risk, high-reward line that requires playing tight angles off the rails or cushions while using a low spin ball for maximum control; utilize Low Deflection (LD) cues with softer tips to maximize spin production.

Additionally, practice your timing and accuracy when executing shots as this pattern offers excellent options for pocketing balls and setting up future shots. Lastly, it is important to understand how the different aspects of your equipment interact with each oil pattern so you can make informed decisions about which type of shot you should take.

To calculate your breakpoint on the Sphinx oil pattern, you need to factor in the texture of the lane surface, along with the weight and type of bowling ball that you are using.

For example, lighter balls such as plastic or polyester balls will have a shorter breakpoint than heavier balls like urethane and reactive resin balls.

You can also adjust your speed and angle of attack to better hit your desired breakpoint on this pattern.

Additionally, it is important to monitor how much oil is left in certain areas of the lane as this can drastically change where your desired breakpoint should be. Finally, taking practice shots with different equipment may be necessary to determine which type of shot works best for you on any given lane condition.