Claremont — To the non-bowler, the new lanes at Maple Lanes are beautiful, clean and much improved in appearance from the old faded and discolored wooden lanes.
The regular bowler sees much more.
“Theoretically, it is more uniform across the lanes,” said Tristan McMullen, 17, of Windsor, who bowled a 299 last week on one of the new lanes.
The synthetic material, called phenolic, is a laminate that is installed in sections. Its chief advantage is that is does not wear like wood so it will last a lot longer. Worn areas on wood can affect the movement of the ball, as well.
Maple Lanes manager Shawn Fitzpatrick and his son, Shawn “Ditto” Fitzpatrick, are overseeing the installation of synthetic lanes at the center’s 24 lanes, 16 of which are 10-pin and eight are candlepin.
The synthetic lanes and approach areas might be familiar to some area bowlers: They were purchased from the old Upper Valley Lanes and Games in White River Junction, which closed in August 2013.
Maple Lanes also bought the pin setters, electronic scoring and ball returns from Lanes and Games.
The younger Fitzpatrick said Claremont was one of only two bowling centers in the state that still had wood, Laconia being the other. The wooden lanes in Claremont were more than 40 years old and as the years went by, they had be sanded and also “cut” on occasion.
“We had one cut left” before they would have had to replace them, Fitzpatrick said. “As you can see, this gives it a more modern look.”
The lanes are being installed by Gold Crown Bowling Service of Massachusetts.
“It is similar to synthetic flooring but thicker,” said Steve Shomphe of Gold Crown. “Bowlers like it a lot.”
Not only does it wear better than wood, the oil applied on synthetic lanes, which creates spin on the ball, is not absorbed into the material.
“The oil holds better,” said Fitzpatrick, a member of the bowling team at Vincennes University in Indiana, one of the top bowling schools in the country. “On wood it dries up.”
Bowlers know that a change in the location or consistency of the oil as a game goes affects the spin, also called the hook.
“The less oil, the more of a hook on the ball,” Fitzpatrick said. “The more oil, the less it hooks.”
Bowlers have their preference — synthetic or wood — based mostly on what they are used to.
Shawn Wadsworth, 44, of Claremont has been bowling since he was 5 and admits to being partial to wood, simply because that is what he grew up using.
But he understands the long-term benefits of synthetics.
“It is definitely an upgrade,” said Wadsworth, coach of the Stevens High School bowling team. “These will last a lot longer, so it is a good thing for the lanes.”
What bowlers who were accustomed to wood will have to get used to is how the oil on synthetic lanes tends to get pushed down the lane toward the pins during a game. That means the spin is different later in the game.
“It reduces the friction so the ball does not spin as much,” Wadsworth said. “It is an adjustment” for those used to the wood.
Since the closing of the White River Junction site, Maple Lanes has seen an increase in the number of teams during the Tuesday night league from 11 to 16. Wadsworth said he thinks more will join now that they will have the synthetic lanes.
“I think people will start moving down here so we may start a league on another night,” Wadsworth said.
John LaPlante, of Claremont, is one of those who bowled at Upper Valley Lanes and Games two nights a week and now will be in Claremont.
“These lanes have been well taken care of,” he said. The elder Fitzpatrick said the owner of Maple Lanes, Jay Meyer, of New Jersey, picks one project a year to do and this year the choice was obvious.
“When this opportunity arrived, it was a no-brainer to purchase the lanes,” his son said. “We think it will increase our customer base.”
Patrick O’Grady can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.