PBA TECH TALK - Chris Barnes

PBA TECH TALK by Ted Thompson
BOWLING Magazine November 2001
Reprinted with permission from the USBC

Barnes uses different grips on strike, spare balls to achieve a unique level of versatility

One of the most versatile players on the Professional Bowlers Association Tour today is 1998 Rookie of the Year, 2000 points and average champion and former TEAM USA member Chris Barnes. Barnes arrived on tour with a very impressive amateur resume. His start on the PBA Tour however, was more like a turbine engine. It started a little slow, but now appears to have kicked into full gear.

The reason for Barnes’ success is because he’s applying his full bag of versatile tricks. Barnes has demonstrated he can compete by playing the lanes very straight when needed, by hooking the ball a lot when needed, and by doing almost anything in between. It’s no wonder he made more PBA TV finals than anyone else in 2000.

Unfortunately, PBA history suggests that to become a consistent winner, a player must do something unique to gain that edge that results in many victories. It isn’t always advantageous to do a number of things well versus one thing great to be a star on the PBA Tour. However, if anybody can make versatility his friend, and start winning consistently in today’s environment, it’s Barnes.

Chris Barnes does one thing unique with his choice of grips. Yes, grips. He uses a certain grip for his strike balls and a different grip for his spare balls. His strike ball grip is tailored to be released in a number of ways. By using a semi-finger tip grip, he is able to roll out of it, hit it hard, or even spin it when the conditions call for it. Barnes uses 1⁄16" forward thumb pitch, which allows him to stay very relaxed with his grip pressure. This enables him to have great feel at the release point so he can throw the ball any way he sees fit.

Barnes’ spare ball is actually 5⁄16" longer in span (relaxed fingertip grip) and he increases his reverse pitch in his thumb. This allows him to break his wrist back to “kill” the amount of revolutions and allows him to stay behind it to make the ball roll more end-over-end. This grip and release technique limits the chance for the ball to change direction, which eliminates the chance of the lane coming into play. In shooting at most spares, that’s what the game is all about.

Barnes’ favorite layouts are much like most of today’s power players, leaning toward weaker pin placements and/or weaker weight blocks to control flair potential for maximum control. In PBA competition, hitting the pocket is never a given. The name of the game is control. Barnes has learned this philosophy very well over the last couple of years and the proof has been in his results.

One trick Barnes has used on occasion is trying to get his ball to “burn up” to control the pocket. This is done by using a ball with a strong core and strong cover stock so it will actually hook less on the backend to control the pocket. This combination takes a lot of knowledge and talent to work, and the player needs to know when to put it to rest.

One of Barnes’ strengths is playing the deep inside line. Barnes plays this line as well as anybody on the planet. His layout choice for a deep inside line is usually a 6" pin placement from his positive axis point (PAP) with the center of gravity “kicked out” just a bit, and no extra balance hole. Barnes also will choose balls with higher flare potentials and slightly weaker cover stocks. He uses this layout when there is a defined hook spot on the lanes, or when the lanes are a little more forgiving.

On very short patterns, or conditions where he has to play the extreme outside line, Barnes will also use a very weak pin placement and vary the strength of the cover stock depending on the amount of oil; the more oil, the stronger the cover stock.

When Barnes won his second PBA title in the 1998 Portland Open playing the 2 board (the original Cheetah pattern developed by Kegel), he used a pin 6 3/4" from his positive axis point, basically in his track. This put the weight block in a very stable position and took away all flare potential. This created a very predictable ball reaction and a straighter move into the pocket.

Barnes’ favorite layouts are much like most of today’s power players, leaning toward weaker pin placements and/or weaker weight blocks to control flair potential for maximum control.


On tougher lane conditions, or when there less of a defined hook spot, Barnes will choose equipment that has less flare potential. The differential Rg in these balls are usually .035 or less. He then strengthens the pin placements to 4 1⁄2" from his PAP and places an extra hole usually either on or slightly off his PAP. This, Barnes said, “creates more mid-lane reaction and makes the adjustment process more predictable.”

If the lanes have a lot of oil, he will choose a higher load particle ball and use a pin placement 5" from his PAP. Barnes likes to use larger extra holes in many layouts for balls for tougher lane patterns, lowering the RG (radius of gyration) value of a ball, which helps it rev up sooner. He can then be more aggressive with his ball speed. Since Barnes is one of the most intense competitors on tour, he can tend to get a little pumped up. That personality trait lends itself to higher ball speeds so the extra holes help keep the ball from over skidding and therefore reading the lane at a point that is more comfortable to his eye.

With his victory in the PBA Greater Nashville Open in October 2001, Barnes has now won three National Tour titles on three distinctively different lane conditions. His first title was in Erie Pa, on one of the highest PBA scoring environments ever. His second was in Portland Oregon playing the extreme outside line. In Nashville, he won on the challenging ABC 2:1 Ratio Sport Bowling condition under a new tournament format.

In my book, that’s the definition of versatility at the highest level and its talent that should keep Barnes on our picture tubes for years to come. ■ Bowling November 2001

Ted Thompson

Ted Thompson began his career in the bowling business in 1976 at the age of 15 working for the Florida based Galaxy Lanes chain. Beginning from the ground up in center operations, he has also been a long time Pro Shop proprietor, 40 lane center General Manager, PBA National Tour player, multi PBA Regional Champion, PBA Player Services Director, and even a bowling writer. Since 2004 he has been working with Kegel.

Ted has also coached bowling on many different levels. From basic Learn to Bowl classes and private lessons while in the Pro Shop business, he was also head coach for Florida State University, countless PBA professionals, and even coached Lisa Wagner to her last Player of the Year award in 1993. While working for the PBA, the late great Dick Weber even asked for some of his time. An experience Ted says "he will always cherish". Dick immediately won a Senior Sweeper and gave him $300. It was the most Ted ever received for an hour lesson, and it came from one of the greatest players of all time.

Recently, Ted has been deeply studying topography and the effects it has on ball motion. He is also on the Kegel Team helping make decisions for many of the oil patterns Kegel uses in competitions world wide, which has led to further development of Kegel's lane machines. Ted has a complete and unique understanding of bowling from many different sides.

Ted also named the world's and Kegel's most popular lane machine the "Kustodian ION" (pronounced "EON" in Europe) and spearheaded the creation of Kegel's Navigation Oil Patterns. The creativity may be heredity. In 1968 Ted's father created the famous Dodge Super Bee logo and spearheaded that marketing campaign.