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Lawn Bowls - delivering the bowl

Updated on June 26, 2008

The whole essence of the game of bowls is getting your bowl to exactly where you want it to be, which means sending it down the green in the right direction and at the right speed. You must decide what are the correct line to aim for and the force that will be needed to do the job, but these will not be achieved if your technique is all wrong.

There are therefore some premlinaries that you need to get right, because unless you do, your efforts will get you nowhere!

Holding the bowl

There is no absolute right and wrong here, as each player must do what works for them. The pictures on the right show two alternatives. In the first picture, the fingers are spread out underneath the bowl and the thumb provides support on one side. The weight of the bowl is held by the fingers and thumb and not the palm of the hand. You will see that the edge of the bowl has a ring of indentations on each side. These are known as "grips" and are intended to help the thumb grip the bowl more securely. (Not all bowls have grips, by the way).

In the second picture, the bowl is "cradled" rather than gripped. The fingers and thumb are not spread out and the bowl is supported mainly in the palm of the hand. This is a less popular way of holding the bowl than that shown above, although it is the method that I prefer myself. As it happens, that is my hand doing the holding here!

Both pictures are of left-handed bowlers who are about to send a forehand delivery, meaning that the bowl will bend from left to right as it rolls up the green. You can see the small club sticker on the bowl, which tells the bowler which way round to hold the bowl. For a backhand shot, the bowl would be held the other way round. For a right-hander, forehand means a bowl turning from right to left, and backhand means one going from left to right.

Stand and Deliver!

The rules state that at least one foot must be on or over the mat at the point of delivery, but that leaves plenty of room for choice as to how you arrange your feet when preparing to bowl. The important thing is that you are well-balanced and in control of the bowl at all times.

In the top picture, the bowler has one foot slightly in front of the other, but in the second the feet are parallel. I would suggest that the second bowler is more likely to be balanced than the first. Also, the feet should point in the direction that the bowl is going to go, which will not be in a straight line for most shots. Again, the bowler in the top picture appears to be pointing his feet straight down the mat, which is likely to mean that he will be sending his bowl on a line other than that in which his body is pointing, which is not recommended.

The bowling action of most bowlers is to bring the arm back at the same time as the opposite foot moves forwards. That foot should be firmly in place by the time that the arm comes forwards and releases the bowl at ground level, alongside the forward foot.

However, some bowlers prefer to place the foot in postion before taking the arm back, and that is entirely their choice - whatever works best for you is the right thing to do.

Many bowlers have a bad habit of releasing the bowl above ground level and letting it hit the ground a foot or more in front of them. Not only is this practice less likely to produce good results, but it also risks damaging the green. You will never see a good greenkeeper who bowls like this!

As the bowl is released, the arm should follow through and end up pointing in the direction that the bowl has travelled. It is worth practising the arm motion and getting someone else to watch exactly what you do. One of the most common faults in bowling is for the arm to come across the body rather than go in a straight line. This will send the bowl "narrow", rather like a hook shot in golf, and it will end up a long way from where you want it!

Aiming the bowl

For a "draw" shot, in which you want your bowl to end up close to the jack without necessarily moving it or any other bowls, you must send the bowl along a line that will allow it to describe an arc, going away from the jack to start with but then swinging back towards it as it slows down.

Different weights and makes of bowl have different properties as to how much they swing as they move down the green. You will soon get to know your bowls and therefore how much "green" to give them.

There are all sorts of conditions that can apply to a particular delivery and determine whether you need more or less green on a specific occasion. These can include the state of the particular green you are bowling on, for example, whether it runs fast or slow, or whether it has "runs" in it that make a bowl run off course. If you are bowling to a short jack you will need more green than if bowling to a long jack, because a bowl swings more when running slowly, and you need less speed for a short jack. Even the strength of the wind can effect how a bowl runs.

When you have decided the line you want to take, focus on a point and bowl in that direction, without looking at the jack itself. The point could be a mark on the bank at the far end of the green, another bowl that has already been sent, or even the foot of a player who is standing behind the "head" and facing towards you. When starting to play, your skip may indicate the line you need to bowl at.

When you have released the bowl, stay on the mat for a few seconds to watch the course that the bowl follows. You will learn from this whether your delivery has been correct, and whether you chose the right line. Do NOT, under any circumstances, run down the green in pursuit of your bowl. It holds up the game and greenkeepers hate it when players do this!

Wrong bias

A final tip about delivering the bowl. Always check which way round you are holding the bowl before you send it. If you are trying to send a forehand delivery and you are holding it as if for a backhand shot, it will go merrily on its way and, instead of going from right to left (for a right-hander) go from left to right, and probably right off the rink altogether. This is called "wrong bias", leading not only to a wastewd shot bus also considerable merriment on the part of all the other bowlers and the bill for the first round in the bar landing on you!

Talking of which, the last picture above shows a perfect delivery - of the drinks, that is!


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