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Saturday, February 24, 2024

The Strategy of Really Long Ends at Lawn Bowls

In the northern hemisphere, on slow rinks, the most frequently adopted strategy in lawn bowling contests is to deliver very long jacks when the opposing team seems to prefer something shorter. 

Even so many bowlers underestimate the effectiveness of this strategy because they do not realize how dramatically the average bowler’s line control falls off as the jack length increases. As jack length trends towards full length each additional meter of length is responsible for a greater and greater decline in accuracy. 

That is to say, many bowlers underestimate the significance of jack length because they confuse ‘longish ends’ with ‘really long ends’. I would characterize ‘really long ends’ as being only those within 1 meter or less of full length (T to T).  It is on these ‘really long ends’ that the performance of many bowlers falls off precipitously.

“Aha,” you may say, “but to gain the advantage you claim, your lead must be able to consistently deliver these ‘really long jacks.’ “

“Well,” I say, “practice it.”

 Delivering a small white ball to within 3 meters of the forward ditch without any substantial need for line control is really not very hard for anyone. Besides, all that happens if your side does ditch the jack is that the other side gets their chance, and from what I have seen they don’t pay much attention to their delivery at all!

So the situation is this. You get a chance to deliver the jack for a ‘really long end’ for which your side has trained or is naturally advantaged. If you succeed in getting the jack you desire, you are odds on to win the end and furthermore you retain the jack. On the other hand, if your side makes a mistake rolling the jack it suffers no significant penalty!

Where can you find odds like that?

Saturday, February 17, 2024

When Your In-Match Performance Starts to Crumble— Do This

Suppose you are competing in a lawn bowling competition and doing fine when suddenly both your line control and weight control collapse all at once. What has happened? What should you do?

Don’t just push on, bear down, and try to concentrate harder mentally. This is a good way to continue losing— end after end. That is what I did last week. 

Don’t start telling yourself that you just don’t know how to bowl and you should make a mental note to give up the game. No. You can play well. You were doing so just a few ends ago!

It is my experience that when your game just suddenly collapses, it is one of two things. Either (i) you have suddenly made a small change in your delivery motion or (ii) you have started leaving out steps in your predelivery routine.

I have already written blogs about the frequent mistake that I fall into  respecting delivery motion. For me, that mistake is failing to get my forward-stepping foot firmly grounded before I start my bowling arm’s swing forward.

Instead, when both weight control and line control both fail suddenly in the middle of a match, the problem probably relates to a deviation in your pre-delivery routine.

The first thing to do is to slow everything down. Step off the mat. Signal that you need more information from the skip. Take off your jacket. Put on your jacket. Do something to give yourself time to mentally review all the individual items that are part of your pre-delivery routine. Then slowly and methodically perform those individual steps.

For the purpose of example, I will list all the steps in my pre-delivery routine:

 standing about a meter behind the mat, I receive any instructions from the person controlling the head

I identify an immovable object on or behind the forward bank that will mark one end of my imaginary aim-line

I adjust my position depending upon the shot (forehand or backhand or drive) so that I am standing on the aim line

I check my bias

assuming a semi-squatting position (a la David Bryant) I look along the imaginary aim line that runs to the preselected object at the forward ditch and I pick a point on my aim line to be my stare point 

I adopt the Shooter’s stance with my feet

I grip the bowl comfortably with my regular grip

I adjust the elevation my body so my non-bowling hand can rest comfortably on the knee of my stepping leg

I visualize the path of my bowl as it travels to its planned finishing point 

Waggling my bowling arm I make slight swinging motions along and over my aim line

I relax the muscles in my bowling arm

With my eyes stare fixedly at my stare point

With my mind I concentrate on drawing my bowling arm back along and over my aim line

As you can see my predelivery routine is rather extensive. Perhaps that is why I am regarded as an annoyingly slow bowler. Perhaps you can find other better advice that can simplify and accelerate your preparation. I can’t help there. What I can say is that doing this recalibration, I have been able to get back into the groove required for consistent good bowling!

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Do Average Lawn Bowlers Frequently Forget their Proper Aim Lines?


In one of my old blogs on this Greenbowler site, I admitted that in tournaments I often keep a business card in my pocket, and on the back of it I record my aim points on the forward banks for forehand and backhand deliveries in both directions. The reason-- too often I  have difficulty remembering these aim lines during a contest.

I thought perhaps that this was a unique failing of mine but a situation arose today playing in a roll-up at Valverde LBC that seemed to increase the likelihood that others might be encountering the same forgetfulness.

We were playing on a rink that quite remarkably had very narrow aim lines on both the forehand and the backhand for the   odd-numbered ends. While normally on the Valverde green aim lines running to the boundary markers on each side of the rink are approximately correct, on this rink in one of the directions the aim angle was 1/2 that. Since all the players were quite competent it was quite apparent whenever someone forgot the proper aim line and reverted to the more regular target- the boundary markers. When anyone did that, their bowl finished glaringly wide.

What I observed was that when players delivered shots that they clearly intended to draw to the jack, many of these, from a plurality of the different players, finished very wide indicating that those people had not remembered that this rink was distinctly narrow on both hands.

My conclusion is that more than just I might benefit from some jotting on a slip of paper in their pocket reminding them of the correct aim lines- forehand and backhand. 

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Speed of Play as a Strategic Consideration at Lawn Bowls

When they are in serious competition, the Greenbowler blog has consistently advised readers to use variations in jack length and mat position in their tactical and strategic planning. But it appears there is another variable that I haven’t presented adequately. The reason was I just didn’t consider it that important. When other literature mentioned it, I discounted those claims.

Today, at Valverde LBC, I played a 21-up singles match in which my opponent acknowledged to me after the match that what I had discounted up ’til now was what seriously upset his game- more than any other element. At the same time, he sportingly acknowledged that the practice was completely within the rules.

What had happened was this. My strategy, whenever I had the mat, was to never play an end from the 2 meter line; and never play two ends in succession from the same mat position; but almost always play either short or medium-length jacks. I managed to execute this plan but according to my opponent, the reason it worked was that it slowed the game down “more than any game I have ever played.”

I have no doubt that his observation was truthful. Even in a game where every end is played without the mat shifting off either T, I am a slower player; and that is when only 4 stare points and a single weight need to be identified and remembered. So, a slow delivery added together with constant moving and centering the mat (he nearly always placed the mat back as far as possible and delivered long jacks ) and a closely matched competition in a 21-up match would all conspire to draw it out. 

The take-home lesson I came to learn from the match was that steadily playing a different pace of game can upset an opponent’s concentration far more than I would ever have imagined. That slowing of play can substantially and fairly be achieved with mat movement.  

Monday, December 18, 2023

Choosing Bowl Size When Bowling with a Bowling Arm at Lawn Bowls

During a visit with a friend in Sun City Arizona, I was advised that since he now played with a bowling arm, he now used a number 4 bowl instead of the number 3 because grasping the bowl in one’s hand was no longer relevant.

This got me thinking. Why stop there? The larger the bowl’s diameter the more measurements your side is going to win and the better your score!

A size 00 bowl, (and these smaller bowls are becoming more and more popular), has a diameter of 116 mm. While the size 6 is  128.5 mm in diameter. If the centers of these two bowls are the same distance from a jack, the size 6 bowl’s outside edge will be 6.25 mm closer than the size 00’s outside edge. In close measurements between the two, the large bowl will win handily.

Even in the case of my friend, Bob, who could have switched from a number 3 to a number 6, the change would place him 2.25 mm closer to the jack on each delivery (so long as the bowls don’t stay on edge ). 

These largest-diameter bowls are now unpopular and a set can be picked up cheaply second-hand. Players using bowling arms should start picking these up for their own advantageous use!

I was given a set of size 7 bowls by the Etobicoke Lawn Bowling Club because no one was interested in them. One of these monsters is pictured!

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Kit for Lawn Bowling



Only flat soled shoes with negligible tread depth are allowed on a bowling green. Clubs may set restrictions on shoe colour as well. 

Sun Screen

Probably the most serious danger to health from lawn bowling is skin cancer from excessive exposure to the sun.

Sun Glasses

The sunshine can be intense on a bowls green. Keeping the illumination comfortable is beneficial for seeing clearly in the short run and vision in general in the long run. If you normally wear spectacles your prescription can be made up to incorporate screening that adapts to the light’s intensity.


A hat protects from the sun’s rays. Depending upon the width and location of its brim it can shield, the face, the ears, and even the back of the neck. The more extensive the brim however the more susceptible it is to being blown off your head and across the green. If your preferred hat is wide-brimmed carry a cap as well for windy conditions.

Water or Sports Drink

To maintain optimal muscle tone, maintaining hydration,

 and simply to remain comfortable you will need some form of liquid. 

Set of Bowls

A single set of four bowls that you are familiar with is enough. For social bowls bring four bowls even if the game is advertised to require fewer. The drawmaster may have to place you in a different game to make his numbers work.

The rules of bowls allow bowlers to try out different sets of bowls during the practice ends of serious competitions and then choose one set to play with in the ensuing match. I have never seen this done. Bowlers with multiple sets usually predict the best set in advance when they know the venu.

Alternate Bowls

Different greens play differently. When you are playing on a rink that is not your home club’s, you would like your bowls to follow a delivery arc just the same as you are most accustomed to. One bias cannot achieve this; however, if you have one set of narrower and another wider running bowls you may get close. Before the trial ends start, try out your different sets orthogonal to the direction of the competition. Then confirm (or reverse) this choice by delivering a bowl from each option at the trial ends.

Measuring Tape

Every bowler should carry a measure to be used or to be lent. String tapes and metal tapes are common but string tapes are preferred for serious play.


Toucher bowls must be identified with a chalk mark. For this purpose, regular blackboard or sidewalk chalk can be used. For serious competition, spray chalk is preferred because one does not need to touch the bowl either with your hand (to steady it) or with a solid chalk stick. That way you don't risk flopping a toucher that is on edge. Regular chalk can be used for many additional informal purposes that contribute to a more enjoyable game. Chalk marks can be used to identify the T location at the two-meter line, center rink at the point where the jack is placed, and the point where the center point of the mat’s forward edge is to be positioned.

Chalk Container

If you use regular chalk it can get messy. I use the large-diameter sidewalk chalk that comes in a pack with many different colors. It is useful for marking the Ts and the center line after the bowl gets spotted correctly. This kind of large chalk can give a particularly large mess so I keep it inside one of those plastic containers used for pills; then it can be in your pocket but never mess it up.

Bowls Cloth

The bowls cloth is the small towel that is used for the finishing polish before delivering your bowl. Many bowlers hold it in their free hand during the delivery or stuff it in a pocket. Many bowls keep this cloth moist and wipe their bowls before delivering them because they feel they can better grip a moist bowl.

 It is also recommended that the bowler whose responsibility is measuring should spread his bowls cloth on the ground close to the head and place each scoring bowl onto it as the decision is made; this avoids miscounting. Also, a dry bowls towel is useful for checking the wind speed at local ground level.

Towels (many for wet weather on grass)

Bowls competitions continue usually irrespective of rain. Even if it not actually raining, if the green is wet your bowls will get slippery and pick up grass clippings and mud left by earth worms. You will need quite a few larger absorbent rags to get through a match. Also, you may need to lend to other team members who are less prepared.


Grippo is a trade name that has gone generic. It is a sticky cream that when thinly coated on a bowl makes it less likely to slip out of your hand in wet or cold weather. There are many formulations. On the bowl, it will feel tacky but will not hinder your release.

Bowling Glove

While some people use Grippo, others wear a glove on their bowling hand to get a firm grip. 

Old Nylon Stocking or Discarded, Ripped Pantyhose

If you use some form of Grippo the neatest way to smooth it onto your bowls is to first roughy apply it all over with your hand and then smear it evenly by sliding the bowl back and forth inside the expandable nylon cylinder of the above. 

Short Pencil

A skip must have some means of keeping the score. This responsibility cannot be delegated according to the Laws of Bowls. The drawmaster usually has extra pencils if you forget yours but it's better to be well prepared.

Scorecard Holder

The drawmaster or bowls club will supply a scorecard but it is not printed on stock firm enough to write on. One needs something at the back of the scorecard. I have attached an image of my scorecard holder. It includes an elastic band since scorecards come in different lengths.


I have a scorecard holder but the scorecard is often too wide or too long to fit onto it. I have a small pair of scissors to trim the scorecard to fit the holder. Usually, only the border of the card needs trimming.

Wet Weather Gear

A bowler must be prepared to continue playing even in heavy rain. 

A water-repellant jacket and water-repellant pants are therefore advisable. This clothing should not just be water-resistant; it should be water-impermeable! Most of these jackets are equipped with a hood that will go up over a simple cap. The peak of the cap is important to keep the hood out of your eyes. This clothing should go on over your regular bowling outfit so that it can be quickly donned or doffed as the weather shifts. The problem with most is that there is no ventilation so you perspire inside. i it is hot weather only use it for heavy rain.


This is optional. In a tournament some snack food will normally be supplied between games; however, many players have their own preferences and bring that food with them.

Small Index Cards to Record Bias

Only I do this. As a match proceeds, I keep a record of my aim lines both on the forehand and the backhand for both odd and even ends. I see that players often forget the correct lines during a game and waste some bowls. If I'm in doubt I can check! When an aim line changes during play, I alter my record.


Any time after all the bowls have been played in an end any player, who senses that a bowl that might be in the count might fall over thereby changing its distance from the jack, may wedge that bowl so that it stays standing in its position. Although this can be done with any suitable object that comes to hand it is useful to have something designed for the task. 


It is a universal safety rule that a player cannot put up an umbrella on the green. The reason for this is that the shaft significantly increases the chance of being hit by lightning. However, a small umbrella can be used on the bank to shelter bowls that have been dried with a towel but have yet to be played.  Of course, this is only an option in the absence of wind!

Cleaner for Glasses

Prescription eyeglasses only improve vision if they can be seen through without distortion. 

Spare Clothing

This is only an occasional need. If you are required to go somewhere directly after your match.

>23-Meter Measuring Tape

In an official competition, the umpire will have this tape but if your side has a strategy involving delivering short jacks it may be useful for speeding up the game to have your own.

Monday, November 6, 2023

That Very Significant Last Three Meters of Jack Length at Lawn Bowls


Just because your lawn bowling opponent(s) can successfully bowl to a jack twenty-seven meters from the mat doesn’t mean at 30 meters the same success will persist. It is that last little stretch in length that so often makes the difference.


Even if you are worried that you might deliver the jack into the forward ditch, it shouldn’t deter you from trying to deliver a really long jack, if you have reason to believe that that would benefit your side. Even if you do lose the jack occasionally in the front ditch and give away the mat and jack length to the other side, isn’t it better to have an authentic long jack some of the time if that is what you think would provide an advantage?

The other day I was leading for my side in a triples match where the opposing skip bowled with one knee on the mat. This meant that he was bowling with arm strength alone…..there was no possible contribution from body momentum because he could not step forward. He was able to bowl fairly well to 27 meter jacks but when the length went to 30 meters he was either erratic or three meters short. This provided the tactical advantage to win the match, even though I delivered the jack into the front ditch twice and lost the mat advantage those times. When I did succeed in placing the longer jack we were able to score several multi-point ends.