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Bowls the Science.

Bowls is a science, the study of a lifetime, in which you may exhaust yourself, but never your subject. it is a contest, a duel calling for courage, skill strategy and self control. It is a test of temper, a trial of honor, a revealers of character. It affords the chance to play the man and act the gentleman. It means going into God's out-of-doors, getting close to nature, fresh air and exercise. A sweeping away of mental cobwebs, a genuine reaction of the tired tissues. It is a cure for care, an antidote to worry. It includes companionship with friends, social intercourse, opportunities for courtesy, kindliness, generosity to an opponent. It promotes not only physical health, but moral force.

What is the lure to the huge numbers participating in this game of bowls? Three things probably stand out --- it can be played by all age groups---people with many types of disabilities can enjoy the sport--- it caters for both men and women.

In an attempt to improve the standard of bowls in Queensland, a coaching panel was formed, consisting of the top players in the state. These players in their own time and on a voluntary basis visit metropolitan clubs and country associations. The aim of this coaching panel is to outline the certain basic fundamentals, which all bowlers must understand and try to achieve if they wish to become good exponents of the game. When watching bowlers, one can see any number of ways of delivering a bowl. This of course is only natural, as individual styles will show up, according to the characteristics of each player. However, if one watches the good bowlers carefully, they all adopt the basic fundamentals essential to good bowling. It should be pointed out, at this stage, that it is not advocated that a bowler with an established style should change. He or she may find some small points that they should adjust and so help to more consistent bowling. In order to outline these points, the coaching panel has agreed to a standard approach to coaching which is considered the easiest way of obtaining a style that will give the best results.

The principal rudiments of the game can be divided into categories and these will be discussed in order.


The mat can be placed anywhere up the green provided that the jack can be rolled a distance of 23 metres. The front of the mat, however, must always be a least 2 metres from the rear ditch. The correct method of laying the mat is to face the rear ditch and line up the centre of the mat with the number disc of the rink you are playing on. It is of the utmost importance that the mat should at all time be straight of the feet and consequently, the green or aiming line could be affected.




2.ROLLING THE JACK.  Recommended techniques for delivery of jacks and bowls have many features in common. This section describes only those features peculiar to delivery of the jack, which mainly occur in the preparation for the delivery. The movement and follow through phases of delivery of each have no significant differences. The jack serves as a focal point for the building of a head (head is the term used to describe the collection of bowls around the jack) which opposing players consolidate by alternately delivering into it the allowable number of  bowls. When a jack is rolled it must stay within the bounds of the rink, whilst it is rolled down the centre line, it may roll away from the centre line, once the jack has come to rest, it is placed on the centre line closest to it's resting place. The centre line is the aiming line to a centered jack. The delivery is valid provided the centered jack is at least 23 metres from the mat.


Two ways to hold the jack correctly before delivery (1) Finger tip grip and (2) The claw grip.

New bowlers find it difficult to roll out the Jack, mainly because of the way they hold the jack in their hand. There are two correct ways to hold the Jack in  your fingers. The first photograph shows the Jack held between the index,  forefinger and the thumb of the rolling hand. The second photograph shows the Jack resting on the tips of the fingers with the thumb placed on top. Never cup the Jack in the palm of your hand to roll it, as this tends to push the Jack out of the rink.



Place one foot just off centre of the mat, with the other foot placed beside it.

Should a Jack leave the rink or end up in the far ditch, the Jack is returned to be rolled again by the opponent lead.




FOOT FAULT Unless a player has at least one foot wholly on or over the mat at the moment of delivery, a foot fault occurs. Players who position their feet almost touching the mat line commonly foot fault.

At the moment of delivery, the leverage of the horizontal trailing leg causes the shoe to flex. The back of the shoe may then not only overhang the toe but also overhang the mat line, thereby producing a foot fault. You may place both feet on the mat or elect to place only one foot on the mat, in either case when delivering the jack or a bowl, a foot must be within the mat's boundaries.




CHARACTERISTICS OF BOWLS.  Bowlers can ascertain a suitable bowl size by encircling a bowl so that the tips of the middle fingers and thumbs can just touch. Alternatively by placing the thumb against the stop on a card indicator, they can read the required size from the scale against the tip of the extended middle finer. In most instances, bowls that are too large cause greater difficulty than bowls that are slightly smaller than the measured size.   Heavyweight bowls are about 4% heavier than medium weights of the same size. Extra-heavyweights are about 3. 1/2% heavier than heavyweights of the same size.   Bowls have a bias because of their asymmetric shape. The side of a bowl identified by the smaller engraved ring is slightly heavier than the opposite side as a result of factory machining.         




This causes a bowl to follow a path that curves inward towards the biased side. This characteristic provides a bowler with a multiplicity of tactical options.   It provides separate  forehand and backhand approaches into the head, according to which delivery line and delivery speed combination, the bowl will turn to a greater or lesser extent in its run up to the head.            




The above diagram shows the general form of the path of a bowl. Note that if a bowl is to come to rest in the head a bowler must deliver it at an angle that counteracts the effect of the bias. The shoulder is the segment where the bowl stops diverging from the centre line and runs parallel to it before converging on the head. Depending on the profile of the bowl, the shoulder is 55% to 70% of the distance to the head. Note that by the time a bowl reaches the shoulder, it will have undergone a 1/5th of it's ultimate draw or turn. Therefore a bowler must aim wider than the shoulder to avoid a narrow delivery.


A bowler should prepare for a draw shot by locating the centre of the trailing foot heel over the mat centre line and aligning the toe with the required aiming line. The leading foot should be parallel with, but slightly apart from the trailing foot. For a fixed stance a bowler advances the leading foot one normal pace and continues delivery preparation in that position. With other stances a bowler advances the leading foot during the delivery movement.

The Stance.  The characteristics of the recommended stance on the mat are: .Fairly upright posture, avoid crouching and consequent stress on leg joints. Trunk inclined forward so that body weight is poised on the balls of the feet. Shoulder square to the aiming line.  Bowling arm aligned with the aiming line, avoid angling it across the body.  Knees slightly flexed  Focus of attention directed forward. To avoid foot faults imagine a line has been drawn on the mat 150mm from the front of the mat and another line down the centre of the mat from this line. Take up a position on the mat, with the toes touching the 150mm mark . This position is recommended for two reasons. Firstly, if the feet are on the front of the mat there would be a chance of foot faulting on the delivery. The rule stipulates that all of one foot must be on or over the confines of the mat, at the moment of delivery and after the step is taken this can only be the back foot. Secondly, if a position is selected at the rear of the mat, there is a tendency to overstep, in order to clear the front of the mat. This can only cause a loss of balance and a poor delivery must result. Having selected this position on the mat point the right foot in the direction of the required green placing the left alongside the right in a comfortable position up to seven centimetres to the left of the right foot. This procedure does not change whether playing forehand or backhand.


Taking or finding the green

As in every sport, correct footwork is absolutely essential to success. Finding green is the bowler's way of referring to the line of angle from the mat at which the bowl should be delivered so that it will finish in the required place.

The faster the bowl is delivered the longer it takes for the bias to take effect until it finally reaches its maximum draw to slow and come to rest.

Bowling greens like other sporting fields vary considerably; some drawing much more than others. This is brought about predominately by the speed of the green and also sometimes through not being level. It follows that if a green is fast the bowl travels at a slower rate to reach it's objective. The result is a wider green has to be taken as seen in the photograph on the left.

The opposite situation arises with a slow or heavy green, as seen in this next photograph. The bowl is propelled from the hand much faster to reach the objective,  resulting in the bowl running straighter for a longer period and having less time to draw, as it loses its momentum because it pulls up quickly The aiming point is the virtual shoulder of the green and is located along the aiming line approximately two thirds of the distance between mat-line and jack.

This point is opposite the true shoulder where the bowl is running parallel to the centre line and the bias has really become apparent. It is essential that when standing on the mat the right foot - (for the  right handed) - be correctly positioned so as to line up with the chosen aiming line.

An alternative method is to look along the aiming line and concentrate on the point that is level with the jack. This assists with the control of weight as well as maintaining the correct aiming line, as the distance from the mat-line to this point is the same distance as the curved path of the bowl to the jack.


Bowl Grips 
The force applied to a jack or bowl is most efficient when acting through the centre of gravity. A bowler achieves this by position the tip of the middle finger the last point of contact during delivery under the running circumference. To ensure that a bowl will run free of wobble a bowler should avoid a grip that causes its engraved rings to cock or tilt, as in the photograph.. 

The finger tip grip. Weight of the bowl supported on finger tips.

The claw grip. Pressure between thumb and spread fingers claws the bowl into the palm.

The cradle grip. Bowl is cradled in the palm of the hand.

The above photographs shows options for gripping a bowl. The main differences are the positioning of the thumb and the separation of the fingers. The finger grip provides good "touch" for play on medium or fast greens. A claw is a secure grip for fast shots and for play on slow greens. The cradle grip suits players with small or weak hands.                            


The Delivery.

The photographs below show the main features of a delivery movement. Bowlers who use a fixed stance prepare for a delivery by adopting the posture on the left.

Comfortable, upright stance facilitates judgment of required line and length Co-ordinated gravity and muscular forces initiate the back swing Optimal step length equal to length of lower leg  Lowered C of G give a broad stable support base and avoids dumping Staying down after delivery helps concentration and continuity through the game

Method A.  Having taken up a relaxed stance on the mat the player is ready to make the delivery. The bowl is raised to a point of elevation necessary for the length of end played with the running surface of the bowl pointing along the aiming line.

Place the left foot ten to fifteen centimeters in front of the right foot but parallel to it.  The left knee should be slightly raised thus lifting the heel off the ground. The weight of the body is then on the ball of the right foot. Place the left hand on to the left knee with the arm relaxed and not taking the weight of the body but used only as a steadying influence during the forward swing of the delivery.  Now with the bowl held in the correct position allow the bowl to drop under its own weight ensuring a straight smooth pendulum swing:

Method B.  It is essential that a natural step be taken at all times, irrespective of length of end.  A natural step is your normal walking step. This will greatly assist in grooving all movements to enable the same delivery every time. Should a step longer than normal be taken all of the weight will not be transferred to the front foot and the bowl will be propelled from behind the front foot resulting in a poor delivery caused by over-balancing. By the same taken, should a step shorter than normal be taken, it is natural to assume that too much of the body will be forward of the front foot. This will result in the bowl being delivered too far in front of the left foot and once again a poor delivery caused through over-balancing. If a normal step is taken, the release of the bowl should be 150 to 200 mm forward of the left foot. This is timed to occur when the body has completed it's bend and both knees have been bent sufficiently to ensure that the back knee is locked behind the front heel. It is essential at all times to ensure that the back knee is locked behind the front heel so as to prevent bumping of the bowl and ensure delivery along the aiming line. The hand should always follow the line of delivery with the palm upwards at the completion. Tendency to turn the hand slightly should be eliminated. Many shots finish narrow due to the fact that the hand has been allowed to move across at the moment of dispatch. The follow through is governed by the type of shot being played. The draw shot, which statistics show occupies ninety percent of a game, requires a slow follow through and this increases as the pace of each shot is accelerated. The follow through should be completed by staying down in the position of delivery until the bowl has traveled at least 6 metres. Staying down will eliminate a lot of short bowls caused mainly by getting out of the shot before the delivery is completed. When coming up to the erect position the whole course traveled by the bowl from the moment it leaves the hand until it comes to rest. This enables the player to do two things: (1) to see if the bowl actually traveled along the intended line. (2) to make the necessary foot correction before delivering the next bowl. Let us remember that- the right size bowl, with a comfortable grip and a relaxed stance on the mat, leading up to a correct natural delivery will enable all bowlers to sustain a longer period of better bowling.

Delivery Weight Control (Elevation).

Weight control, or as it is known to bowlers, touch, is the hardest category to impart to a person. Harder than any of those previously mentioned. However, there are some basic guides which enable consistency of length to be achieved.  The weight required to propel a bowl to a given length is governed by elevation of the bowl. For example a medium length and the bowl is held approximately waist high, then slightly lower for a short end and slightly higher than waist high for a long end. The step taken as also explained in the delivery is a normal walking step, irrespective of length of end and should not be varied, making sure to step with the knee and not the foot.



This is known as the theory of elevation. As outlined in the delivery, the bowl is allowed to drop under its own weight and when dropped from a constant height the backswing will be consistently the same. If dropped from a higher position the backswing is longer, while dropped from a lower position the backswing is shorter. Elevation positively corrects length of delivery.

These are only guide points and will have to be adjusted according to the pace of the green,  for instance, on a very fast green the backswing is shortened, which means the bowl is held in a low position of elevation.  The other factor that will assist in obtaining touch under varying conditions, is the gripping of the bowl. On heavy greens, it is found that by gripping the bowl more firmly will assist  in reaching the objective. On free running or fast greens, a very light finger grip will assist in taking weight off the bowl and achieve the delicate touch necessary.

Consistency of weight will also be obtained by completing the delivery before getting up or out of the shot, this being the major contributor to short bowls. How often have you seen a player fall short because he got up and followed the bowl and then the very next delivery stay down, and  the bowl goes sailing past its objective, because of clean delivery with a good follow through, giving the bowl that extra run.

The mechanics of the game, namely--grip, stance and delivery should be so well practised as to happen automatically. This will leave the mind to concentrate on the grass, the prevailing elements and the weight required to obtain the best results.



a. Right foot for green (left for left handers)

b. Normal walking step.

c. At point of delivery get back knee down.

d. Stay down after delivery with hand following along aiming line.

e. Care, concentration, consistency and constant practice are the key to success.

f. Good temperament essential.





The following list sets out a few of the most common faults that can develop unless checked at once.

1. Not enough attention paid to position of feet on mat prior to delivery.

2. Placing the front foot off line.

3. Delivering the bowl with the body parallel to the green with the rear leg more or less straight.

4. The wobbling bowl.

5. Bending the elbow at the end of swing.

6. Turning the hand at end of swing.

7.The flicker.

8. Lack of follow through.

9. The croucher.

10. Weight on back foot.

11. Too long a step.

12. Failure to lack back knee behind the front heel.

13. Not taking enough time on mat to consider the shot to be played.



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