A level of proficiency at crown green bowling can be reached by anyone if they enjoy the game and are prepared to follow a few basic principles.

In this article I hope to offer help and guidance to anyone wanting to start playing or existing players trying to improve their game. I don’t profess to be a “world beater” but have been fortunate enough to have a “feel” for the game. As part of my work selling bowls I am asked for advice on a regular basis, especially from customers who want to start playing but have little or no previous knowledge at the sport.

I’ve recently had discussions with playing colleagues about problems they are having, which has prompted me to try to put “pen to paper”, or, in this case, finger to keyboard. I hope I can supply a few pointers which may help to answer any queries you may have. You my not agree with all I say, but bear with me and try the suggestions out.

Whatever you think, I can assure you that anything I’ve written here, I believe in.

Background On The Bowls Used

Traditionally, crown green bowls were made from lignum vitae, a very hard wood grown in the souther hemisphere. For many years much of the wood used by the major bowls makers was literally “picked up” at the docks. Long lengths of the timber were used by cargo ships as ballast, and left on the dockside once a new cargo was loaded.

These stacks of timber provided a ready supply, especially if the bowls maker was based locally. Unfortunately, the governments of the countries where the lignum grew were concerned about the amount of trees being cut down, and brought in tougher controls.

They would still supply lignum, but only in small blocks. This was not much good as it had been easier, and cheaper, to use only the best part of a long length of timber and discard the rest, as opposed to having to buy smaller blocks of wood and not be able to pick and choose the quality.

Luckily enough, the introduction of composition bowls made from a phenolic resin gave us most of the bowls we see and use today. Some lignum bowls are still being sold, but are usually, used, flat green bowls which have been remodelled as crown green bowls.

Choosing Your Bowls

Having the correct weight of bowl is imperative, especially to the new bowler. It is very personal and it is not easy to generalise as to the weight you should have. However, there are one or two things to consider, it was always recommended that you should use as heavy a bowl as you could manage. This is not as straight forward as it sounds.

Given that hand size as well as wrist strength varies enough to complicate the issue. I always tell people to hold the bowl “upside down” with the bowl facing the floor. If they can do that without struggling to hold on to it, then the bowl is not too big or heavy for them. Different makes of bowl have slightly different shapes, so try holding various ones to see which one suits you best, if possible, ask at the club, where you intend to bowl, if you can try different bowls to see which feels the best.

Bowls are made, normally, in 2 ounce increments, starting at 2lbs, upto 2lb 12 oz, although some makers will supply the “odd” weights if requested (high density bowls start at 2lb 2oz).

Densities

There are three densities, standard, high and low:

High density bowls compared to standard density are smaller for the weight. These tend to pull up slightly quicker, and can be an advantage on “running” greens.

Low density bowls compared to standard density are larger for the weight. These are roughly the size of wooden bowls and do run on that bit more, ideal for slow or heavy greens.

I would usually advocate a new bowler to start with a standard density bowl unless physical limitations may restrict the user to smaller bowls. You can find our range of crown green bowls available here.

Bias

As the standard jack used in all games has a 2 full bias, all bowls will have the same bias as the jack. In case you didn’t know, the bias is created by shaping of the bowl and not, as some believe, adding weight to one side.

The bias side of the bowl is denoted by the indentation on the mount and the bias side on the jack is on the opposite side to the one where the 3 “pips” are. It’s worth noting that, although bowls have the same bias, there can be slight variations in strength of bias.

This is perfectly normal and if your bowls do seem to run on a slightly different line to the jack, as long as you know how they run, it can be an advantage. It allows you to sometimes find a way past bowls that are “in the way”.

Some of the modern bowls may not have a separate mount but contrasting rings, however, they still have the indentation on the bias side.

Learning To Bowl

Holding The Bowl

There is no definitive way to hold the bowl. Some bowlers “cradle” the bowl, whilst others may feel more comfortable having their thumb and/or little finger along the side(s) of the bowl. You’ll sometimes see the “claw” grip, where the thumb is placed up the back of the bowl. This is a style often seen in flat green bowls, and is not the easiest grip to master. Just choose the one that works for you!

The main thing is that the bowl leaves the hand correctly. Before delivering the bowl, make sure that the bowl is held in such a way that is “pointing” in the direction you want and the sides of the bowl are upright. I’ve always maintained that the bowl is an extension of the arm, and once you’ve become used to the feel of your bowl in your hand, you almost forget that it’s there.

That means there is one less thing to think about!

Preparing For Delivery

To bowl consistently it is vital that you keep your balance right throughout the delivery. Any deviation will be exaggerated by the slightest sideways movement. The first thing is to find a stance that is comfortable for you. The stature of the bowler will sometimes affect how they achieve this, but try to avoid over extending your lead long (the left if you are right-handed), as this is often how good balance is lost.

You’ll often see bowlers automatically brace themselves by holding the lead leg with their non-bowling hand. In some cases, they won’t even know that they are doing it, it is a pure reflex. Please remember, the lead leg must be on the opposite side to the bowling arm to be legal.

Aiming

This is an area where there are two options to assist in getting the right line. When I started playing I was told by a bowler, with many years experience, to look for a reference point at the side of the green and aim for that. I soon discovered that, whilst it did help, I sometimes had a problem with either spectators or other players preventing me from seeing where I needed to go.

I was later advised to select a point on the green at about 6 to 10 feet in front of the mat and use that for alignment. This I found was a much more reliable method, provided I didn’t focus on a feather or piece of paper, which invariably blew away.

However, since then, I usually use a slightly different method. Listening to top golfers, they often say that they “see” the shot in their head before they play it. I suddenly found that was what I was doing and realised that the best aiming aid we have is our brain.

Once the jack has been sent, if I watch it intently, I remember the line it took. If I close my eyes, I still have the memory of that line in my head. There’s no way of knowing if this would work for you, it’s just another option. Just try the alternatives, as all three do work. I sometimes use the first two methods too, depending on the length of the mark. Maybe a combination of more than just one method is best for you, so don’t dismiss any until you’ve tried them all.

The Jack Line

It is important to realise that, although the bowls and jack have the same bias, on a falling or pegging mark gravity gets involved. This is more noticeable on faster greens, with heavier bowls. Whilst the bowl will follow the jack to start with, as soon as it slows down and starts to peg, gravity will kick in causing the bowl to move off the jack line.

By setting your bowl out on a slightly higher line you should be able to compensate for this. The same problem can arise on straight marks bowled along the edge of the green, as well as greens with a high crown.

Delivering The Bowls

Before releasing the bowl (or jack) make sure that your back foot is on the centre of the mat (the same side as your bowling arm). Delivery of the bowl is an individual thing, everyone has their own style or technique. No two actions are the same. The component parts of the delivery, however, have to be correct to maximise the efficiency of the action. As with a lot of sports involving propelling an object, the smoother action, the better the results.

In the case of bowls, a problem a lot of people have is reaching the jack on long marks. Normally longer distances can be achieved without dramatically changing a player’s natural action. A person’s physical size is not a major factor in the distance they can send a bowl, it’s how they apply themselves to having an efficient delivery.

The Delivery

This is made up of four components: backswing, down swing, release and follow through.

Backwing

The backswing starts from when you pick the bowl up. As you take the bowls back keep a smooth rhythm letting the weight of the bowls dictate the distance before starting the downswing.

Downswing

As the arm starts moving forward, keeping a smooth speed, accelerate it and release the bowl as paralell to the ground as possible. In fast running conditions you may need to decelerate.

Release

Let the bowl come out of the hand naturally, if you release too early it will hit the ground at an angle causing a reduction in distance. Likewise, releasing too late makes the bowl travel through the air before, again, hitting the ground at an angle.

Follow Through

This part is probably the hardest factor to understand, but after you release the bowl, the continuation of the arm movement does affect the distance the bowl travels. Watch any top class sports person in tennis, snooker, cricket, golf, field athletics etc, and notice the action always continues after they have made contact with the ball or released the shot, javelin, discus etc. The absence of follow through can be useful on a fast green, when a short mark has been set, to avoid sending the bowl too far.

Adjusting The Distance

This is achieved by simply changing the speed of the delivery. In average conditions a minor change in speed will affect the distance achieved. Obviously on heavy or wet greens the variation in delivery speed is more dramatic and on dry, running greens, the tiniest of adjustment can make a big difference.

Popular Misconceptions

You often hear the comments, “I wasn’t strong enough to reach” or “my bowls weren’t heavy enough to reach”.

Strength is not directly related to how far a bowl will travel – if the delivery action is correct. If your opponent is physically bigger than you they won’t have to rely on having a good delivery action quite as much. But by improving your technique and gaining confidence in your ability to put your bowls anywhere on the green, and at any length can give you an edge.

Whoever you play will try to play to their strengths, either through length of delivery or by using straight or pegging marks, so it is vital that you have the confidence in knowing you can put your bowl anywhere the jack may land. Once your delivery action becomes comfortable you can concentrate purely on the correct line, and the distance required becomes instinctive.

Regarding the weight of bowls. The bowls you use, if of the correct weight to suit your hand size and wrist strength, are an extension of the arm and consequently the delivery speed will again govern the distance attained. However, the lighter the bowl the faster the action required, due to the physics of the bowl to achieve the same distance.

Crown Green Bowling Tips

Step 1: Practice, whenever you can, smoothing out your action and ensuring that you feel comfortable and balanced right through the delivery.

That way you will reduce the number of things to concentrate on whilst delivering the bowl.

Step 2: If you have the jack, hold your first bowl in your other hand when sending the jack out.

That way you don’t have to take your eyes off of the jack line after delivering the jack. Similarly, if your opponent goes first, have your bowl in your hand whilst they are delivering theirs.

Step 3: When your opponent bowls first, remember, although it’s great to get close to the jack, the main thing is to beat their bowl.

Also, if both of their bowls are counting, just try to limit the damage by at least beating their second bowl so that they only score one.

Step 4: Don’t assume that because your opponent is more experienced, you can’t beat them.

Just concentrate on playing the green. You can’t do much about how they bowl, only how you bowl!

Step 5: Always try to at least get level with the jack.

A short bowl can be a problem if it’s on the right line, and a useful “winger” for your opponent if it’s on the wrong line. As is often said “there’s nowt for short!”. The exception to the rule is to use a short bowl as a “blocker” if your firt bowl is counting but needs protecting – also known as a “bobby.

Step 6: Study the green, look for hollows and ridges that will make the bowl deviate from it’s natural line.

These anomalies can be helpful so don’t be afraid to bowl into these areas, before your opponent does!

Step 7: Try to stay relaxed, too much tension only makes the game harder.

If you play a bad bowl, don’t dwell on it – just try to work out why it went wrong, then try again.

Crown Green Bowls Clubs Near You

24 thoughts on “Crown Green Bowling Basics

  1. anthony atkinson says:

    Hi, as were approaching the start of a new crown green bowling season i would like you to try and help me with a few problems i had last season

    I found it difficult on short marks on fast greens especially away from home.

    Please let me summarise my action the best I can. The way I perceive it, I tend to look at a focal point very close if on short/fast mark further away on slower/longer marks. Follow through is good shorter on shorter/fast marks and longer on slower/longer marks, I think I have a semi crouch at the moment of delivery, I tuck my right knee in behind my left leading leg whilst bending it at same time. I take a very small step on fast/shorter marks and a longer step on slower/longer marks.

    I have a friend who sees the shot and doesn’t aim generally over a given line and he played 18 matches and won all of them , I spoke to my friend and tried his method with mixed success as its hard to change the habits you have ingrained into yourself, I finished 3rd in our teams averages but performed really poorly away from home, I would like to get a more consistent delivery and better at shorter/fast marks.

    Any hints or tips would be greatly appreciated.
    Regards Anthony Atkinson

    • peter bennett says:

      You might like to try bowling from a static position on the shorter marks. IE Have your forward foot already stepped forward before you bowl. This does of course mean you are only using your arm movement to control the speed of the bowl however it is a nice steady platform and should ensure you follow the right line without the danger of losing balance. Hope this helps.

    • kevin hurst says:

      try on a fast green do not step forward also find a mark about 15m away which is opp something on the edge of the green as if you was looking down a gun sight so if you lose the mark in front of you , you have got the one on the edge to fine it

  2. DAVE P says:

    I’m playing my first game for a team on Thursday , I have played before but not for a team I have been practising on occasions i do get really close to the jack and other times I am a long way off the jack , what can i do to be more consistent another thing is i lose concentration

    • Brian Taylor says:

      you will find that your concentration will be much better in a match because of your competitive instincts, watch the better players in your club and try too develop a consistantly good stance and delivery, finally if you find yourself well behind, don’t let your head drop as many a game has been won from what seems an impossible position. Most of all enjoy your game and good luck in the coming seasons

    • kevin hurst says:

      one thing is to relax at the end of the day it is only a game , the one thing you should try is not to walk down with your opp when you have sent your last wood , go to the end on thing that tells your opp that you are a novice is by waiting for him and do not touch you woods till the points have been decided if you do its 2 to your opp

  3. Helen says:

    Beginner. If a bowl hits the jack and then goes into the ditch (the bowl not the jack) does that bowl still count cos it hit the jack?

  4. Brian Taylor says:

    you will find that your concentration will be much better in a match because of your competitive instincts, watch the better players in your club and try too develop a consistantly good stance and delivery, finally if you find yourself well behind, don’t let your head drop as many a game has been won from what seems an impossible position. Most of all enjoy your game and good luck in the coming seasons

  5. Tina Ramsden says:

    When making a delivery, the foot needs to be in contact with the footer for it to be a legitimate bowl, according to the rules. But exactly when is the “delivery”? Is it at the release point of the jack/bowl…or the moment when the delivery action commences its backswing, or the furthest backward positionof the bowl in the backswing? Confusion reigns on this matter…can you please enlighten me. Thanks

  6. Stuart says:

    I took up bowling after retiring as a scout leader and work and it the best sport iv ever played
    I also teach youth the game and we got some good players and we also work in conjunction with our town council
    Learn a new sport in the summer and the council pays us per session which helps the club fund

  7. James Herring says:

    As a retired golfer l was proud of my knowledge of the rules of golf.
    Having read the crown green rules l was wondering if their is any publications with pictorial and simple explanation of incidents in a tipical game of bowls.
    One example was an incidence were l bowled the jack having first shown my opponent the Bias and additionally said that l was bowling
    Finger.
    Having set a mark,l followed up with my first bowl and to my horror the bowl turned in a curve into the ditch.
    I exclaimed “oh dear l have played the wrong Bais”!. My opponent delivered his bowl and followed my bowl into the ditch.
    May l say that the ditch was to my right in other words we were moving
    Anti clockwise.
    This was my first year playing bowls and l must have mixed up my thumb and finger.
    My opponent was a recognised competitive player with years of experience and l was surprised to see him make the same mistake.
    Back to game!!!!!.l checked l was holding the bowl with finger Bais
    and bowled up to the jack.
    My opponent bowled his second bowl and was several inches further away from the jack than mine.
    I said”one up for me”.to which replied he was claiming two points
    because l had given him wrong information.
    I thought this cannot be correct.
    He then asked a player from his side who was adjacent to us and confirm that l had indeed given wrong information.
    The word travelled around the club but nobody did anything about it.
    My question to you is”” Was l wrongly done too””.
    Sorry about the length of my explanation of the incident.
    Thank you
    yours in sport Jim Herring

    I

  8. JOHN WINNARD says:

    Having shown your opponent the bias of the jack he should have been aware that you called the wrong bias. According to the rules you must allow your opponent to see the bias of the jack. (There is no requirement to tell your opponent!)
    Your opponent I suspect was a cagey old bowler who creates rules as he goes along and is quite typical. As an ex golfer I would say that there are few other sports where there is so much ignorance of the Crown Green bowling rules.
    (The outdated article on Rules on this site is a perfect example).

  9. JOHN WINNARD says:

    Sorry but I replied too quickly.

    Since you showed the bias of the jack to your opponent and also said the bias correctly, it is then his responsibility to realise that you bowled your wood on a different bias. If in doubt always ask your Captain to discuss things with their opposite number.

    Out of all replies on this page it seems that only Kevin Hurst knows the BCGBA rules.

    Does anyone consult BCGBA before allowing the publication of a personal definition of a rule? If not then this forum can only add to the confusion.

    • Dave Hornby says:

      I think the OP called the Jack bias incorrectly, since what he does with his woods is nowt to do with his opponent.
      A few players I know will send the jack out on one peg, then send their first wood out ‘turned over’ to confuse….

  10. Ann scotter says:

    Is there a course you can go on to learn how to bowl. I do bowl but im not very good. I play in a team and im byfar the worst player. I do practice and I do listen to any advice given but my game is still bad.

  11. Billy Webb says:

    I recently played a gentleman who when delivering the jack went down on one knee and stayed their to deliver his first bowl. is this allowed or must he stand up before he takes his next shot.

  12. Marie manion says:

    Something I’ve always wanted to learn … think I’m going to give it a go and find a club near me .

  13. Peter Butterworth says:

    I believe there is a minimum bowling length for the Jack to be 19 mtrs. Is there a maximum length?

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