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The Ultimate Guide To Choosing a Lawn Bowl
The ultimate guide to choosing a lawn bowl.
Choosing a grass bowl is a very personal thing and there are a number of factors to consider when choosing a bowl. There are now over 30 different models available in the UK, each with a different bias, in eight sizes (00-6), four weights (medium, medium heavy, heavy and extra heavy), with at least six different types of grips, so as not to mention the large selection of colors. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the number of bowlers who bowl the wrong size or get lost before they even start is significant.
Hopefully below I have answered some if not all of your questions which will enable you to make an informed choice about which set of bowls is best for you.
Honestly, the brand is the least important factor when buying a set of bowls. Often club players will argue the merits of one make over another. The truth is that all bowl manufacturers produce a wide range of good quality products that meet the standard set by World Bowls and almost any bowler will be able to find the right bowl for them.
Most established bowlers will have a personal preference, which often comes from trying out different bowls either by taking a trip with a club mate or at their local bowls dealer. Choosing a particular model will depend on what suits you best – whether you intend to play indoors and outdoors, or you want a bowl specifically for faster indoor greens.
There are several manufacturers of lawn bowls in the UK. The models are shown in parentheses.
• Taylor Bowls (Lazer, Vector VS, Blaze, Ace, International, Legacy SL, Lignoid)
• Henselite (Dreamline, Tiger II, Classic II, Tiger, Classic)
• Drake’s Pride (Advantage, Fineline, Professional, Jazz)
• Almark (Sterling Gold, Sterling Slim-Line, Arrow)
Sizing your bowl is perhaps the most important aspect of choosing a grass bowl. If it goes wrong, you will either hit the opposite bank with a thump or drop it at your feet. As a guide, most men will play with a bowl between sizes 3 and 5, with the 3 being the smaller bowl of the two. Ladies will usually play with bowls between 00 and 2 in size, again with 00 being the smaller of the two.
The most popular method to determine which size is best for you is to use both hands to clasp your middle and thumb around the running face (the smooth area around the center of the bowl so that your thumbs touch the bottom of the the bowl and your middle fingers meet at the top to form a circle, if you can achieve this without too much space at the top of the bowl, this is probably the right size bowl for you.
But I would recommend trying one or two other methods besides to make sure you have the right size. Take the cup that fits you best using the previous method and two more cups – one size below and the other one size above. Take each bowl in turn, holding it as if to deliver – with it sitting comfortably in your palm (depending on your preference) and your fingers placed in the handles – swing your arm back and forth. If you feel like the bowl might collapse, it’s obviously too big, but if you can maintain a firm and comfortable grip, this is another tick in the box.
Finally, I will ask the bowler to extend his arm out in front of them and hold the bowl upside down. If after 30 seconds your arm starts to hurt or shake, it’s probably too big for you. However, if you maintain a firm and comfortable grip, this will confirm that this is more than likely the right size bowl for you. You may even want to try the same routines with the next size up to make sure you are not playing with a bowl that is too small – you should always play with the largest and heaviest bowl that you can comfortably deliver and control.
Generally there are two weights – medium and heavy – although some manufacturers offer medium heavy and extra heavy as options. The weight of a bowl is indicated by the number and letter on the side of the bowl, i.e. 3H is a size three cup with a heavy weight, 2M is a size two with a medium weight. In the UK there are quite a few bowlers who own two sets – a heavyweight set for the faster indoor surfaces and a medium weight set for the slower outdoor greens.
The difference in weight must be considered along with the size of the bowl in relation to what happens during a match. A heavier bowl definitely has its advantages as it will have more momentum and is more likely to stick in the head. If it is comfortable for the bowler to hold and deliver, I would always recommend buying a heavier bowl regardless of the size they have chosen.
Indoors or outdoors?
If you primarily play indoors then I would recommend a bowl with a narrower bias such as a Taylor Lazer, Vector VS or Blaze, a Henselite Classic II or Tiger Pro or a Drakes Pride Fineline or Advantage. Otherwise, you may find yourself aiming for the far end of the next rink for the bowl to swing back to your head.
Unless, of course, you’re a confident bowler, you prefer a wider bias or play at the back, in which case you might also consider a Taylor Ace or International, a Henselite Tiger or Tiger II, or a Drakes Pride Professional or Jazz.
If you are a hardier breed and spend your summer enjoying the pleasures of the British summer, the tilt of the bowl is less important, unless you play number three or skip when you might have to negotiate the other bowls.
The choice of bias of your bowl largely depends on whether you are an indoor or outdoor bowler and which position you play in pairs, triples or fours (rinks). If you mostly play indoors, then I would recommend a narrower bias. However, if you bowl outdoors, a wider bias will likely suit your needs.
If you are just starting out in the game, I would advise you to start with a bowl with a narrow to medium bias, as you will probably be asked to play at number one or two where your primary task is to get as close the plug. as possible. Playing in these positions will also allow you to find your line and weight.
Bowls with a narrow to medium bias (best for indoors) include:
• Taylor Bowls (Lazer, Vector VS, Blaze, Ace)
• Henselite (Dreamline, Tiger II, Classic II)
• Drake’s Pride (Advantage, Fineline, Professional)
• Almark (Arrow, Sterling Slimline)
Bowls with a medium to wide bias (best for outdoors) include:
• Taylor Bowls (Ace, International, Legacy SL, Lignoid)
• Henselite (Classic II, Classic, Tiger)
• Drake’s Pride (professional, jazz)
• Almark (Sterling Slimline, Sterling Gold)
In general, an indoor bowl is designed to have a much narrower bias, while an outdoor bowl usually has too wide a swing for indoor use and can be difficult to control. When I say indoor bowls I’m not referring to short mat bowls – you could get away with using your indoor or outdoor bowls in a short mat game, but there are bowls designed specifically for this format of the game – Stevens and Drake’s Pride is better known.
If you search on Google Images using the terms taylor bias chart, henselite bias chart, drakes pride bias chart and almark bias chart, you will find a diagram illustrating the bias (the lines that the bowls take) for each bowl in the manufacturer’s range of bowls.
Grips are the recessed rings or indentations around the sides of the bowl that offer a place to place your thumb and fingers when you deliver. These provide a more secure grip and better control, especially in cold and wet or hot, sweaty conditions. If you mainly bowl indoors, the grips are less important.
There are different types of grips (deep recess, shallow recess, progrips, crescent grooves, vertical grooves) available depending on the manufacturer and model, so I would suggest trying bowls with different grips before making a decision. Again, if you belong to a club, ask your fellow members if you can have a roll-up with their bowls to get a better idea of what is more comfortable and suited to your style of bowling.
Originally all bowls were made of hard lignum wood and were therefore brown in colour. When composition bowls were introduced, they were invariably black. Today, bowls are available in almost 50 colours, shades and patterns, and although they are slightly more expensive, the difference in price is smaller. The color of your bowls is a purely personal choice.
A new set of bowls will cost between £160 and £230, so unless the customer is sure they know what they want, we would always recommend that beginners buy a used set for between £30 and £120. These can often be bought via your club notice board, some dealers or alternatively look on Ebay where there is always a healthy stock of used bowls for sale. As long as they are not more than 15 years old (you can determine the age by examining the oval or rectangular stamp on the side of the bowl – the manufacturer’s 10 year guarantee stamp) and no serious scratches or holes (minor surface scratches will not affect performance), will they suit your purpose. And should you subsequently decide to change your bowls, a used set will only lose a fraction of its original price when you sell them on.
With so many bowls on the market, I would always suggest that you seek advice from a specialist bowl dealer and if possible ask if you might be able to try on the model you wish to purchase. Sometimes bowls stores based inside indoor arenas hold samples that can be tried.
Ultimately, whatever bowls you choose, they will only be as good as the player. Bowls can be the most rewarding or frustrating game. One day you’re knocking the opponent off the green and the next you’re not getting within six feet of the putt. It can be as annoying as it is rewarding.
A big part of the game, regardless of format, is about consistency. I can’t recommend enough that practice makes perfect, whether it’s on your own or with another player – pulling for the jack time and time again with both your forehand and backhand. But that’s for another time.
I hope you found this guide useful. If you have, recommend it to any other new bowlers you know. Whichever format you choose to play and which bowl you choose to buy, I hope you enjoy not only the game, but the friendships you make and the lively social scene that comes with it.
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