What is the Meaning of Best Back in Lawn Bowls?

  • By: Jack Toucher
  • Date: June 7, 2023

When a player shouts “best back” he is telling his teammates that the bowl he is referring to is the bowl nearest to the ditch in the rink. In the image here you can see that the team with the blue bowls has the “best back”.

Is it good to have a best back bowl?

If there is a danger of an opponents bowl being trailed or driven into the ditch, then having the best back in the vicinity is valuable. Should the jack land in the ditch there is a good chance that the best back bowl could lie the shot, or at least lie second shot should the trailing bowl travel with the jack into the ditch.

In the photo taken from this video, the blue team has good insurance with their back bowl. Even if the opponent trailed the jack into the ditch on the forehand there is a good chance the best back bowl could be in contention as the shot in one of the following ways:

  • The jack could be pushed onto the best back bowl and lie or “lock” there, ensuring that the blue team continues to hold the shot
  • The trailing bowl could send the jack into the ditch but spin off in another direction, leaving the bowl at the back lying the shot, even though the jack is in the ditch

Why back bowls are good

Unless a bowl in front of the jack is close – say half a metre or less – it is not much use except for it’s nuisance value i.e. it could be in the way of the opponent’s bowls reaching the jack.

It is a famous saying in bowls that “a back bowl is never wasted”, meaning there is always an opportunity for the jack to be hit or trailed toward a back bowl. Conversely, a front bowl can’t be trailed at all, making a front bowl of less potential value.

Can you deliberately place a bowl in the back position?

Often a skip will ask a player to position a bowl strategically, or at least try to, and often a skip will ask a player to put “a bowl behind”. This usually happens when the team is lying shot. The back bowl will then serve as insurance should an opposing player move the jack further towards the ditch.

Playing a bowl to position it right at the back, near the ditch, obviously takes some skill as it is easy to play a shot that is slightly too heavy, with the bowl landing in the ditch. It is then a “dead” bowl and the skip removes it from the green. That’s no use at all.