Forehand and Backhand in Lawn Bowls

  • By: Kitty Driver
  • Date: November 11, 2023

I’m not sure if there is general discussion worldwide about the terms “backhand” and “forehand” in lawn bowls, but there certainly is a lot of talk on the subject among the bowlers I know.

The trouble with these terms as they apply to lawn bowls is that they do not apply at all. The terms are meant for tennis and refer to the two sides of the racquet.

If you hit a ball with the inside of the racquet it’s a forehand and if you hit a ball with the outside of the racquet then it’s a backhand.

In tennis, the terms apply to right-handed and left-handed people alike and are therefore suitable for tennis.

Why backhand and forehand are unsuitable terms for lawn bowls

It may seem obvious, but it needs stating that in lawn bowls you don’t use a racquet. Therefore the terms backhand and forehand do not apply.

However, most lawn bowls beginners (and coaches) have played at least a bit of tennis in the past and so, out of laziness or an idea of what other terms to use, they use these incorrect terms.

The correct terms should be “LEFT” and “RIGHT”. Either you deliver a bowl up the right hand side or up the left hand side of the rink as seen from the mat. It should be that simple.

And the terms LEFT and RIGHT are additionally apt for lawn bowls because they apply equally to right handed players and left handed players.

Why the terms backhand and forehand cause confusion and incorrect techniques

Unfortunately, once the terms enter the brain of the unfortunate new player, they have a vision of someone hitting a tennis ball with a racket, which involves the arm moving ACROSS the body.

But correct delivery in lawn bowls is VERTICAL. Ideally the arm is held straight, locked at the elbow, and moves up and down like a pendulum – completely different from hitting a tennis ball.

In the photo, the player is playing up the RIGHT with a perfectly straight arm.

Thus the poor lawn bowls beginner is being told to hold his arm straight but at the same time being bombarded with the incorrect terms “backhand” and “forehand”. So he is subconsciously tries to play a tennis shot, as he did at school.

This confusion becomes ingrained in the mind, is what leads to the later delivery problems of “pulling” a shot or playing “across the body”.

I hope someone from World Bowls reads this and that the coaching authorities consider putting out a directive making UP THE LEFT and UP THE RIGHT the desired terms for playing up the left or right hand side of the rink.