Use only a box measure with a string to measure shots in lawn bowls. Any other kind of measuring device (such as an old-style string measure or a metal measure) is not “legal” in terms of World Bowls and Bowls South Africa regulations. Do not use your fingers or try to pace out the shot with your foot. The relevant player in a team (third in fours, second in trips, or the lead in a pairs game) should carry a box measure. The skip should make sure at the start of the game that the player concerned has a box measure on his person.
Old school measuring devices in lawn bowls
These old bowling measures as shown in the photo are simply not adequate. They are too unstable. The major bowling equipment brands (Henselite, Drakes Pride and Taylor) all supply box measures. Go online and buy one. Make sure you put your name it with a marker pen or by scratching it in or by sticking a label on it. Measures easily go missing. And don’t lend a measure if you can help it. They are somewhat delicate and the borrower may inadvertently damage one. Insist that your team members have their own box measures.
Old lawn bowls measuring device
This old school lawn bowls measuring device was introduced by Henselite in Australia in 1973. Judging from the branding they were very proud of the product, especially the locking device at the top of the box.
However, today these are not considered the proper way to measure a shot in lawn bowls. The metal strip is clumsy and the locking device is not foolproof. Nevertheless the Henselock is an interesting to collectors of lawn bowling memorabilia.
Proper procedure for measuring a shot
A box measure, so called because the string winds up into the box, is the correct way to use for socials and competitions. They do cost quite a bit but they should last you a long time if one doesn’t lend them to anyone! All the major bowling equipment brand companies sell them: Drakes Pride, Henselite, etc.
To measure a shot properly in lawn bowls, go right down onto your knee or knees. Put down your duster if you want to, and kneel on that. (In the photo above the marker is kneeling on a special rubber mat.) Then bend right over to measure. Place the point on the box measure against the jack and release the lock by pressing the button. Draw the string to the fattest part of the bowl. Then lock in the measure.
I like to have a measuring routine. I always have the jack on my left. This means getting up to move into position to measure the next bowl, kneeling down afresh to measure against the previous bowl. To lengthen the string, press the button. To lock in the length, release the button.
How to hold the box between measures
Once you have released the button on top of the box measure you will move to another position so as to compare the length of the string with the next bowl.
It is important to hold the string so that it does not dangle, as per the photo. And always hold the string well away from the button so that you do not release the lock accidentally.
Please get off your knees to move to the next position as you hold the box like this. Then get back on your knee(s) to compare.
Using a caliper to measure in lawn bowls
A box measure typically has a caliper on it that can be folded out in the manner of a pen-knife. This device can be used to measure small distances between bowls. In reality, however, players rarely use the caliper. It is quite small and fiddly.
Also when extending it or narrowing it, the caliper tends to move in short jerks, which makes it dangerous for measuring. It could easily move the jack or the bowl in the course of measuring.
In competitions it is always better to call the umpire for a close measure.
Can you use a laser measure in lawn bowls?
According to World Bowls the use of a laser measure is permissible under certain conditions. However, a laser device for lawn bowls is expensive, rare and hard to use. The regulations are stringent too (see the WB decision in October 2020 regarding laser measure here) . I would not advise investing in one or using one. Rather become proficient in using a box measure. If you train as an umpire in lawn bowls you will also learn to use large calipers and a telescopic measure.