Lawn Bowls Delivery Techniques 101

  • By: Jack Toucher
  • Date: June 8, 2023

The featured image on this page shows Australian bowler Kelsey Cottrell displaying a perfect lawn bowls delivery technique. She is relaxed. Her body is perfectly aligned with here line of delivery. She had one foot touching the mat when the bowl left her hand. Her left hand lies lightly on her left knee as she completes delivery, and she is positioned well down to the ground. Best of all, Cottrell applies her delivery technique time after time with absolute consistency. That’s the recipe of a lawn bowls winner. (See more about Cottrel on Flikr here.)

Where do you aim in lawn bowls?

Every end is different because the nature of the lawn changes as it gets tramped flat and as bowls roll over them. In addition the weather changes in terms of wind, temperature and sunlight intensity.

Nevertheless players generally find a mark to aim at so their bowls curve correctly. Some of the aiming points that players choose, and on which they base their lawn bowls delivery, are:

  • Boundary peg
  • A mark or a leaf on the lawn
  • An item lying on the bank such as a bowling bag
  • A distant item such as the edge of a building or flag pole
  • The running lines made on the green by previous bowls – especially when there is dew or frost

As the game progresses, so the player adjusts the aiming point as the conditions change.

Lawn bowls line and length

A new bowler learns to get the correct line before he or she learns to adjust for length, or weight as it is also called in lawn bowls. To learn both of these the player must have the correct lawn bowls delivery to start with. After that only practice will refine his abilities.

Many players find solo practice boring. If possible he should sign up for a weekly skills practice with other bowlers with a coach in charge of proceedings. Other than that the player must simply play socially, in competitions and participate in fun bowling days, regularly ensuring that his proper lawn bowls delivery is retained. It is easy for bad habits to emerge.

With the correct lawn bowls delivery routine and long practice, the player’s line and length control will improve gradually.

Lawn bowls weight control

As explained above, only a correct lawn bowls delivery process and long practice will make a bowler a better player. However, there are some exercises that the player can do regularly to improve lawn bowls weight control. Here are three of them:

  • Place two jacks and different distances from the mat – one a short bowl and the other a medium length bowl, for instance. Deliver four bowls from the mat: one to the left to the short jack and then one on the left to the medium jack. Then do the same on the right. Go to the other end of the green and repeat the exercise. It helps to have another bowler helping to place the jacks each time. TIP: Don’t practice for two long. Four ends just before playing social bowls will suffice.
  • Do the same exercise as above but angle the mat diagonally across the green. This will make finding a line difficult and therefore you will concentrate harder on finding the right length.
  • Place a jack on the two metre mark. Take the mat up 23m (making the shortest possible end in other words) and then bowl four bowls on alternating hands to the jack. Have a friend send the bowls back to you. Take the mat up a further 5 metres and repeart the process until your mat is as far from the jack as permitted i.e. with the front of mat in line with the 2metre mark. This exercise is sufficient for one day’s practice, as long as you concentrate hard on finding the line and the length.

Advanced lawn bowls techniques

Lawn bowls delivery itself is consistent, meaning that you are either delivering the bowl correctly or not. The advanced techniques come with time and these include bowls delivery involving the fingers and putting a slight backspin on the bowl, called the anti-bias. I don’t believe these techniques can be taught. They come with experience and an intimate knowledge of the bowls you are playing with.

Other advanced lawn bowls techniques involve strategy, such as playing on the opponent’s favoured hand, placing blockers in the way of the opponent’s bowls and burning the end (shooting the jack out of the rink) when the head is so blocked that a drawing shot or a drive will not get you out of trouble.

Needless to say one has to be quite an accomplished bowler to action these techniques. Join a skills group at a club in your district where exercises will be set up for you to practice these techniques. Other than that, simply play as much bowls as you possibly can. Practice – and experience – makes perfect.

Lawn bowls tips for beginners

Here are a couple of lawn bowls tips for beginners:

  • Don’t buy bowls too soon. Borrow a set from the club and borrow other players’ bowls until you have and idea of the type and weight of bowl you like. Then consult a club coach and the bowls shop keeper for advice on what bowl to buy. In my opinion you should stick to one of the main makes of bowl i.e. Henselite and Drake’s Pride. Apart from anything else they have a good resale value should you decide to change bowls later on.
  • Get some coaching. For some reason all bowlers resist coaching. Don’t do that. Save yourself literally years of frustration by getting a series of coaching sessions at the start of your bowling career and getting an annual refresher. And don’t hesitate to seek a coach’s advice if you feel the wheels coming off your game. Usually a tiny adjustment to your lawn bowls delivery will lead to a huge improvement in your results.
  • Concentrate on developing a smooth lawn bowls delivery. Take your time “one the mat”. Stand behind the mat and look for your line. “See the line, walk the line and play the line”. Also remember that there three phases of your delivery: back swing, wait a beat, swing forward. As your arm comes forward so you step forward. (The point is that the back swing and forward swing in your lawn bowls delivery should not be rushed. You are not throwing the bowl, you are rolling it. Lawn bowls delivery should always be smooth. No jerky movements, please.)

Lawn bowls tips for leads

Here are some tips for leads in lawn bowls, which all bowlers should take to heart:

  • Concentrate hardest during the trials ends. What you learn in the fresh green as you test the left and right sides will help you to analyse the running throughout the game
  • Don’t get lazy. Stay with the basics, namely: See the line, walk the line and play the line
  • Don’t rush onto the mat. Stand behind it for a couple of beats after your skip has communicated with you. See your line, then walk onto the mat in the line – and then deliver along the line you have seen and walked.
  • Be quiet and stay out of the head. Your job is to deliver the jack and draw to the jack. That’s it. Don’t speak unless spoken to and stay out of the head when there are deliberations or measuring to be done.
  • If you find either the left or the right side more “true” than the other (i.e. more predictable in its running) you should play that side only unless your skip has other ideas. Note that the same side might play up the green that back down, so you have four “sides” to consider when picking what hand to play.
  • Remember that the lead’s job is to draw to the jack. If you become proficient at this and do it consistently with a 50% or better success rate at bringing your bowl to within one meter of the jack, you will be a popular player that every skip wants to invite into his team.

Lawn bowls delivery faults

Here are the mistakes most commonly made in lawn bowls delivery:

  • The player is too hurried on the mat. Stand behind the mat to wait for the skip’s instructions, then wait a few more seconds while you look for your line. Then step onto the mat and play in an unhurried but controlled manner.
  • The player gets lazy and omits to “see the line, walk the line and play the line” which is the recipe for excellent lawn bowls delivery.
  • Standing too straight on the mat (i.e. with feet pointing straight forward) is incorrect. Your feet should be diagonal on the mat in the direction of the line you have seen and are about to play.
  • Leads should not playing heavy shots (unless your skip asks you otherwise, which is unusual). The function of a lead is to draw to the jack.
  • It is a mistake to let your delivery arm go limp as you deliver the bowl. Remember to minimise your body movement during lawn bowls delivery and to use your arm as a pendulum with your elbow locked. That’s the way you send the bowl accurately along the line you have seen.
  • Stay down once you have delivered your bowl. Standing up too soon affects your line and usually you end up playing a short bowl. Your skip will not like this unless she has asked for a short bowl.
  • Players make the mistake of avoiding asking a coach to assist in refining their lawn bowls delivery techniques. Half and hour a month of coaching can make the world of difference to your bowling.