The middle pip is a playing position in a trips (also called triples) lawn bowls game. There are three players in a trips team: the skip (or captain), the second (or middle pip) and the first (usually called the lead.
Each of the players in a trips game plays with three bowls each, unless this is a game of two-bowl trips, which is a rarely played and difficult game.
The middle pip is so called because he plays in the centre position between the skip and the lead. Because the middle pip plays two positions usually played by two people in a fours game (the third and the second), this an important position.
To play “middle pip”in the middle” the player must be able to draw to the jack like a second and also play firm, positional and offensive shots just as a third can. He communicates with the skip on the way from the mat to the head when they meet in the middle of the green (if their team is the next to play a bowl).
The middle player communicates with the skip from the head when the skip asks for information. Of course the lead and the second may confer with each other especially when there is a critical bowl to be played or a complicated head.
What is expected of a middle pip?
Much is expected of this pivotal player in a trips game. She must play a supportive role to the lead. If there is no bowl in the head once the lead has played all his bowls then she should try to draw as close to the jack as possible.
If the lead has managed to place bowls near the jack then the skip may ask the middle pip for positional bowls, such as behind the jack or just off to the side level with the jack.
In the photo of a RSA vs AUS trips match, the skip is following his bowl at a trot up the green while the middle player is watching the bowl’s progress closely and willing a dead draw.
The opponent’s middle pip stands well back watching the progress of the bowl, while preparing to communicate with his skip, who has one more bowl to deliver.
Trips is a favourite game for social play because players use three bowls, not two as for fours. So they feel that they get more bang for their buck out of an afternoon’s play.
Novice players should not be rushed into playing the middle position in a trips game. Too many different styles of shots are required for a novice and the level of communication required is usually beyond a beginner. It is surprising how many loudmouths become silent on the green when it comes to communicating to the skip what is going on in the head and what shot must be played next.