Players carry a cloth (also called a duster) in lawn bowls for several reasons including: 1) to dry the bowl if the grass is wet; 2) to wipe water, grass and mud off the bowl in rainy conditions; 3) to wipe the chalk mark off a bowl before delivering it; 4) to indicate the position of a bowl or jack by dangling the duster over it, and; 5) to indicate with a sweep of the duster the road that a bowl should take.
Some players use their duster as an essential part of their delivery routine, wiping the bowl lightly in a certain way before stepping onto the mat in the desired position. This is a matter of psychological preparation rather than cleaning the bowl.
What duster is right for lawn bowls?
Any absorbent cloth will do. However, the bowls manufacturers (Henselite, Drakes Pride, Taylor, etc.) also supply branded cloths. These sometimes do not absorb water as well as expected. Your local supermarket will likely have inexpensive, highly absorbent cloths in nice, bright colours in stock which will do the job just as well and better.
Chamois leather clothes as used to clean cars are also good to use as dusters for bowls.
Be sure to take a couple of cloths (maybe even three or four) with you in your bowling bag, especially if you are playing in a multi-day competition. Dusters quickly get drenched and full of mud and grass cuttings if the rain is heavy rain.
There are players who don’t like using a duster at all, and never carry one. They like the feel of the rain on their bowls and feel that the wetness of the bowl gives a nice grip on the green. Each to his own!
Removing the chalk mark from a bowl
It is good bowling manners to remove a chalk mark from a bowl with a duster before delivering it. The reason that a bowl will have a chalk mark on it in the first place is that it will have touched the jack during the previous end.
While it is not a punishable offense if you bowl with a chalk mark still on the bowl, not doing so can lead to major confusion and extremely cross skips on the green.
That’s because one skip may claim that a marked bowl was a toucher, whereas the chalk mark was made earlier in the game in another end. And remember that a toucher counts as a live bowl even if it lands in the ditch during play.
Make it a habit to check your bowl just before you get on the mat. Top players never, but never, let a bowl with a chalk mark on it leave their hands.
Where should you carry your duster?
Some players keep the duster in their non-playing hand all the time. Others tuck them into their waistbands or stuff them in their pockets. Clips for belts are available from which players can hang a cloth by the tag. Carry your duster in whichever way is comfortable for you.
On occasion a player will fling a duster down before playing as it is evidently hindering their concentration. This is not particularly bad etiquette, but it does indicate a player who is getting desperate.
Sometimes a skip throws down his duster when a team member plays a terrible shot, and sometimes a skip waves a duster around and bows when a team member plays a great shot. It is all part of the jolly game of bowls and should be taken in the right spirit.