Playing round the clock in lawn bowls means playing the forehand up and down the green consistently, or playing the backhand up and down the green consistently. Thus the bowler’s bowls will travel in a sort of circular motion up and down the green in a effort to reach the jack.
Why play round the clock?
Novice leads in particular play around the clock because they believe it is easier to get a grip on and remember the line on two sides of the green rather than all four sides i.e. up and down on the forehand as well as the backhand.
Skips are prepared to let an inexperienced lead (or a second) play round the clock if they are getting good results i.e. getting near the jack regularly, but they will not let a lead play this way indiscriminately.
If there is a real danger that the player could give away the shot by playing a shot while playing round the clock, a skip will not hesitate to ask the player to change his hand.
Playing round the clock could mask a bad habit
If a player believes (usually erroneously) that he “can’t play backhand very well” or “doesn’t know how to the forehand” then he may resort to playing round the clock so he can play only his preferred hand.
This is bad bowls. The player should seek out a coach immediately to get some pointers on how to play the hand he is having trouble with. The truth is that a so-called “backhand” is exactly the same as playing the so-called “forehand”. All that really changes is the position of the body on the mat.
A player who doggedly wants to play round the clock has a psychological problem rather than a technique problem.
Anyway, once a bowler reaches a certain level of accomplishment, she will have to play the hand that can get the best results. A mindless playing round the clock simply is not part of lawn bowls.
Tactical danger of playing round the clock
If a player insists on playing round the clock, the opponent players will soon notice this. Most likely the opposing skip will ask his players to play the round-the-clock players favourite hand, thus blocking the way. That’s a very good tactic and will put the opponents on the back foot.
Typically a skip may say to his players across the green (or privately): “Play that hand because they like it!” This will put your team in a weak, defensive position and may force the round-the-clock onto the hand he is afraid of playing. Usually this leads to poor results, which is exactly what the opposing team wants.
Read this excellent article about lawn bowls tactics. Part 2.3 expressly states: Avoid playing “around the clock.” Play the favourable side. Offer a player a second attempt if first failed. In other words, the skip should not weaken and allow the player to simply play the hand he prefers without consideration of the prevailing situation in the head.