What Are the Best Bowls to Use?

  • By: Jack Toucher
  • Date: June 12, 2023

If only bowlers spent as much time seeking out a good coach and practising as they do trying to find the type of bowls that turns them into champions!

That said, there are some general guidelines about the best bowls to use – although often the kind of bowls people are using in South Africa now conflict with these guidelines. It’s all a matter of taste, opinion and the current fashion.

Let’s look at the names and characteristics of the most popular bowls brands used wordwide:


At one stage in South Africa’s bowling history this was the dominant make available here. They are manufactured in Australia. (In my view, the Henselite Super-Grip was the best bowl ever manufactured.)

Their most dominant characteristic of Henselite bowls, generally speaking, is the relatively wide, arcing finish in the last quarter of the road. These days Henselite bowls come in a wide variety of colours and patterns. A full range of accessories, ranging from bags to clothing, are also available.

The greatest positive of Henselite bowls in South African conditions, in my view, is the fact that they are built mainly for fast, southern hemisphere conditions, namely quick greens.

As a skip, I am always wary when facing a team where Henselite bowls dominate, particularly the old type of bowls without the dimples. I know then that the team will probably get better results than even they expect.

These days Henselite bowls come in a wide variety of colours and finishes. The Henselite Tiger Pro is highly popular at the moment, not least because of the Malaysian squad’s success in using Tiger Pro’s exclusively. And Henselite supplies a wide range of branded goods.

Drakes Pride

Made in England, these bowls are bread-and-butter bowls that a vast number of bowlers in South Africa are using now. Different models (e.g. Protea and Professional) run differently from one another, with the Protea being a good front-rank model and the Professional a good, straight all-rounder beloved of skips. Drakes Pride bowls maintain their value when resold.

Sometimes you will see a Drakes Pride Terrier on the green in South Africa, but in my view these are generally not suitable to local conditions. I can see them doing well in slow, wet conditions.

Ultimately, though, Drakes Pride bowls are the best bowls for English conditions, so not many of the models are applicable to South African conditions. However, Drakes Pride Protea and Drakes Pride Professionals are firm South African favourites. Again, there is no limit to the styles and colours available in Drakes Pride bowls. There is a mighty range of branded accessories available.

Disclaimer: Jack Toucher plays with Drakes Pride Professionals.


There are a good number of excellent bowlers in South Africa who favour Taylor bowls, particularly those in the Taylor Ace range. The Vector VS and Taylor Blaze also pop up in various competitions. I personally am a bit spooked by the Taylor name as these bowls are manufactured in Scotland and surely must be built for cold, wet and slow conditions. And yet some top bowlers like them.

Taylors are large-looking, impressive rollers and, as ever, there are fairly limitless colours, styles and customisations available.


Australian-made Aeros were wildly fashionable in the late 2010s but have fallen from favour lately – although there are still some big name bowlers whose names are attached to the make. The characteristic scribbly, zig-zag dimples of the bowls supposedly help the bowls run true and cut down on wind resistance. However, many Aero bowlers that I know personally have become frustrated with their lack of turn on anything but the very quickest green.

As a skip, I am always happy to see an opposition team with an Aero bowl or two in it. Then I know that front bowls close to the jack will be to my advantage as Aeros have a lot of trouble turning left or right into small spaces. I also know that if a side of the rink is running straight the Aero will probably fall into the “groove” and miss the head.

Conclusion About Best Bowls

If you want to know how the various makes of bowls run, just watch games closely. Also ask fellow bowlers if you can play a couple of ends or social games with their bowls. As long as you concentrate hard, you will soon be able to tell the difference between the makes and models, and choose one that touches your heart – and the jack.