What is a Trailing Shot in Lawn Bowls?

  • By: Jack Toucher
  • Date: June 6, 2023

A successful trailing shot is a brilliant shot that can save the situation. Trailing the jack towards your own team’s bowls will gain you the respect of your fellow players and the spectators alike.

A trailing shot is when your own bowl makes contact with the jack, which is the white (or yellow) target bowl, and gently moves it towards your own team’s bowls.

In the example in the above photo, the green bowl is lying shot. The next time the opponent plays a blue bowl, and if there is no change to the current lie of the bowls, he can get out of trouble by trailing the jack gently towards the other blue bowls. The score will then change from 1 point down to 3 points up for blue.

How to trail the jack in lawn bowls

To trail the jack in lawn bowls when your skip asks you to, takes years of practice. A trailing shot is a draw with a little extra weight in order to move the jack to the position the skip wants.

Also for a successful trail the bowl must connect with the jack at exactly the correct angle so that it moves to the correct position.

Men don’t like playing trailing shots. They prefer to burn the end i.e. drive into the head so that the jack jumps out of the rink. The end must either be replayed or placed on the 2 metre mark, whichever appies in the Conditions of Play.

However, attempts to burn the end often fail and make the position worse. A highly controlled trailing shot would be better, either to get the jack away from the opponent’s bowl(s) or to move the jack towards one’s own team’s bowl to lie the shot.

The result of a successful trailing shot

A good trailing shot can make the world of difference. For instance, let’s say the opponent is lying three shots. And let’s say the skip manages to trail the bowl gently towards one of your team’s bowls which is lying behind the head. The skip’s bowl will be in the count too, so the points will go from three down to two up – and highly satisfactory result. Also the opponent will now have to get past the previously lying bowls – and get over the psychological damage – to draw the shot.

Why back bowls are important

Skips often say once a player has delivered a bowl: “That’s fine. It’s at the back” or “That’s a good back bowl”. They say so because the jack can always move toward the back where the bowls are lying, whereas the jack is unlikely to move towards a bowl that lies short of the head.

I say “unlikely” because it is not entirely impossible. Sometimes a player plays a firm shot that picks up the jack and smashes it against a back bowl, causing the jack to jump forward towards the mat. However, this is a rare occurrence and rarely, if ever, a carefully planned shot.

How to practice a trailing shot

Practice drawing before you practice trailing the jack. Drawing is the basis of bowls. Ideally you should play the position of lead, which is a drawing position, for years and years before moving on to the position of second, and so on.

Once you are an accomplished drawer you can move on to practicing a drawing shot. Place a jack next to a couple of bowls and try to trail the jack away from them. Try this at various lengths. Also place a jack near the ditch with a live bowl lying in the ditch, then try to trail the jack into the ditch to get the shot.

You need time, patience and practice to get a trailing shot right. Play as many fun days and competitions as possible to perfect your trail capabilities. Trailing the jack correctly is a wonderful feeling to get it right and you will earn much respect in your club.

Go to 9 minutes into the video to see the Trail The Jack section.