What is the Clinic Method in Lawn Bowls?

  • By: Jack Toucher
  • Date: August 2, 2023

In the early 1970’s the Wanderers Bowls Club in Johannesburg, South Africa was the home of many international level bowlers. One evening after a game a group of men were chatting over a drink, discussing what makes one bowler better than another.

They decided to film a number of top players (this was long before) and to then analyse what made them so accurate and successful. Using an unwieldy 16mm film camera they did this and then sat down to figure out what makes a good bowling delivery.

Ultimately their findings were brought together in a new way to coach bowls, known internationally as the Clinic Method. Most of these guidelines still apply in South Africa and elsewhere in the world.

Essentials of the Clinic Method

Here they are:

  • The essential three steps are: Find the Line, Walk the Line, Play the Line
  • Stand one step behind the mat to listen to skip instructions and look for the line you are going to play on the green
  • Walk the line onto the mat at the precise line you are going to play, keeping your eye on the line to the jack or your preferred aiming point
  • The first foot you put on the mat is the anchor foot
  • Use the foot on the same side as your delivery arm (right handers use the right foot, left handers use the left foot) as your anchor foot, which does not move during delivery
  • Keep your delivery arm locked at the elbow so that it swings like a pendulum for the swing
  • Bring your arm back for the back swing, and when you begin to bring the arm forward again, step forward gently with your non-anchor foot
  • Rest your non-delivery arm gently on your upper thigh
  • Keep your body as still as possible so you hit the exact line you envisage, sliding the non-delivery arm gently down the leg as you lean down to deliver the bowl
  • Your step forward should not be a massive step but just a small, balancing step forward
  • Your bowl should make contact with the green just beyond the tip of your shoe on your non-anchor foot
  • Stay well down while you deliver the bowl down the line
  • Finally step your anchor foot forward to join the other foot as you watch the progress of your bowl down the green.
  • Wait until your bowl just about comes to rest before stepping forward and arcing round behind the mat so the next player can deliver her bowls

Following the “discovery” of the Clinic Method, it was followed in South African coaching methods and brought South Africa to forefront of competitive bowls – a position the country retains to this day.

And now all lawn bowls coaching methods around the world echo the Clinic Method.

A major proponent of the Clinic Method was the late Doug Watson, who had a weekly bowls coaching column in The Star newspaper in Johannesburg in the 1970’s. You can find Doug Watson’s The Champion Way comic strips here.