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Home       Bowls and Greens
  Types of Bowls
Which is the right bowl for me? This is a common question beginners have and even experienced players who fell the need to change. What is not well understood that some bowls better suit some conditions. Having said that it then follows that bowlers should probably play with more than one set of bowls, probably two but maybe even three. This is obviously only relevant to advanced players who can use the subtle differences between bowls to their advantage. Beginners should get a set of bowls that turn quite alot and stick to them for a few seasons.

It is a reasonably new phenomena that narrow bias bowls have become common and this raises some good questions..

Why is this? Surely this is cheating?

Why shouldn't all bowlers play with the same equipment to make it fair?

There is also an assumption that bowls is played on a perfect surface this is rarely the case. In New Zealand greens can run at ridiculously fast pace and normal classic bowls just go out too far and are virtually unplayable. Narrower bias bowls are necessary just to have a normal game. In the U.K. & USA and many places in southern Australia greens are slow and bowls do not turn as much. In these conditions traditional bowls are the most suitable. Subsequently there are many different manufacturers that have designed their own special bowl that will make you a champion. To take that out of the game would certainly rob it of some of the mystery and intrigue.

I am generally not a fan of really narrow bowls and now use Aero Optima Size 4.5 bowls. Recently a friend of mine changed to Redline bowls from Classic II Henselite bowls. He was Group singles Champion with those bowls but has since struggled to get back to top form, particularly in Pennant fours. He trialed the bowls up north during the winter and played like a champ. Waited for a while in Melbourne then brought them out when the greens were still slow and rather dead. A couple of things happened that made his standard of play deteriorate. Firstly he played too may narrow bowls with his new narrow bowls. This is bad and indicates lack of precision with his aiming line. Secondly he would often be overweight on the narrow hand. What was happening is that he would not have the weight control as the bowl would stay on it's running surface longer as the soft surface would not allow the bowl to fall naturally on its bias and the bowl stayed more upright. This results in less turn and the bowl maintains more forward momentum that takes it 3 or 4 feet further than expected.
A side wind can also holds the bowl up on its running surface an the same thing happens. Again when too much force is applied at delivery, the bowl will travel straighter along it's line, not come into the head and miss merrily on the wide side. The line initially looks good but the bowl will not turn not the head. A correction on the line and less weight can even mean missing narrow with the next bowl!!

So this is an example of the wrong bowls for the conditions. Same player but poor results. Hard to convince the play who has paid alot for the new bowls.

My revolution and quest currently is to play with bowls with a nice wide banana turn. These are ideal on slower and uneven greens. Conversely not the best choice for fast true greens as they are too wide for accuracy. So I bought a set of Aero Revolution 4.5H So far they are going well with one club singles and you surely need to concentrate on your line.

  Narrow Bowls
So why do so many players now use narrow bowls?

I remember my first set of bowls, and I still have them for sentimental reasons. They were a set of Dunlop bowls that I could draw very well with. However at a singles championship day I was using them on a dry 17 second green with a fair cross wind. My bowls where traveling side ways over a rink and virtually impossible to judge the line as the bowl would turn a lot and the wind extenuated the rate and size of the draw. Naturally I got a good hiding and inexperience meant I didn't handle the narrow side and had too many unsuccessful up-shots. I realised that the bowls and the conditions combined where my downfall that day. Not that I would have necessarily won with other narrow bowls I would have been much more competitive on every end. This is because the bowl's arc is more predictable and it travels a straighter line into the head on it's last third of it's journey.
What this means is the bowl travels less distance out of the head. Poor bowls are not quite so poor as they would have been with normal bowls. Narrow bowls stay on their running surface longer and the profile of the bowl means there is less friction than a bowl continually falling of it's bias.

Advantage of narrow bowls.
Of course great bowls can be play with conventional bowls but the most important points are;
Narrow bowls reduce the amount of error on the draw shots.
It is easier to draw under bowls and not travel too far out of the head.
Weighted shots can be played with less weight as the bowl will travel straighter into the target and not be turning off-line. The Bowl is also more likely to stay in head.
Narrow bowls still turn very well on >14second greens.
 They are more likely to pick up the jack cleanly as the bowl travels straighter in to head. (Don't rely on this one too often! Not many players can hit the jack on a draw shot on purpose.)

Disadvantages of narrow bowls.
As mentioned they are a poor choice on slow or uneven or wind affected greens.
The wind and the green can cause a narrow bowl to turn off line when not expected. It can/will still turn out of the head and be a poor bowl. Trying to adjust on the next bowl wider will often result in a straight run and finish wide. and so on.....
Narrow bowls require careful weight control to avoid finishing too far through the head.
Narrow bowls with a really straight run will often go through a hole when a normal bowl will enter at a bigger
angle and get a kind "in-off" result of another bowl.
Narrow bowls make it more difficult to draw around bowls. This is most important for a Third and Skip when the head maybe
blocked. This also results in too many players playing through a head with weight not required.

In summary;

Narrow biased bowls can reduce the margin of error resulting in more effective bowls and less wasted bowls.
However, do not use the most narrow bowls unless you are to play on a true, fast green >15 sec, and with no wind!!!

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All material Copyright 2016 to Robert Huddle M.Ed. B.Ed. (Physical Education)
Melbourne, Australia. Written approval required for public use.
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