When playing lawn bowls, two closely-related factors are paramount, namely line and length. Most bowlers would agree that getting the length right is the more difficult task.
Which Weight to Bowl?
How much force you place behind your shot determines how far down the green your bowl will go. For a short jack, you need less weight than for a longer jack, assuming that your aim is to “draw”, by which is meant to get your bowl to the same (or thereabouts) position on the green as the jack (or some other target).
Giving more weight to the shot means that the bias of the bowl will start to take effect further down the green as the bowl slows down. When it start
s slowly from your hand, the bias will take effect almost immediately, which is why you always need to give plenty of “green” when bowling to a short jack.
Playing A Firing Shot
This sounds violent, and often is! The object of firing is (usually) to hit opponents’ bowls with sufficient force to move them far enough away from the jack that they can no longer count in the score. It is therefore a tactic used as a last resort to break the opposition’s stranglehold on an end, generally when they hold several shots, all of which need to be removed.
Firing is a skill that many skips think they possess but do not! In most games played by amateur bowlers, the firing success rate is remarkably low, although that does not stop some skips from hurling their woods down the green with such force that they either thud against the back of the ditch like rifle shots or send bowls off in all directions, including neighbouring rinks. There is also a serious risk to the ankles of anyone standing (literally) in the firing line!
The trick of firing is to be in control, and to be confident that you can send a bowl in a straight line with force. For most players, the action of using weight disturbs the line, and bowls go off in the wrong direction. One problem is that firing is not something that most bowlers practice, and if you are only going to fire a few times during a match, the chances of getting it right on those few occasions are therefore lessened.
It is often necessary to move a bowl, or the jack, and to do this the bowl being sent must have enough force to do the job when it reaches the target. However, the need may be to move a short bowl a few feet closer to the jack, or to push the jack towards other bowls that are lying further back. For this to happen, controlled weight is required.
Sending a bowl with controlled weight is one of the more difficult shots to play, because the weight must be neither too great nor too little, and the bias of the bowl must also be taken into account. Although the shot is not a draw, it is not a firing shot either, so there will be at least some bend to allow for.
Another consideration must always be what happens if the shot misses its target? Could a bad situation be made worse because a weighted shot was chosen?
Reading the Green
Whatever type of shot is to be played, with the possible exception of the outright fire, the condition of the green will have a considerable effect on the weight that needs to be applied.
Some greens are naturally faster than others, meaning that, for the same degree of effort, a bowl will run further on a faster green than a slower one. However, factors such as the length of grass on a green will affect the speed, as will the dryness or dampness of the surface. If the green has been poorly maintained there may be bare patches where the speed is faster than in other places.
The speed can change during the course of a match, caused by the sun or wind having a drying effect after a shower, or a sudden shower having the opposite effect. As the players walk up and down the green they will tend to flatten the grass and add speed to the green. However, where the players have not walked, and where most bowls have not run, the green may offer a slower speed.
All these factors, and the changing circumstances of a game of bowls, add many complications to the task of sending the perfect bowl. This is why bowls is such a fascinating game; learning how to play is not difficult, but getting it right every time most certainly is!