The Bowl Bias - A Curved Path
Bowls are designed to travel a curved path because of a weight bias which was originally produced by inserting weights in one side of the bowl. This is no longer permitted by the rules and bias is now produced entirely by the shape of the bowl. A bowler determines the bias direction of the bowl in his hand by a dimple or symbol on one side. Regulations determine the minimum bias allowed, and the range of diameters (11.6 to 13.1 cm), but within these rules bowlers can and do choose bowls to suit their own preference. They were originally made from lignum vitae, a dense wood giving rise to the term "woods" for bowls, but are now more typically made of a hard plastic composite material.
Bowls were once only available coloured black or brown but they are now available in a variety of colours. They have unique symbol markings engraved on them for identification. Since many bowls look the same, coloured, adhesive stickers or labels are also used to mark the bowls of each team in bowls matches. Some local associations agree on specific colours for stickers for each of the clubs in their area. Provincial or national colours are often assigned in national and international competitions. These stickers are used by officials to distinguish teams.
Bowls have symbols unique to the set of four for identification. The side of the bowl with a larger symbol within a circle indicates the side away from the bias. That side with a smaller symbol within a smaller circle is the bias side toward which the bowl will turn. It is not uncommon for players to deliver a "wrong bias" shot from time to time and see their carefully aimed bowl crossing neighbouring rinks rather than heading towards their jack.
When bowling there are several types of delivery. "Draw" shots are those where the bowl is rolled to a specific location without causing too much disturbance of bowls already in the head. For a right-handed bowler, "forehand draw" or "finger peg" is initially aimed to the right of the jack, and curves in to the left. The same bowler can deliver a "backhand draw" or "thumb peg" by turning the bowl over in his hand and curving it the opposite way, from left to right. In both cases, the bowl is rolled as close to the jack as possible, unless tactics demand otherwise. A "drive" or "fire" or "strike" involves bowling with force with the aim of knocking either the jack or a specific bowl out of play - and with the drive's speed, there is virtually no noticeable (or, at least, much less) curve on the shot. An "upshot" or "yard on" shot involves delivering the bowl with an extra degree of weight (often referred to as "controlled" weight or "rambler"), enough to displace the jack or disturb other bowls in the head without killing the end. A "block" shot is one that is intentionally placed short to defend from a drive or to stop an oppositions draw shot. The challenge in all these shots is to be able to adjust line and length accordingly, the faster the delivery, the narrower the line or "green".
Points of Etiquette
Compliment on an opponents good shots.
Do no clap a lucky shot or wick
Stay behind the mat or head when it is not your turn to play.
When your bowl comes to rest, the rink passes to your opponent.
Do not criticise, only praise.
Keep to your own rink. Do not wander and distract other bowlers. Never stray onto the next rink, even if it is not being used.
Do not obscure boundary markers or rink plates (numbers).
Pay attention to the game to keep concentration and encourage other bowlers. Do not leave the rink during play unless really necessary.
Stand well back from the head when firing shots are played.
Be a good ambassador for bowls.
Appear to enjoy the game whether winning or losing.
Like all things, learning something new can be very daunting being flooded with information.
Do not try to absorb everything at once and revisit the following from time to time as your confidence grows.
The perfect Club member is one who is willing to place their services at the disposal of the Selection Committee for any position in the rink. It is hoped that the following brief summary will prove of interest.
No. 1 — The Lead
They should know the rules, about placing the mat, and to be able to throw the jack to the distance indicated by the Skip. This needs care and practice. During the trial ends they should decide which is the better playing side, and stick to it with both woods unless the Skip decides otherwise. They should not change their hand even if their opponent's wood is apparently in the way. Their prime object is to get a dead length wood with their first, and a foot or two behind with the second. Dead length "wingers" are only an aid to the "enemy" to wick off, and it is better to be just behind the jack — just draw. When at the head they should stand well away. A good No. 1 sets the standard for the whole game.
No. 2 — Positional Specialist
Their job is to consolidate what No. 1 has done, or to retrieve it. They must be able to play a resting shot, i.e. push a shot wood through and sit in its place, or to trail the jack or place their wood in a position indicated by the Skip. This cannot be done by a "rabbit". They also keep the score. Like No. 1, when at the head they should stand well away.
No. 3 — The Skips Mate
They must be able to play all shots, draw, resting shot, trail, covering or firm wood and drive. They are in charge of the head when the Skip goes up to bowl, but should not advise them about their first wood. If they differ from the Skip on any point, they should keep their feelings to themselves. Nothing destroys the morale of a rink so much as a disgruntled No. 3 — as many games are lost by poor morale as by poor play. After all, no one puts up a poor wood purposely. No. 3 is responsible, with their opposite number, for deciding the result of each end.
No. 4 - The Skip
The Skip should be a confident player — with all ability. They should try to knit their players together as a keen and cheerful team, giving generous encouragement and tactful guidance. Their gestures as to the placing of the woods should be clear, decisive and not capable of doubt. They should not allow themselves to be put out by bad luck or temporary reverses. Modest in victory, cheerful in defeat, giving full praise to their team for the support they have given them. A nervy excitable, irritated or despondent Skip gives the show away, and also probably the match.
Lastly — The best of us do put up some bad woods, and the worst of us often put up some good ones.