Category Archives: Book

Troubleshooting – Short Bowls

As the heading suggests it’s time to start looking at common faults that creep into our game and see if we can come up with an antidote. Such problems are many and varied but there is generally an answer so it’s a matter of acknowledging the fault, finding the solution and tucking it away in our “computer” in case it rears its ugly head again. The simplest answer to all our problems is to have the services of a full time coach like we see in the sports of tennis, golf etc. but there just isn’t enough money to be made in our sport to support such a luxury. I do recall however, the great benefit derived by our champion of the past in Denis Dalton who had his friend and coach in Norm Yodgee travel with him wherever possible. Those of you who remember Denis would acknowledge that he possessed one of the smoothest and most fluent deliveries one could wish to see.

 Consensus says that the No.1 fault requiring rectification is:


 The all too obvious answer is lack of judgement but we can’t leave it at that. On the lighter side to this dilemma, I was playing bowls in the Ampol Master of Champions at City Club in Sydney some years back  where a notorious but champion bowler and coach  by the name of Garney Noble was a member. He spent most of the day frequenting the bar and on this particular day he was pestered by a fellow member with the complaint ” I can’t get up, will you have a look and see what I’m doing wrong.” Garney finally succumbed and a head was set up. The worthy coach said “run the jack into the ditch.” His “friend” tried but missed and the bowl went into the ditch. “End of lesson” said Garney and walked off the green.

 In spite of the message conveyed in that story, there are times when we are playing well and, almost suddenly, short bowls start to emerge. There is also the day when we continually believe we’ve made a correction on a previous short bowl only to find we again haven’t reached the head. Believe me I’ve experienced both of these shortcomings many times in the past.


A relaxed but extended, even exaggerated, follow through. Lack of your usual follow through is most likely caused by  tension or tiredness. An analysis of my many games at the Victorian Master Singles at Richmond Union (usually played in the heat during January) revealed that I would run up a handy lead only to see it frittered away with short bowls late in the game. At times I was too slow waking to the fact that my usual extended follow through had gone missing, but there is no excuse for you falling into the same trap, now that you know the consequences. As indicated in previous articles, if you bring your aiming mark down the line, closer to the mat, you’ll find it far easier to complete a long, strong follow through as you will be less inclined to lift your head too early. Another fault which caused me to fall into the short bowls trap revolved around reaching out too far in front of the leading foot before releasing the bowl. Keep this in mind also, as it may be one of your misdemeanors. The real secret to overcoming a continuing short bowl syndrome is to prepare a mental list of possible shortcomings in the order in which you believe most affects your game. It might read:

  1.  Check follow through.
  2. How far am I looking from the mat at point of delivery?
  3. Am I reaching out too far before releasing the bowl?

 Some bowlers believe that I’m obsessed with my emphasis on the follow through but I do have a very good ally. Having already expounded my theory on the importance of this aspect of the delivery I was pleased when one day I picked up an ancient bowls’ magazine and it included a tip from the great David Bryant. I recall his precise words (written of course) which read:

“I never feel I’m bowling well unless I’m bowling with an exaggerated follow through.”

Pennant – A Team Game

Teamwork and compatibility are essential ingredients of pennant play and the saying “a champion team will beat a team of champions” is especially  true in our game of bowls.

 Earlier advice to individuals in the rink may be repeated in part in this article but it only serves to emphasize the importance of such instruction. Most of the foregoing suggestions can also be applied to matches other than pennant.


 Keen and enthusiastic bowlers often spend many hours thinking about an upcoming game, through the week, the night before and even the morning of the match, something I believe to be detrimental rather than a benefit. Most of your match preparation should take place during practice sessions however a short visualization exercise the night before is certainly in order. From that time until you reach the venue of your match, find something else to occupy  your mind. Try light gardening, sewing, reading etc.  but, unless you are used to hard physical work, don’t engage in anything too strenuous.


 If you are really serious about your game you should arrive at the club about twenty to thirty minutes before your match is due to commence. Have a look at the green and attempt to assess the pace thereof. Observe the wind conditions (velocity and direction), polish your bowls and then set off for a brisk walk. Slip in a few knee lifts and arm exercises to loosen the muscles  (this is of great importance if you’re not so young any more). On return make an effort to get away by yourself for about eight or ten minutes and practice relaxation. Personally, I adopted the same method as the late Sir Robert Menzies when he prepared for a speech or address. This consists of concentrating intently on a tiny object (spot on the wall, keyhole etc.) until all outside interference (called chatter) is eradicated from the mind. Having worked on this for  three or four minutes you’ll find yourself able to reach a deeper form of relaxation. You then commence visualizing yourself, in great detail, delivering the bowl smoothly, effortlessly and with supreme confidence, playing brilliantly and most importantly, vividly imagining the result. Not just the perfect finish of the delivered bowl but your elation at winning the match. YOU ARE NOW READY TO GO OUT AND PLAY THE GAME OF YOUR LIFE !!!


 Can you learn to be a winner(or think confidently like a winner) or is that something you’re born with? I sincerely believe in the former and also believe the answer is found in the amount of time spent on the green in INTELLIGENT practice. The equation reads:   PRACTICE = CONFIDENCE = SUCCESS.

 Your thinking will go from hoping to play well to confidently expecting to win and that confidence in yourself and your ability will grow as you climb the ladder of success. The expectation is not that you will play better each time you perform but you will notice a lift in your general standard of play. In particular, your really bad bowls will be fewer and your days of performing poorly will diminish. Top players of interstate and international level don’t play that many more outstanding shots than a good pennant exponent but their consistency is greater and the number of bad bowls and poor performances is considerably less.


 Bowls is a thinking person’s game, but don’t let your mind become clogged with too much detail. Excessive concentration on your delivery should be avoided. Practice sessions are where you work on “grooving” your delivery and the saying “REPETITION IS THE MOTHER OF ALL SKILLS” applies to bowls as much as any other sport – and more than most.


 Bowls doesn’t require the physical fitness of more demanding sports such as netball, basketball, hockey etc. but I do think that too many bowlers hide behind that fact. Mental fitness and alertness are of  the utmost importance in bowls because games can last up to four hours and even longer. The concentration span required  therefore, is far greater than the aforementioned sports which probably don’t last for more than ninety minutes. Any fitness instructor will tell you that when your physical stamina wanes, your concentration falters so it is necessary to maintain a reasonable level of fitness. Plenty of brisk walking and a few bending exercises will help you in your endeavour to concentrate for the entire pennant game. It is a good idea to engage in some finger stretching exercises by regularly pressing the fingers of one hand against those of the other and don’t forget my earlier advice by breaking your game into five end lots, thus making it easier to maintain concentration for the duration of your match. Towards the end of a close match there will usually be a critical time when one “big” shot can turn the game. If your fitness level is good and you are thinking clearly then the time has arrived and you are ready and confident in your ability to play the shot that can win the game for your rink and/or team.


 Compatibility is absolutely essential if your rink and your team are to be successful so it doesn’t matter what your feelings are towards other team members, your attitude must be cordial and encouraging with no hint of animosity.

 Pennant bowls is a game we play for sheer enjoyment, it is a team game first and last and though we love to win and dislike losing, let’s get our priorities right.