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.”

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