This article first ran in the VLBA (Victorian Ladies Bowling Association) Newsletter.
Please excuse me for not getting into the debate on the make of bowls you should use as there is such a glut of bowl colours,types,sizes etc. on the market today that it’s just a matter of choosing the set that best suits you and the conditions under which you play. One point I would like to make however is that bowls most used by Victorians have what I term the “hockey stick” bend (i.e. emphasis on late draw) but I much prefer the more regular “banana” bend type as they are better performed in the wind and much easier to control when executing a “paced” shot or more particularly a trail shot. What type of bowl I use is still the most asked question I have to contend with but for this purpose I’ll concentrate on size and weight.
This article is written basically for women bowlers in Victoria but from comments received about previous articles it seems that most of our men are more than a little interested. Perhaps it’s the outstanding quality of the publication that attracts male readers?
Back in the mid eighties I wrote an article similar to this one but it was prior to the advent of the narrower type bowls which invaded our shores around that time. During that era prior to 1985 I believed it was of paramount importance for bowlers, both men and women, to use the largest bowl they could comfortably manage. This no longer carries so much importance because the narrower type bowl does not have to cover the distance of it’s older counterpart and therefore requires less “push.” This doesn’t mean I completely dismiss the theory of using a larger bowl, particularly when it comes to the handling of heavy greens.
Let’s face it, if you are a Victorian and play most of your bowls south of the divide, then you are destined to play the majority of your bowls on slow surfaces, at the very least from season opening until Christmas.
In an earlier article headed “Heavy Greens” I touched on the subject of bowls and their attributes but now I’ll enter into a bit more detail.
There’s no doubt the heavyweight bowl carries more authority in the head and fares better in the wind when compared to it’s lighter counterpart but the latter vagary isn’t such a problem on heavy surfaces. The real downside to heavyweights on slower greens is their tendency to sink into the grass and therefore the momentum required, especially on long ends, is far greater. It’s that extra “push” required that reveals the flaws in many deliveries and in some cases causes us to throw rather than “bowl” the bowl.
My experience over 30 years in Victoria and another 11 in New South Wales has taught me that unless a larger proportion of your bowls is played on faster greens (including synthetics) then you should be using medium or standard weight bowls. Sorry to refer you back to men’s bowls but it’s interesting to note that the great Denis Dalton persevered mainly with heavyweight bowls during his five or so years in Melbourne and an examination of his record will show that the period in question was the worst of his illustrious career.
Now for the more controversial subject of bowl size. Realising that many women are not blessed with strong wrists or large hands, I still believe that too many bowlers, both men and women, opt for a smaller bowl, to the extent they sometimes play with a set two and even three sizes less than they should, simply for comfort’s sake. If you take your game seriously then you should be bowling with the largest size bowl you can manage and control.
In conclusion therefore, I recommend that if you have to endure the slower type surfaces then you should be using a medium or standard weight set and the largest bowl you can manage and control.
One tip I do have for you, maybe even two! If you have trouble holding your bowl in wet and cold conditions, place your set in the oven on low for one to one and a half hours prior to the commencement of play. I used this method during my years in Melbourne and Geelong with great success.The second tip is to purchase a packet of “Bowler’s mate”, a plasticine type substance and knead it in your bowling hand continuously during the day’s play. You’ll find this to have a three-fold benefit.
1. It assists blood circulation and keeps the hand warm.
2. Your fingers become soft and pliable rather than smooth and “glassy.”
3. Regular such exercise will help to strengthen your hand and fingers in the longer term.
On the latter subject it’s a good idea to exercise your hands and fingers on a regular basis by pressing right hand and fingers against left, bending the fingers back. By following this exercise pattern on a daily basis I enlarged my stretch from spanning a size four to size seven in a matter of three to four years.
Good bowling and remember, if you enjoy yourself you will bowl well – not – if you bowl well you will enjoy yourself!