Bowls selection & tactics

Not so many years ago all bowls were wooden and the only variation was size. In the modern game, the majority of bowls are manufactured from special composite plastic material, which is far more resiliant to ‘knocks’, is cheaper and more easily manufactured, and offers far greater consistency in both shape and performance.

Within the range of Composite bowls there is the choice of Weights (which determines physical size), however there is also a choice of Density (which impacts on physical bowl size for a given weight, but also changes the characteristic of the bowls slightly).

The information below seeks to give some guidelines on Weights and to explain the impact of Density of the bowl on its performance. We stress these are guidelines only… the beauty of the game (and often frustrating fact!) is that skill and experience still count for everything, and, even then, variables such as ground and weather conditions and opponents tactics all have a bearing.

Having the right/appropriate equipment will help, ……….but putting it to good use is down to the player!


Crown Green Bowl weights generally start at 2lb 4oz and go up to 2lb 14oz in 2oz increments.
The heavier the bowl the larger it will be in the hand. All other things being equal, Heavier bowls [larger bowls] will tend to run further distances and, of course, are less easily ‘knocked’ out of the way by opponents’ bowls.

Common convention is, therefore, that you should bowl with the heaviest bowl you can comfortably use to get maximum ‘reach’. HOWEVER, accuracy and control are vital…. so you should not choose weight at the expense of these factors. Finally, comfort is paramount, apart from anything else, if your bowl is a comfortable fit to your hand your game will be far more consistent, and it will allow you to concentrate on accuracy without being hampered by tiring hands as the match proceeds.

It is important that your Bowl sits comfortably in your hand, and you are able to grip it without discomfort to hand, fingers or wrist and without risk of it slipping out of your hand prior to delivery. We suggest you try various weights of bowls in your hand, testing for comfort and ease of grip. If you already own a pair of bowls.. are your hands and fingers getting tired? is the bowl slipping out of your hand? .. Once you have chosen a comfortable weight (size), the next decision is on the density of bowl.


Standard Density Bowls

These are the most popular bowls available, they work well on fast or slow greens, not as well as high density on fast green or low density on slow greens, but better than high density on slow greens or low density on fast greens. They are good general purpose bowls and purchased by bowlers who wish to finish the season with the same bowls as they started. They are also the most competitively priced, without any maintenance costs. Strongly recommended for beginners as well as County bowlers.

High Density Bowls

These have become very popular over the last few years. They are manufactured using a denser plastic which reduces the hand size of a bowl for a given weight. For example, a 2 lb 10 oz high density bowl will be the same physical size as a 2 lb 8 oz one. This creates two advantages and one disadvantage;

Advantages :

Bowlers with smaller hands can bowl heavier. For example a bowler that bowls 2 lb 6 oz Standard Density can bowl 2 lb 8 oz High Density with no increase in size. Exellent performance on fast greens, because the bowl is denser it pulls-up, instead of running past the jack and perhaps falling into the ditch.

Disadvantage :

High Density bowls do not perform as well on slow greens and are often short of the jack and need to be sent with more effort, this can sometimes lead to inaccuracy. It has become quite normal for bowlers to possess more than one pair of bowls, using high density when the greens are very fast and other densities for different conditions.

Low Density Bowls

These have become very popular with County and Competition bowlers. Low Density bowls are either manufactured from wood (Lignum Vitae) or Plastic. Lignum Vitae, being a natural product, is not as dense as standard density plastic, the result is that the physical bowl size is greater for a given weight.

For example, a 2 lb 10 oz wooden bowl will be the same size as 2 lb 12 oz standard density. Low density plastic bowls try to emulate the properties of wooden bowls and therefore are likewise larger in size than standard density bowls. This creates one advantage and two disadvantages;

Advantage :

Excellent performance on slow greens, because the bowl is less dense, instead of being short of the jack they travel that extra yard. To use a crude analogy, they are more like a football than a canon ball.

Disadvantages :

The bowl is bigger in the hand, so a 2 lb 8 oz low density bowl feels like a 2 lb 10 oz standard density or a 2 lb 12 oz high density bowl. This means that to maintain one’s hand size a drop in weight is require, normally 2 oz. Low density bowls can run for ever, like perpetual motion, on a fast green. So many beginners find it difficult to control low density bowls because of their bulk and running ability. Some more experienced players overcome this problem by having their bowls lacquered or by using grip wax.
Set out below are some handy hints on tactics for bowling beginners, and possibly could be useful as a reminder for some of our other bowlers who have been around a bit longer.

Tactics to help beginners

Choosing a Mark

First of all choose your mark. When bowling out the jack, consider the best area to which you will bowl. Do not bowl to a space just because it is an unoccupied part of the green, choose your own mark.

A Mark is set when the distance from the mat to the Jack is at least 19mtrs.

Get in First

When leading with the jack, concentrate on achieving a good lead. Initial advantage is very important.


If your lead bowl is inaccurate, learn from the error, consider what went wrong and adjust the next bowl.

Choice of Delivery

The following will be options for bowling your wood;

1. Bowling a closer bowl that your opponent.
2. Resting on your opponent’s bowl to give you a winning bowl.
3. Bowling a very good second, do not give your opponent an easy opportunity for two.
4. Trying the other peg when you have a very good green knowledge.
5. Firing at the bowl.

For the beginner there are many factors, including the score, which can affect the choice of delivery.

Don’t be Short

If you are bowling to your opponent’s lead, and will therefore have the last bowl, do not in any event be short as this achieves nothing but is indicative of carelessness and lack of application.

Know Your Opponent

Beginners should study the tactics of their opponents. Do they like long or short marks? Do they like straight or round marks? Do they like to go over the centre of the green? Do they prefer the corners? Do they prefer the edges of the green? Do they turn their bowls over on certain marks? All these points are essential to the tactical side of the game.

Change the Mark

Never bowl the jack to the same length or direction as your opponent has been bowling if they have won three or four consecutive ends.

Play to your Mark and not to your opponents.

Do not bowl the jack to a point which gives the opportunity to your opponent, if they win the end, to revert to bowling from a position to a mark where they have accumulated a number of winning bowls on previous ends. Watch how some players protect the jack or a good bowl and be aware of not promoting your opponents bowls. It is essential that, as a beginner, that you learn the green, establish the fast and slow ways in four directions to find the pace of the green.

Always follow the line of the jack and not the line of your opponent’s bowl.

Never give up the mat

Don’t move off the mat until your bowl has finished running. You are entitled to stay there, and it makes it more difficult for your opponent to follow the line of the jack and your bowl, as you obscure their view.

Setting a Mark

If you consider that the Mark set by your opponent is not 19mtrs never be afraid to request “long tapes” to measure the distance between the mat and the jack, at the most it will only delay the game for a few minutes and could be to your advantage.