The grip is the last point of contact before you deliver the bowl. Getting the right grip is integral to a consistent and repeatable delivery. here is my guide on the best lawn bowls grips.
One of the first things players are taught is how to hold a bowl, however it’s one of the main issues many club players have.
In this guide I hope to cover the main grip options and help you find one that works for you, and your game.
The grip is vital for a good, consistent delivery technique. The grip is the final point of contact with the bowl before release. This means that anything that the grip is the last chance to ensure the bowl goes in the intended direction.
Poor grip can also lead to lack of confidence in delivery action. This is especially true in wet conditions. This is an issue I’ve had, and have seen in others.
When you are not confident you can control the bowl through the backswing, or in your ability to release at the correct point it throws you off your game. It becomes all you can think about, and you will end up trying to compensate for it, either through how you hold the bowl, or how you deliver it.
These unintended changes will affect your line control, and your confidence.
Finally, a poor grip is one of the key factors in poor technique. This is often the cause of bowls “wobbling” after release. A poor grip leads to an incorrect release, and the bowl won’t go straight on it’s line. This wobble will affect the line and weight of the shot.
Whilst the grip technique is important there are other factors to consider before you go and change your grip style.
There are other issues beyond the technique that can affect your ability to grip the bowl correctly.
Firstly, make sure you have the right size bowl. There is a common mindset in bowls that “bigger is better”, which is true. A bigger bowl carries more weight, this helps with weight control. Also a heavier bowl takes more energy to be moved. This forces your opponent to use more weight when trying to remove one of your shots.
However a bigger sized bowl shouldn’t be used to the detriment of your grip.
This is important for all players, even seasoned bowlers, as the size of bowl you need can change over time as your grip strength changes.
As a rule of thumb you should be able to wrap both hands around the running surface of the bowl. Your fingers and thumb should meet in the middle.
However, the best way to check is to test your grip. Dunk your bowl and your hand in a bucket of water. Once out of the bucket, grip your bowl as you would normally. Hold the bowl out in-front of you with your hand on top of the bowl (so the bowl is being pulled out of your hand by gravity). You should be able to hold the bowl comfortably.
Grip enhancers can cover a multitude of sins. I use grip enhancers regularly. Just a touch gives me that extra bit of confidence in how I hold the bowl.
Here are the main grip styles you will come across
Thumb on-top. Index, and fourth finger either side of the running surface placed in grips on the bowl (if they are present)
Bowl sits in the palm of your hand with the thumb resting on the side.
Similar to the claw, but the fingers run across the bowl, so the index finger, and middle finger rest either side of the centre of the running surface.
Many factors affect which style of grip you take. Here are the main ones.
If your bowl has embedded grips, then the claw grip will be suited, as the fingers will rest within the embedded section of the bowl. Even the Cradle grip may feel uncomfortable with this style of grip.
The embedded grip is designed to be held with the fingers running parallel along the grips. Holding the bowls any other way will feel awkward.
If you have ungripped bowls you may struggle with the claw grip as there is nothing for the tips of the fingers to hold on to. Bowl grips are also great for giving a reference point for you to place your fingers in.
Wet conditions are the hardest to play in – at least from your grip stand point. They will test your grip and bowl size selection like no other element.
A cradle grip will be better suited for wet conditions, as there is more surface area in contact with the bowl. The palm of the hand can almost act as a suction cup on the bowl.
The other benefit of using the cradle grip in wet conditions is it allows you to get the full palm of your hand behind the bowl on delivery. This will allow you to “push” behind it more, making it easier to get more weight on with the slow, heavy greens.
Fact greens require more of a “touch” approach. Many bowlers I have discussed this with recommend a grip where the finger tips are predominantly used – such as the claw grip.
This gives you a better “feel” for the bowl.
Conversely , on slow greens the cradle grip is better as you can get your hand behind the bowl on delivery – giving you more “umph” behind it to get the extra weight, much like I discussed in the section above.
You can use different grips for different games. David Brtant used to use a claw grip for fast outdoor and indoor surfaces, and a cradle grip for the slow stuff. This seems to be the better approach.
First and foremost, you need to make sure you can actually grip the bowl. The best way to do this is to use the “bucket of water” method outlined earlier.
If you find that one grip is easier than any other then you may be onto a winner.
Have a roll up and try each one out. You will likely find one that feels more natural.
Of course it’s great to practice all of the grips, as you may want to switch during a game, for example, if the rain comes and you find you are struggling, knowing that you’ve practiced your cradle grip will be a great confidence booster.
As you can see, there is no “one way” to hold a bowl. Try out the different techniques outline in this guide, and find one that works for you.
Comfort and repeatability are the key factors here. A bit of planning and practice, and you’ll never have to worry about your grip again.