Choosing a set of bowls can be challenging, especially if you’re not sure where to start.
I’ve been around bowls for many years, and have helped several friends work out what bowls are best for them.
The main points to consider when choosing a set of lawn bowls are:
- Surface – what surface are you going to be playing on
- Bias – what kind of draw line works best for you
- Grip – do you have any preference on the style of grip
- Size – what size bowl would you need
- Price – what price range are you looking at
- Second-hand or new – are you planning on slashing out on a new set of bowls, or are you looking at getting something pre-owned
Whilst going through these points might not give you a clear cut answer, it will definitely help cut down the options to only a handful.
From that point it comes down to personal preference on appearance, and on availability.
Lets take a closer look at each of those points.
Many would consider a model’s “line” (or bias strength) to be the biggest factor in choosing a set of lawn bowls. However I think that the surface you play on to be more important.
Whether you play indoors, outdoors, or a bit of both will have a massive impact on the types of bowls you should be looking at.
The surface plays a significant role because bowls will turn more on faster surfaces.
Indoor surfaces are much faster than outdoor greens, therefore you will need a narrower bowl when playing indoors to accommodate the extra swing.
The same can be true for outdoor players depending on what the greens are like in your area.
For example, those living in sunnier climates (such as Australia) will find their greens run much faster than those who play in colder countries (such as the UK).
You will have to choose a set of bowls that suits the surface you play on.
Here are a few links to get you started:
Best Lawn Bowls For Fast Greens
Best Bowls For Indoor and Outdoor Players
Once you have thought about the surface you will be playing on, its time to consider what line you want your bowl to take.
Modern bowls do swing less than bowls made 15-20 years ago, so the differences are not as noticeable, however, you can still find quite a range of biases on sale today.
The strength of the bias you use will depend on a couple of factors:
- personal preference
- the positions you play in your bowls team
Personal preference is key here, as none of the rules are concrete. As with anything in bowls – if it works for you then carry on! Just because someone suggests a narrow bowl, doesn’t mean its best for you, so please take any guidance here as just that. Guidance.
The next biggest factor when choosing a bias is to think about how you play.
For example, if you are newer to the sport, or if you play lead in your team, then you would probably benefit from using a narrower bowl. This is because playing a draw shot can be easier with something that doesn’t bend so much.
Conversely, if you play skip, then you will want a heavier bias. A bowl that swings more will help as you often have to draw around short bowls. Having a narrow bowl as a skip will likely lead to crashing into short bowls, making it much harder to have an impact on the game.
Here are a few more places to go to find out more:
Now you know what kind of bowl you want, you now need to consider how you’re going to play with it!
This comes down to 2 factors:
- the grip
- the size
In this section we will look at how you are going to hold on to the bowl.
Whilst there are all kinds of lotions and potions for enhancing your grip on a lawn bowl, nothing can beat a good grip from the dimples on a bowl.
The style of grip on a bowl is massively important, as it will be the foundation on which you base your grip.
Again, this will come down to personal preference, as there are plenty of styles to choose from, and every manufacturer has a different kind.
The most common styles of grips found on bowls are:
- Non-gripped – this is a bowl with no grip on at all. The shoulders of the bowl are completely smooth
- Dimpled – this is the most common. The shoulder of the bowl is covered in either round or oblong indents. The idea is that your finger tips can sit nicely in these “dimples”
- Embedded – The newest style is known as an “embedded grip”. This is where there is a ridge cut into the shoulder of the bowl, and a dimple grip is placed inside it. This effectively makes the bowl smaller in your hand, which in turn makes it easier to grip
You will likely see an example of each of these during any club match.
I can’t offer too much guidance on this, so this is one thing you are going to have to try yourself!
Choosing the right size of bowl is just as important as selecting a bias.
Whilst it is generally accepted that you “should choose the heaviest bowl you can comfortably hold”, you will find many people ignore the “comfortable” part of this and just choose the heaviest bowl they can find.
The benefit of having a heavier bowl is completely gone if you can’t hold the bowl properly, and therefore can’t control it as you deliver your shot.
Here is my guide on how to choose the correct size of lawn bowl for you.
Finally, when choosing a set of bowls you have to face the fact you’re going to have to spend a bit of money.
Price – and the availability of bowls in that range – is possibly the biggest limiting factor for many bowlers.
A brand new set of lawn bowls can cost upwards of £400, and despite there being a thriving second hand market of bowls, many of the newer models have not yet started to make it to online marketplaces, such as eBay.
My recommendation is to always try to buy second hand. Bowls are expensive when bought brand new, and will lose most of their value once you start playing with them. Second hand bowls however don’t.
They are much cheaper, and you can be fairly certain of selling them at roughly the same price you bought them for when you want to move on.
Here is my guide on buying bowls second hand, so go out there and grab yourself a bargain!
Buying a set of lawn bowls will come down to how you play, where you play, and how you want to buy.
By following the points in this guide you should find the process of buying a set of lawn bowls much easier.