Using aiming points in lawn bowls
Finding the line to bowl is one of the foundations of bowls. When you find it, and are able to stay on it, it can make the rest of your game much easier.
There are many methods to bowling on a specific line. The most common way is by bowling towards markers, or points on, or around, the green.
Why use aiming points?
The best bit about aiming points are they remain static. Other methods, such as using the mat like a clock face, rely on everything being set up the same (such as the mat being laid straight).
Aiming points are also pretty resilient to minor changes to the environment, playing conditions, and the jack length. There are downsides, which we will cover later, but for the most part aiming points are fairly reliable.
How to use aiming points
- Focus on your point as you approach the mat
- Align your feet, hips and torso as you normally do
- As you complete your pre shot routine, draw a line in your mind’s eye from your feet to your aiming point and look where this line meets “jack high”. Use this as your target spot. This will give you your line to aim for and an idea on the weight required to reach the jack
- Watch your bowl carefully as it goes up the green, even if it’s a bad shot.
- If you miss the jack look for a new aiming point to adjust to
How to select an aiming point
There are a couple of ways you could approach this. The way I do it is:
- Select an arbitrary point to start with. You will quickly learn what your “average” point will be for your bowls. For me this is usually a mat width from the centre line for my backhand, and a mat length from the centre line for my forehead.
- On your trial ends take your shot to these marks following the steps above
- This will give you your first reference point from which to adjust
The second option is to bowl directly up the centre line. The green it takes will become your aiming point. This works in theory, but I find it doesn’t take into account for slower patches on the green which can dramatically affect the draw required.
What can you use as an aiming point?
An aiming point can be any feature or mark on or around the green. These include:
- Marks on the green - such as dark or discolored spots
- Marks on the bank - this can be scratches, or cuts along the bank. This is great if the green has old wooden banks as these usually have the most
- Marks behind the green - this could be anything you can see behind the green, such as windows, benches, broken bricks, or even the scoreboard!
Aiming in windy conditions
One of the biggest variables to your line after the condition of the green is the wind. Windy conditions are tricky as any change in direction, or strength can have a big impact on the path of the bowl.
In a head wind it will slow your bowl, making it act like it’s on a heavy green. This will tighten the line required.
In a tailwind it can speed your bowl up making it run faster, and curving more.
Whilst there are bowls designed to help with the effects of the wind, you will have to adjust your line accordingly to compensate for a change in the wind.
What can affect what aiming point to choose?
- Availability of point to choose. If you are lucky enough to play on a perfect green there may not be any marks to use. The same is if the bank has no cuts or scratches. Use what you have around you instead
- Where the mat has been placed - if a game is one sided a common tactic is to move the mat up. This will make the angles created by your aiming points different, so you will need to adjust accordingly
- How many players are in the head - similar to the point on availability above. If you play skip you will find everyone else at the other end blocking the bank and what’s behind it.
When to change aiming point
At some point over a game you will probably have to change your aiming point. The most common reasons are:
- Change in the conditions - this can be anything from a rain shower, to the great British evening dew. This will impact on your lines and lengths so it’s best to stay alert to any signs of change. This is why it’s best to observe your teammates and opponents, and get familiar with their lines to spot small changes
- Missing your line 2-3 times in a row - if you’re finding your shots are going wide too often you will have to reassess your marks. This could be a sign of environmental change as above, or that your point was just slightly off
- The mat has been moved - if the mat has been moved up you will have to change aiming points immediately. At this point in a game it is about who can adjust their game the quickest
So there you have it. I hope our introduction to aiming points has helped open some new ideas for you.
As always, get out on the practice greens and give it a go! See if it works for you.