A Beginner’s Guide To Indoor Bowls Tactics | A Helpful Guide

  • By: Reece Williams
  • Time to read: 5 min.

Indoor bowls is much like outdoor bowls – the principles of building a head and selecting the right shot remain the same. However there are a few differences from the outdoor game which you should keep in mind.

Beginner's Guide To Indoor Bowls Tactics

The different speeds can be noticeable, and the lack of impact from external forces (such as the weather) means that you often have to force change yourself to change the course of a game.

So, in this guide I will take you through the differences, and how you can improve your indoor bowls tactics.

Differences from outdoor bowls

Firstly, it’s probably a good idea to go over what the differences are between lawn bowls and indoor bowls, and how those differences might impact on your tactics.

Faster running surface

An indoor rink is typically much faster than an outdoor green – especially in the Northern Hemisphere.

This means it is much easier to draw, as less effort is required to move the bowl up the rink. Indoor games generally have much tighter heads for this reason.

Indoor rinks are also more consistent than the average outdoor green. You are much less likely to encounter bad patches on the surface, as grass is far more temperamental than fabric. Again, this makes it easier to draw, as finding a line to the jack is easier.

Less change between games

Outdoor greens are affected by many factors – mainly the weather! This means you can play the same rink on the same green a couple of days apart and it can play completely differently.

This isn’t the case for indoor greens. So long as the ambient air temperature in the building remains the same, you are unlikely to notice much (if any difference) when playing on different days.

A more consistent experience makes it easier to find the right lines and weights. Of course, just because it’s easier for you it also makes it easier for your opponent!

Less change during a game

An outdoor green can change during a game depending on the time of day, and the weather as the game progresses. This can be the great equaliser – one team can be dominating a game, only to find they can’t adjust when a rain shower hits and affects the lines and weights.

This can make it tricky to alter the momentum of a game when playing indoors – without any outside forces changing the game, you need to change it yourself.

Indoor bowls tactics

Indoor bowls tactics are very similar to the outdoor game. It comes down to the foundations of:

  • building the head
  • shot selection
  • changing the momentum

Lets look at those in a bit more detail…

Building the head

The fundamentals of the game of bowls remain the same regardless of what surface you play on.

At the forfront of this is the idea of “building the head”. But what does this mean?

“Building the head” is the process of getting bowls in good positions around the jack. It may not always mean being the closest, as the aim is to get into a better position than your opponent.

The ideal result is to give you/your team opportunities later in the end.

In an ideal world you will look to do the following:

  • get at least one bowl close to the jack
  • get bowls in safety positions behind the jack
  • get bowls covering where the jack is likely to move to
  • give yourself options to gain shots later in the end

Building a head is a subject in itself, and you can find out more in my guide to building the head here.

Shot selection

Once you have built up the head, it comes down to converting those good positions with the right shots.

The shots you take will depend heavily on how you read the head – you can read my beginner’s guide to reading the head here. However, the basics are choosing the right balance of aggression to convert shots.

For example, if you’re one down, and an aggressive weighted shot could get you 4 up – then that would be a good “risk over reward”, on the other hand risky drives can do far more harm than good.

Shot selection will come down to your own personal preference of shot, and your tolerance to risk.

Changing the momentum

As I mentioned before it can be tricky to change the momentum of a game, especially if you don’t have the possibility of the weather coming to save you. If you are struggling there are a couple of options to change it up.

Copy your opponents draw line

If your opponent is out-drawing you – as in they are getting to the jack easily and you are struggling to get into the game – then copying their draw line can help.

If you can’t find a line, then look where your opponent is aiming. If you are using a different hand (i.e. you are playing the forehand and they are playing the backhand) change to copy them.

Not only does it change it up for you, as the approach you were using clearly wasn’t working, but if you do miss on the new hand it can at least get in your opponent’s way. This can lead to them losing their rhythm and gives you an “in” in the game.

Move the mat

One of the oldest tricks in the book!

If you can win the jack back, move the mat somewhere different. Common options are bringing it as far up the green as possible, or as close to the ditch as possible. Either way choose the option furthest from where the game is currently being played.

The idea of moving the mat is to change things up. A new mat position means new reference points being needed, both for line and length.

It’s usually a last gasp approach for those on the brink of losing, but don’t be afraid to use it if needed.

Change the jack length

A less extreme version of moving the mat is changing the jack length. If your opponent has been hitting the longer jacks, go for a minimum jack length.

Mix things up. Give them something new to think about.

Indoor formats

The formats of indoor bowls are the same as the outdoor game – and the tactics involved are very similar.

If you are after guides on individual formats you can checkout my guides here:


Indoor bowls tactics are very similar to outdoors. Stick to the fundamentals, and you won’t go far wrong.

Get The Complete Lawn Bowls Drill Pack

The Jack High Bowls Drill Pack is available now for instant download.

Perfect for beginners and improving players looking to be more consistent and win more games!

Get The Complete Lawn Bowls Drill Pack

The Jack High Bowls Drill Pack is available now for instant download.

Perfect for beginners and improving players looking to be more consistent and win more games!