Being able to judge the length of the jack is one of the key skills in bowls. IN this guide I look through why it’s so important, and how you can get better at it.
Drawing close to the jack comes down to two things – good line, and great weight. You will gain more by focusing on your weight than getting the perfect line.
Of course, getting the weight right on your shot can only be done if you can accurately judge how far away the jack is. This is why you should always be working on your weight control – it is a never ending task!
Why It’s Important Be Able To Judge Jack Length
Bowls is a game of adjustments. If you are a yard past the jack then you need to be able to adjust your next shot.
However those who are better at judging where the jack is – and therefore how much weight is needed – will be at an advantage. A player who can better gauge the distance needed with their first shot will be able to get much closer, much earlier. This means that any adjustments needed – if needed at all – will be much smaller.
This is key in formats such as Fours where you only have 2 shots per end. If you can nail the jack weight first up you will find life much easier with your second!
Who Will Benefit From Being Able To Judge Jack Length Better?
Whilst judging your weight is important for any bowler, a lead will benefit most from honing their weight control skills.
A lead is predominantly a draw bowler. They need to find that jack length straight away, otherwise they will put their team on the back foot from the start.
Of course, skips will also have to draw well to improve shot counts or to cut out shots when down, but they will find they will be playing more aggressive shots more often than not.
What Is “Good” Judgement?
It’s important to set a standard to know how well you are judging your weight. Ideally you will draw right on to the jack every time, but this clearly isn’t realistic!
In my opinion, if you are able to draw within a mat length in-front of the jack, or two mat lengths behind it, then you are showing great weight judgement.
This is an ideal target for most club bowlers. those with higher aspirations may need a smaller target!
How To You Judge The Length Of A Jack
Now we understand the “why” its time to get to the “how”. Here are my 4 tips on improving your judgement of jack length.
1. Use Reference Points
Most new players simply look up the rink at the jack and make a rough guess on how far away it is. This is incredibly difficult with such a small object, and not much on the ground to give your eyes proper perspective.
One way around this issue is to look around for reference points. Obvious ones include:
- the rink edge closet to the jack
- the “full length” tee mark
- the “minimum length” marker on the boards
Using this, along side the mat position, will give you a rough idea on the distance to the jack.
2. Improve Rolling The Jack
If you are a lead, or play singles then the biggest advantage you have is rolling the jack – however many beginner and improving players are really bad at it!
Firstly, you need to be able to roll it straight. This will give you the best indication of the jack length. Once the jack starts going off at an angle you will find the jack will be shorter than the weight you rolled it at.
Secondly, you should “feel” the weight you roll it. Simply trying to replicate the “feel” of the shot will get you pretty close with your first shot. Nev Rodda covers this well – he refers to this as “Rhythm speed”
3. Know Your “Natural Weight”
Your natural weight is how far you roll a bowl without thinking. The act of rolling a bowl at your natural weight requires no thought, you just step up to the mat, go through your action in a comfortable manner.
Knowing this is key, as this will become the reference point later on. It may even be beneficial to bowl a bowl using your natural weight during the practice ends before a game.
Not only does this loosen up your delivery, but it gives you a constant reference point which you can use from game-to-game on how heavy the rink is – perfect for those who play outdoors where conditions can vary wildly from day to day.
Once you know your natural weight you can move on to…
4. Learn To Adjust Your Natural Weight
“Yard on/yard off” drills are great for learning to adjust from shot to shot, but the biggest gains in your game can be found in how to adjust from your natural weight.
When you practice, use the “yard on/yard off” drill with your natural weight. This will enable you to adjust your game to different green speeds – and finally to adjust to different jack lengths.
Using this with the techniques above will help in getting closer to the jack first time round.
Finding the right weight for your shot is a fundamental part of a successful lawn bowler.
Using the tips in this guide can help you, especially if you are new to the game of bowls.
Have I missed anything? Feel free to send an email over, and I’ll be sure to add to this list!