Bowls is a game all about choices – which shot to play? How much weight is needed? Should I attack or defend? However these decisions often overlook the most basic decision you need to make.
Choosing between forehand and backhand is the first decision you need to make before playing any shot, but its often the one given the least amount of thought. In this guide I will go through the basics of what each one is, why you may find one harder than the other, and finally, how to choose which hand to play.
What is a forehand shot?
A forehand shot in lawn bowls is played when the bowl is delivered out on the same side as your dominant hand. For example a right handed bowler playing a forehand will deliver the bowl out to the right of the jack, and the bowl will bend right-to-left.
For left handers the opposite is true. A forehand bowl will be delivered to the left of the jack and the bowl will bend left-to-right.
What is a backhand shot?
A backhand shot in lawn bowls is when the bowl is delivered to the opposite side to your dominant hand. For example a right handed bowler playing a backhand will deliver the bowl out to the left of the jack and the bowl will bend left-to-right.
Once again, the opposite is true for left handers. For them, a back hand bowl is delivered to the right of the jack, and the bowl will bend right-to-left.
Which is better
Neither forehand or backhand is inherently better than the other. Bowlers often have a preference as to which they want to play – this is especially true for new bowlers as one often feels more natural than the other.
A forehand or backhand may be better in certain game situations, but this is more based on shot selection, rather than the type of shot itself. We will cover this in more detail later.
Why is one harder than the other?
This is a strange one which confuses many new bowlers. Why does one feel easier than the other? Surely it should be the same, as either way you are rolling a bowl to a target – it shouldn’t matter whether it is to the left of the jack or the right.
Whilst this is true – both shots require you to bowl towards a target mark, they achieve this in slightly different ways.
A backhand shot is played slightly across the body, whereas a forehand is delivered with the body pointing out towards the dominant side. This is especially true for those who play with the shooter stance (see my guide on the shooter stance here).
Depending on how you bowl you find that one is more natural than the other, however to be a complete bowler you need to be able to play both equally well.
How to choose between forehand and backhand
The decision on which hand to play will depend on the situation of the game. There are 3 main factors to consider when deciding which hand to play:
- which hand has the best route to the target?
- which side of the green are you comfortable with?
- which hand is more natural for you?
Lets look at those in a bit more detail.
Which hand has the best route to the target
Firstly, which hand has best access to the point you want to bowl to. This is the same regardless of what type of shot you are playing.
For example, if there are 3 short bowls on the line of your forehand, it’s probably best to play the backhand.
Which side of the green are you comfortable with
It is often the case that one side of the green is “truer” than the other. For example, the lines are more consistent and you have a larger margin of error – this is especially true for outdoor greens, but can be a factor on indoor surfaces too.
IF you have the choice of both hands, go with the side of the green which gives you the best chance of hitting the right line.
Which hand is more natural to you
Finally, if you are in a high pressure situation it is usually best to stick with what you know best. So if you like playing forehand, then go with that.
I would warn newer bowlers from relying too much on this, as its important to develop a complete game. This can only be done by playing your weaker hand just as often as your stronger one.
None of these factors trump the other, and none are “red flags” where you can’t play a certain hand because of it (e.g. short bowls can always be played between or around). They are a set of guidelines that you can use to get the best result.
Once you can play both forehand and backhand you will have access to the whole rink. Developing both will allow to easily play around other bowls in the head to help develop each end.
Deciding which to play before each shot is the first choice you should make, and using the guidelines above you should help you make the right calls.