You will no doubt be bombarded with advice when you are new to the game. Well wishing experienced bowlers are always eager to pass on their own methods of doing something, some things will be very helpful, some may not, but they all mean well, but they forget that there is a lot to take in on your first few games, and getting too much advice can confuse, as no doubt you have already found. Of course you can enrol on a organized coaching scheme, if there is one being held locally, but if not you will be left to pick up the game as you go along from our bowling friends. We will not go into the many laws and rules of the game here, as they can be found on the various governing bodies sites, instead we will look at arming you with the basics to get started, and improving your game.
It has been said in the past, I think it was the Great man himself David Bryant that 'Bowls is 10% skill and 90% intangibles', this may sound like it is a game of luck, but this could not be further from the truth. What is meant is that, we can all be taught to bowl a bowl along a desired path, but no one can teach you to make that ball stop at a desired length, this is solely down to your touch, feel, co-ordination, and most importantly your sub- consciouses thoughts, which will work out the weight of the object you are holding, and how far it has got to travel, the type of surface it is rolling on, etc. and then signal to your arm how much back swing you will need to propel the bowl to where you want it to go, (intangibles). You will often hear bowlers say, they don't know why sometimes they can play brilliantly, and the next night have a poor game, (intangibles), we can never quite understand why this is, but we can learn ways, to help make us more consistent, which is all we can strive for, consistency is fundamental to the sport, and probably any sport. We will look at the mental side of the game in later posts, but for now, we will concentrate on what can be taught, which is a consistent delivery, which will enable you to bowl a consistent line, which is half the game.
We will assume that you have already been told what side of the bowl is the bias side, which side is your forehand and backhand, that you will be using the athletic style delivery, and that you are practising on your own.
It is important that you try and keep everything in line when you step on to the delivery mat to play, so begin by standing behind the mat, make a point of always starting from the same position, don't walk on from the side, remember we are trying to make your delivery stance a 'habit', so you don't have to think about it, 'just do it' to coin a Fraze. Walk onto the mat looking in the direction you plan to bowl, stand with your feet a small distance apart, so as to give you a stable base to start your delivery from. position yourself so you are pointing in the direction you intend to bowl, ie. forehand, or backhand. For now all we will be doing is delivering the bowl, not at any target, so take a comfortable step forward with your left foot if right handed, or your right foot if left handed, while at the same time bringing your bowling arm back to create a back swing, your non bowling arm should be used to steady yourself, and keep balance,bending down as you go forward, you should just about be able scrape the grass with your finger tips as your arm comes through. Release the bowl, as close to the ground as possible, and continue to follow through with your arm on the projected path. This is very important, so as not to 'pull' the bowl on release. A good practise is too imagine that your photo is being taken each time you deliver, and you need to hold the pose after delivering the bowl, this will make sure you do not get up to early, or snatch at the bowl as it is released, everything must be smooth, slow, and deliberate. practise this for several ends on your forehand, and again on your backhand, you can never practise your delivery style too much, it is going to be one of the most important aspects of your game, you must develop a smooth consistent delivery, which we don't need to think about, it is just part of you, the simpler you keep it the better, the less there is to go wrong with it over the years to come, just make it your own, and stick to it.
now you have mastered your delivery technique, it is time to learn how to bowl a 'perfect line'. You will need 2 extra delivery mats for this excercise if possible, if not anything of a similar size which the bowl will roll over. Take 1 mat and place it aprox 5 metres in front of the delivery mat, and aprox 1 metre out from the centre line of the rink, do the same both sides of the centre line. Now using your new super smooth delivery action, make this mat your aiming point, and with enought weight to reach half way down the green, try and roll your bowl directly over the mat, when you are able to do this with all 4 bowls on your forehand and backhand, move the mat froward to 10 metres and 1.5 metres out, and then 15 metres and 2 metres out. When you have learnt to do this consistently, you know that you can 'pick a line' and bowl it, now you just need to learn which line to bowl.
There are several different methods employed to determine line, some players will use a marker on the bank, some will use a marker on the green, whichever you choose make sure it is a permanent marker, not one which may be moved during the game, there have been stories of somebody having a brilliant game, using a bowls bag at the other end of the green, as a marker, only for the bag to be moved, or a leaf on the green only for it to be moved by the wind. The only problem with markers is that you will need to adjust in or out from your chosen marker, depending on the length of the Jack. Another method is to 'bowl to an imaginary arc', the arc of your chosen bowls will differ, but you will learn this with experience. On visualizing your chosen path to the jack, you will be able to determine the shoulder of the are, the point where the bowl will start to draw in, this is your aiming point, normally about 2/3 of the way along the draw line. If you can learn to visualize the path you are taking to the jack, before you bowl, it will be advantageous to your game in years to come, and as you start to improve, it will mean you can not only visualize the draw line required, but also the line you need to pick, when 'Driving' at the head, playing 'controlled weight', or the 'yard on' shot. Concentrating and picturing (visualizing) the line you are about to take, while standing on the mat waiting to bowl, will also help your sub consciouses mind feed in valuable data on how much weight you will need to bowl, but that is getting back into the intangibles of the game, and that is another lesson for another day.