Saturday, 22 August 2015

Finding the line

Note : Since diagram 2 and the text regarding moving the mat up the green give incorrect information, this article has been replaced by Focusing on the line.

The two key factors governing your ability to be a successful bowler are line and length. Whilst the length may vary with each end played, the line stays fixed. The faster you can get the correct line and stick to it, the more likely you are to win.

You'll end up with four lines, one forehand, the other backhand, for the two directions of ends. To establish these, you have to set your aiming points. Depending on how much bias your bowl has, the aiming points will be somewhere to the left or right of the rink's centre line on which the jack is placed.

Using trail ends
It's common practise in competition matches to have two trial ends, each of two bowls. Make sure you always use trial ends to maximum benefit. Deliver one bowl to backhand and forehand on each end, trying to fix the aiming points.

Of course, you're going to be off-line on some hands. For example, if the bowl ends up too far to the left of the centre line, your aiming points needs to be adjusted to the right. But you'll finish the trail ends with a good idea where your aiming points are.

Primary and secondary aiming points
There are lots of views about how to fix your aiming points. Some bowlers say to use features on the far side of the rink and aim for them. Others recommend marks on the green part way up the rink. My recommendation is to use a combination of both.

I find the far end of the green is just too far away for accuracy. A few inches out can equate to a big gap from where you want to be.

A mark part way up the rink isn't ideal either. As the evening light changes that can become hard to see. Even more of a problem if you're relying on something which the wind blows away. And if your opponent moves the mat up the green you've got to find a new mark by trial and error.

Diagram 1 shows how using both types of aiming point is advisable. By setting a feature on the far end of the rink, you have some permanence. This becomes your primary aiming point and doesn't change throughout the match. 

You then set a secondary aiming point part way up the green, in line with the primary aiming point. When bowling, it's the secondary aiming point you actually aim for.

I suggest keeping the secondary aiming point pretty close to the mat. No more than three or four yards away. That gives you a much better chance of hitting the target.

Adjusting the secondary aiming point

Each time you come to bowl, check along the line of your primary aiming point for a secondary aiming point a short distance in front of the mat. Often this will be the same one you used previously. That's reassuring if you already know it delivers an accurate bowl.

You need to check for the secondary aiming point on every delivery because of the reasons mentioned previously. In particular, a canny opponent will move the mat right up the green if they think you've nailed the line.

Diagram 2 shows they're in for a surprise. By going through the same routine, you'll be just as accurate. Your primary aiming point doesn't change. Just look for a new secondary aiming point.

Make sure that new secondary aiming point isn't too far up the green. You'll be surprised how accurate your line is even if the aiming point is only a couple of yards from the mat.


  1. I don't think you are correct about the situation in Diagram 2. According to the bowling books I've read, your primary aiming point at the forward ditch will change.It will not be as wide as in Diagram 1. It is the angle between your aim line (your red dotted line) and the center line that remains constant. For mat movements of just a few yards the correction is inconsequential but for 4 yards or more up the rink it has an effect. Anyway, love your blog!

    1. Hi Clarke... Thanks for the comment. I still think the primary aiming point remains constant when the mat is moved up the rink. If you take the alternative situation, where the jack is either short or long, the primary aiming point doesn't change, just the weight of shot. Short or long jack, short or long mat, the primary aiming point remains constant. It's certainly worked for me this season and made my bowls much more accurate. Give it a try. Regards, John

    2. Now realise you ARE right. Clarke. Moving the mat up the green DOES to change the line, and is the only wat to do so. Playing a short jack doesn't make the change. I'll be rewriting this post shortly. Regards, John