Roles, Tips & Hints and Practice


Bowls is commonly played in singles, a pairs team, a triples team or a fours team.  Other than singles, you play as a team and within the team a strategy and game plan brings structure, discipline and knowledge to the team based on a number of concepts:

  • Every player has a role and knows that role
  • Every player and their role are as important as every other player and their role
  • The team members work at objectives, aims and goals
  • The roles of each player are incorporated into the game plan/strategy

The strategy is determined by what calls are made from the skips or threes in the game of fours or the skip or lead in pairs.


  • Places the mat at the discretion of the skip
  • Delivers the jack as close as possible to a distance determined by the skip
  • Bowl first bowl to within ½ a mat length or closer to lay a good foundation for development of the head
  • Deliver second bowl in the head but behind the jack


  • Should consolidate the head by adding to it so there are always at least 2 bowls in the head
  • Put in positional bowls within 1 mat length behind and/or covering opposition bowls
  • Often undervalued, a second player can have an influence on a game strengthening existing position or retrieving shot
  • Should be prepared to play a range of shots
  • Responsible for maintaining the scoreboard


  • Should typically be a versatile and experienced player to be able to play shots as required by the skip such as draw, metre on, wresting shot and drive
  • Is the director for the time spent at the head
  • Should get 2nd shot and add to the head to ensure there are at least 2 bowls on the head
  • Be able to play positional bowls to prevent big losses if the jack is moved
  • Should have a good knowledge of the rules and conditions of play for the day
  • Should be a good communicator and give precise and effective instructions to the skip to take pressure off him as well as motivating and supporting the skip


  • Should have wide experience of all playing positions
  • Should be able to withstand pressure and be a good communicator and motivator
  • Should be adept at shot selection to play as required to add to the head
  • Should demonstrate tactical skills taking advantage of opposition weaknesses and utilising their team strengths to best effect.



  1. Team compatibility is a solid foundation for success. Without it the task is more difficult.
  2. Body language is a mirror of your thoughts. A bowler who displays his thoughts is often easily beaten.
  3. Complacency is the art of losing. Enthusiasm is the art of winning.
  4. Confidence is knowing what to do, how to do it and when to do it.
  5. If your opponent wants to continually talk, ignore them. While they are talking, they are not concentrating on their bowls.
  6. Make sure you do your mat drill correctly and in a routine sequence to eliminate problems that can creep in.
  7. Bowling short or long? Adjust the length of your step – bigger or smaller. This will help get your rhythm back.
  8. Memorise and evaluate your game throughout and change tactics if necessary. e.g., if you haven’t scored for 3 or 4 ends bowl a different hand, move the mat around etc
  9. Mistakes are part of the game. Immediately forget a poor delivery or a bad strategy.  Refocus and concentrate on your next bowl to remedy the situation.
  10. If you feel you are getting uptight this will affect your deliveries. An easy way to de-stress is to take a few deep breaths holding the last one for about 6 seconds. This will help bring your pulse rate down and relax your muscles.
  11. Listen to your skip at all times or if you are skipping be very clear with instructions to each player.
  12. Be sure you understand the shot requested. Approach the mat with a clear picture of the shot you are going to play.
  13. The draw shot is always on. Don’t think about driving unless you can guarantee at least 50% accuracy and can assure yourself you won’t be worse off than before if your drive fails.
  14. If you are down on the head, never be short. Short bowls can not score but they can impede your next shot.
  15. Equally, if you are up on the head, never be narrow so that you destroy your winning position.
  16. Do not pack a head against a good driver. You are only tempting the opposition.
  17. When outplayed, change your tactics – length of end, position of mat, changing to the opponents favoured hand and slow down to a deliberate but not unsportsmanlike pace.
  18. If you are playing to score, play to the jack. If you are playing to save, play to the opponents counting bowls.
  19. Fast or running bowls should only be played when the position and back bowls are in your favour.
  20. It is always good tactics to have two second shots, preferably not together or at worst, second and fourth, before playing aggressively into the head. It is generally considered bad tactics to drive with your last bowl.
  21. When playing into the wind play long ends. When playing with the wind play short ends.
  22. A golden rule to bear in mind when building a head is that if you cannot win the end then the main aim is to lose it by the least number of shots. Never be afraid to let you opponent have one shot when your risky saving bowl may mean going down by more than that shot. If you are holding shots do not be greedy, but look for adverse positions in the head where a movement of the jack could result in a big score against you and play to cover that possibility with a position bowl.



It is important to have a structured practice regime.  Motivation will get you started but only good habits will keep you going.  “Roll ups” are not good practice – all you are doing is practising your bad habits.

Suggested practice routines are:

  • Jack delivery – short, medium or long
  • Draw to displaced jack – forehand and backhand
  • Draw around/under bowls
  • One metre through shots
  • Draw to ditch
  • Run shots
  • Drives

Use the club coaches who are only too willing to assist.


Finally, remember it is not necessarily the good bowls that win matches.  It is the loose ones that lose matches.  The most important bowl on the green is the one in your hand.

You get what you expect so EXPECT A LOT.