Choosing a set of bowls. It can be confusing.
The main brands available are Aero, Henselite, Almark, Drake’s Pride and Taylor – all certified by the World Bowls governing body. All brands make bowls in a range of sizes, weights and bias.
Aero, Henselite and Almark are imported and tend to be more expensive.
Drakes Pride and Taylor are made in the UK and are relatively cheap but a new set will be around £250 to £300.
When making a decision on what to buy the three most important factors to consider are the size, weight and bias. Of the three it may be that bias is the most important.
All bowls have a bias. Broadly speaking this can be categorised as narrow, mid and wide. The bias is not imparted by adding a weight to the bowl but is designed into the shape of the bowl in the manufacturing process.
Bias shifts the centre of gravity to the bias side and, as the bowl slows down on its way to the jack, it begins to fall over to that side.
In short the more bias a bowl has the wider trajectory it must take to reach the target.
Why is this important?
In a match, depending on which position you are playing – lead, second or skip, narrow or wider bias may be more suitable. A lead, playing first, will have a less cluttered view of the head so may not need to aim bowls on a wide trajectory.
As the number of bowls increases at the head it is often the case that the path to the jack becomes obstructed. ‘Blockers’ – bowls placed deliberately or accidentally in front of the jack, may obstruct the bowler’s line. In particular this can make the job of the skip more difficult and in those circumstances a wider bias bowl may be of use to find a way round the obstacles.
Size and weight
Each manufacturer offers a range of sizes and weights but in general they range between the very smallest size 0000, to the largest size 5. There are small incremental increases in weight as the bowls get larger. As an example Drake’s Pride range from the lightest at 1020 gms to the heaviest at 1520 gms.
Choose a bowl which sits comfortably in the hand. One test that is commonly used is to place the bowl on the ground and then pick it up with a ‘claw’ grip over the top. If you find it difficult to keep hold of the bowl out at arms length it is probably too big. Try the next size down.
If you are thinking of playing both outdoors and indoors then a narrower bias set may be more suitable to begin with. Indoor carpets are smoother and faster and bias is much more pronounced.
More experienced bowlers may have two sets of bowls – one set for indoor and one for outdoor.
Advice for new bowlers
A new bowler is well-advised to start out with a mid-bias set. Such a set can be used in any position from lead to skip. Examples are the Drakes Pride Professional or the Taylor Ace.
With more experience a player may decide that a wider bias may favour their style of game.
’Try before you buy’ is good advice. Take a look at the second-hand bowls we have in store at the club. You won’t necessarily find the perfect set but it will give you an idea of what you might feel comfortable with.
Go to a bowls shop and ask for advice. Bush Hill Bowls in Enfield is a good place to start. The owners Jerry Sanders and Denise Rolland are members of the Club and are very helpful.
See Bush Hill Bowls
Look up manufacturers’ websites. There you will find all the bowls available in all the sizes and weights. There is usually a chart showing the bias of each type.
If you decide to buy used bowls, for instance on ebay, do thorough research so that you can be confident that what you are buying will be suitable.