The Line and Length can also be described as “target” and “speed”. To get close to the jack you need to roll your bowl towards the right target, with the correct speed so it stops next to the jack.
The first skill you should focus on when you start bowling is learning to find that target (hint, the target isn’t the jack!), then finding the right speed will become easier.
What is a “line” in bowls?
To understand lines we first have to look at how a lawn bowl travels down a rink.
A bowl doesn’t travel in a straight line. It will curve either to the left or the right depending on which way around the bowl is held - as one half is shaped differently to the other it will bend towards the lighter side (aslo known as a bias).
Therefore to get the bowl to finish in the centre of the rink you need to roll your bowl away from the centre, so the bowl can curve back in to the correct place.
Lets look at an example of how a bowl will bend.
In this diagram we can see:
- the jack (the white circle at the far end of the rink)
- the centre line (the white dotted line up the middle)
- the perfect line on the left hand-side of the rink (the red line)
- the perfect line on the right hand-side of the rink (the orange line)
The “Line” in bowls refers to the direction you roll the bowl. “Finding the line” is when you have found the exact distance away from the jack so that the bowl bends just enough to finish inline with it.
NOTE: I will be refering to the “left” and “right” of the rink, as this is clearer than saying “forehand” and “backhand” as these switch around for the lefthanders among us.
To send our bowl along the correct path we must imagine a line that extends beyond the point where the bowl will turn, and imagine we are bowling along that line, as if it’s not going to turn.
If you were to roll the bowl along either the red dotted line, or the orange dotted line (our new imaginary line) your bowl will travel along the solid line and end up somewhere along the centre line, and you would have found your line.
To find the line you have to constantly adjust this imaginary line in your head (either moving to the left or the right) until your bowl finishes in the centre of the rink.
For the rest of this guide I will refer back to this diagram to look at:
- where to aim when bowling
- how to find your line
Where to aim in bowls
Before we can start to talk about how to find the line, we first need an aiming point - as this will be critical.
There are 4 places you can look when you delivery the bowl. Which one you use will be down to your personal preference. The places are:
- somewhere along the line behind the rink
- the point where your line reaches the same distance as the jack
- the point where the bowl starts to turn (also known as the “shoulder”)
- along your line 3-4 yards in front of you
Lets look at each one in turn.
Behind the rink
The first aiming point to consider is looking behind the rink. There are usually more things to focus on here, hedges, window frames, doors, posts - you name it, you’ll probably find something.
All you need to do is extend your imaginary line beyond the rink and follow it up and behind the bank.
The benefits here are:
- there is usually loads to choose from. You can easily find something along your imaginary line
- it doesn’t move. Unless you pick someone’s leg (not recommended) the point you fix on is unlikely to move.
The second point here is important. When you aim on the rink (as we will cover in a minute) you need to find something to focus on. If the green is nice and consistent, or if you are playing indoors, finding a spot on your imaginary line can be difficult.
The second spot to look at is “jack high” along your line. For those new to the game “jack high” is an imaginary line (we like imagining lines in bowls) showing how far away the jack is - as if a line is extending from the jack either side.
If you are “jack high” you have rolled your bowl to the same distance as the jack.
The benefits here are:
- you get a feel for the speed needed to reach the jack
- it helps you get the correct weight of shot
When you aim Jack High you have both elements of bowls in view at the same time. Line (along your imaginary line) and Length (the distance you need to roll the bowl).
The problem with both of these first two options is that the aiming point is far away. A slight adjustment can have a big impact on your bowl, and it can be tricky to adjust.
“The shoulder” is the point at which the bowl starts to turn. As this isn’t a “fixed” point, it does require some experience to know roughly where your bowl will start to turn.
However, so long as you watch your bowl travelling down the rink (ALWAYS what your bowl travel down the green) it will become easier to work out where the bowl will turn.
The benefits here are:
- you still get both line and length in your view
- the aiming point is closer to you
You can still get both Line and Length from aiming at the shoulder, as the bowl should travel the same distance once it starts turning each time. Also an aiming point closer to you is easier to hit, making it easier to be consistent.
3-4 yards in front of you
The final aiming point to consider is a point 3-4 yards in from of you along your imaginary line.
Many top players use this method as it provides the most accuracy. Hitting a point 3-4 yards in front of you is much easier than trying to hit a mark on the other end of the green after a bowl has started turning.
The main benefits here are:
- you can be more presice with your aiming point as its closer to you
- it should be easier to hit your mark
The tricky thing with this is you now have no reference point for how far you need to bowl. The jack (or even “Jack high”) are no longer in your view, so you need to have great weight control to consider this.
Which is best?
In my opinion I think aiming “jack high” is best - especially for beginners. Aiming there allows you to focus on a point that will give you the correct line and length.
However the only way to find what works for you is to try them all! Dedicate a whole practice session to each one to give it a chance to work, then review and commit to one.
How to pick your line in bowls
So now you know where you should be aiming, how do you find the right line? Unfortunately there isn’t a perfect formula for finding the line - it mainly comes down to trail and error.
The key to finding the right line is to watch every bowl that is delivered. This will give you a better understanding of how the rink is behaving. Trail ends before games are critical for this.
Here is how I find the line.
How to find the line: step-by-step
- during practice sessions I make a note on how my bowls generally behave. I know that I need to aim around “a mat-and-a-half” either side of the jack along the bank to get to the centre of the rink
- when a trial end is played I bowl along that line
- I watch closely to understand how my bowls are playing
- if I finish too far to the left I find an aiming point a bit to the right, and vice-versa
- I do this for both forehand and backhand
- I watch everyone else bowl and try to work out whos bowls are similar to mine. I can then try and see what other bowlers are using as their aiming point
- continue to watch and adjust as the game goes on
Indoor aiming points
You can use the same aiming points for indoor bowls too (behind the rink, jack high, shoulder of the shot, 3-4 yards infront of you). Just be sure to move your aiming point wider, as these faster surfaces wil, make your bowl mend more (way more, if you are used to playing on slower UK outdoor greens).
The line of a bowl is the path it takes as it bends around to the point it finishes. “Finding the line” is when you ahev found the exact line that allows the bowl to finish inline with the jack.
There are many options for where to aim (behind the rink, jack high, shoulder of the shot, 3-4 yards infront of you). Which one you choose will have pros and cons, but will ultimately be down to what you find best.