Whether you’re a beginner to short mat bowls or already an experienced player, the single most important decision you will ever make is in relation to what type of bowls you should play with. However, with shops and online stores offering a range of different shapes, sizes and weights etc, the task of selecting a set that is right for you can be a tricky one.
In today’s image-obsessed world, there are probably a few people who would simply plump for the snazzy orange set with the green stripes running down the side (believe it or not, these do exist!). Now that’s all fine and dandy if you want to make a statement and stand out from the crowd. But aside from the fact that everyone will know it’s you who sent that terrible bowl that was 5 yards short of the jack, it’s not a good idea to base your decision on looks alone.
If you’re really serious about improving your short mat bowls game, there are a few key points you should consider when selecting your bowls. The first thing to think about is the weight of the bowl. Obviously you want to be able to hold it comfortably in your hand first and foremost, but you also need to be able to “feel the weight.” Bearing in mind that adding that all important extra yard might take just an extra ounce of strength in your delivery, you really want to be able to “feel” the bowl to be able to make the necessary adjustment. It’s always a good idea to have a practice with a friend or team mate’s bowls, trying out different weights to get an idea of what is right for you.
Once you think you’ve found the right sort of weight that suits you, the next step is deciding on the size. Now, in days gone by if you decided for instance, that a 2lb 12oz bowl felt like a good weight, you were pretty much stuck with the size that that particular weight came in.
However, thanks to the wonders of high density and low density bowls, we can now choose a set which is either smaller or larger than the standard density size. This means that if you like the “feel” of a 2lb 12oz bowl, but (like me) you have fairly small hands, you could opt for a 2lb 12oz “high density” bowl; which will be the same size as a standard 2lb 10oz but with all the weight of a 2lb 12oz one!
Equally, if you have giant sized hands but maybe have the strength of a new born lamb (!) then you might want to go with a low density bowl; a larger bowl but in a lighter weight.
The final important factor to take into account when selecting your short mat bowls is the strength of the bias. This is the clever part of your bowl which makes the bowl turn (or peg) as it begins to slow down. As a general rule, a bowl which is made for crown green bowls has a standard bias, whereas bowls manufactured specifically for indoor bowls or short mat bowling tend to have a stronger bias, resulting in a greater effect when the bowl turns.
Under the official rules of short mat bowling, you aren’t restricted to the type of bowl you can use which means you can play with crown green, flat green, indoor or short mat bowls. Therefore, the decision is again down to personal preference; whether you feel more comfortable playing with a bowl which turns more (an indoor or short mat bowl) or a weaker biased crown green bowl.
As somebody who plays crown green bowls as well as short mat, I use my crown green woods for both. However, I tend to play lead in a team of three during short mat games, which means there are never too many other bowls for me to bowl around when I send mine. For somebody who plays second or more particularly, third as skip, I would recommend playing with indoor/short mat bowls as the stronger bias is of great benefit when you are trying to negotiate the minefield of bowls that usually exist towards the conclusion of an end.
There you have it then. As long as you keep the above factors in mind you can’t go far wrong; so you’re free to go and get that fancy set of orange and green bowls you’ve had your eye on all this time!
Matt Clarke is a Web Designer who enjoys many hobbies and interests including bowls, where he has played in short mat bowls and crown green bowling leagues and competitions for a number of years.