The Next Level – Tactics

Improving your own tactics 

  • When being outplayed, try and change your opponent from the hand which is playing well for him.  This can be done by changing to your opponents’ hand, dropping short, but only slightly in his draw.
  • Try moving the mat to upset his rhythm of delivery rather than his length can be very helpful.
  • Sometimes, when a quiet conservative outlook to the game is not paying dividends, become more aggressive.  After all, when a game is being lost a change of tactics might unsettle your opponent.
  • Build each end to your own particular tactical strength.   Do not allow your opponent dictate the terms on which the game will be played.
  • If you win the toss it is a tactical advantage to take the jack.  Roll for a three-quarter length and where the jack comes to rest will give you a good indication of the green speed and as a result the amount of draw required.
  • It is not wise, tactically, to use a straight drive when playing singles and even with a running shot care should be exercised.
  • Your first and third bowls are tactically of greater importance than the second and fourth.  Your third is invaluable for consolidating a good position, retrieving an awkward one, or for clearing the head for your last bowl.
  • It is very bad tactics to play your third bowl unless you have a clear picture of the head from the mat.  If in doubt you should walk up to the head and have a look.
  • Be quick to notice whether the opposition lead is a “niggler”.  If so, it is good tactics to keep the jack on or near the 1.8m mark.  The persistent niggler will then find many of his bowls in the ditch, much to his and his Skips’ chagrin.  In an effort to correct this, he will probably start dropping short.

Single and Team Tactics

  • It is always good tactics to play the shot offering more than one opportunity of attaining your object.  In other words play the shot that gives the easiest and perhaps an extra chance of success if you happen to be slightly astray with grass or pace.
  • Fast or running shots should only be played when the position and back bowls are in your favour.
  • If the scores are favourable to your team, it can be good tactics to play into danger, i.e., play your opponents’ shot so that if you are successful, even though you may have given the shot away, you have removed the danger of losing numbers.
  • After the first two or three ends, choose the side of the rink which is playing evenly in pace and green, and thus gain a tactical advantage over an opponent who bowls around the clock.
  • Do not allow your opponents’ tactics change you from this side if you are in charge of the game.
  • However you must be flexible enough to change your hand if needed, to consolidate a head or to improve a score.
  • If your opponent places a bowl short and in the draw, it is better tactics to stay on the same hand when trying to draw to save.  Better the hand you know than the one you don’t.
  • Be aware of your opponents’ tactics when the length is altered or when the mat is shifted.
  • It is good tactics to have two second shots, preferable not together, or at the worst, second and fourth, before playing aggressively into a head.
  • Plan your tactics so that they do not suit your opponent, and not necessarily to your own strengths.
  • It is poor tactics to pack a head when playing against a good driver.  Counters that are at a distance of 30cms, or so are very hard to beat.
  • Any tactical advantage can be frittered away by poor delivery of the jack.
  • There is no need to always draw to the jack, but do try to gain the tactical advantage by beating your opponents’ bowl.

Your Opponent

It is essential in forming your own tactical play, to be aware of your opponents’ weaknesses. Certainly when playing a stranger a number of points should be assessed during the first few ends of the game.  While these may not be a 100% correct, they will surely be of benefit to you during the progress of the game.  Tactics means being aware of the ability and attitude of your opponent.

  • as your opponent a preference for a particular hand.   i.e., is the forehand or backhand preferred.
  • Does any particular length seem to be favoured.
  • Is the player showing any particular attitude to the game.  i.e., a conservative or aggressive approach.
  • How does the opponent select the green or aiming line.   A mark on the bank, spot on green etc.  Movement of the mat might disturb the selection of aiming line.
  • Delivery style – is it cramped?  Is it a crouch?   Will that style cause difficulty at certain lengths?

Psychological Tactics – for the very competitive!

  • When losing concentration, or to disturb an opponents’ rhythm it might be tactical to ask for a toilet break and to use that ten minutes to refocus.
  • Provided that it does not interfere with ones’ own game, keeping up a conversation, in a perfectly innocent way, may hamper your opponents’ concentration.
  • Picking up your opponents’ bowl continually, whether wanted or not, might unsettle him.
  • Take every opportunity to query short ends, when losing, may disturb your opponent and provide time to refocus your own concentration.

With thanks to Lawn Bowls International