As a relatively new sport, short mat bowls is perhaps a lesser known type of bowling - but it’s popularity is growing!
Having played crown green and short mat bowls since I was 15, I have seen more and more people of all ages getting involved due to the challenging yet fun and social nature of the game.
Compared with many other sports, short mat bowls is fairly inexpensive to play and the only equipment that is absolutely necessary is of course a set of bowls.
These days you can find some good deals online, with a number of suppliers offering a range of short mat indoor bowls equipment at very reasonable prices.
For discounted bowls equipment, take a look at Newitts.com.
Once you have your own bowls, you probably want to think about joining a league or a team and then you’re good to go!
To learn more about short mat bowls or to stay up to date with the latest news and reviews, add www.shortmatbowls.net to your favourites and check back here regularly!
Although this is an old clip, I was reminded about this great episode of Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat character playing indoor bowls and just had to post it here. I love how he gets confused about "Jack" when he's being told about the indoor bowls equipment.
Lately I've had one or two questions emailed to me about the rules which apply to touchers in a game of short mat bowls; and I've also noticed that this is an area that generally gets talked about on a fairly regularly basis.
So in an attempt to play peacemaker and resolve all of those arguments (and to also save me from typing out any more email replies ), here is the issue that people are debating and the official ruling which applies.
To summarise the basics, any bowl which comes into contact with the jack is classed as a toucher and should be marked with chalk. This enables it to still be counted as a live bowl even if it finds it's way into the ditch during the end.
The part of the rule that seems to bring about a difference of opinion is whether a bowl must touch the jack directly in order to be counted as a toucher or whether it can be deflected off another bowl and still count.
The official ruling states that any bowl which touches the jack whilst in motion and before it comes to rest is classed as a toucher. This includes any bowl that deflects off another and also if the jack itself is sprung, causing it to touch the running bowl, provided that bowl is still in motion.
So there you have it. I'm hoping that puts an end to this debate and that I've prevented any more fisty cuffs that may have been occurring during all those heated exchanges!
Ever wondered what a bowl is made of and how it's made?
I recently found this great video which shows exactly what goes into the manufacturing and testing of a set of bowls.
Check it out here: http://science.discovery.com/videos/how-its-made-7-lawn-bowling-ball.html
To conclude our round up of short mat bowls playing positions, we move onto the position of skip.
As the skip is the last player to bowl in any team, there is generally already a lot of bowls littered about the end and this can make it a lot more difficult to draw a scoring wood. Therefore, out of all the positions skip is arguably the one which is the most challenging or at least the one with the most responsibility.
A skip is the player that really proves their worth when their team is down in an end. In these instances, they will generally be required to play with a more attacking style than those players who have gone before and, because of this, they should ideally have good ability playing with weight.
However, it’s not simply about launching your bowls down the mat in an attempt to obliterate your opponents’ bowls from the end, as you obviously have to allow for the wooden block in the centre. Therefore, the ability to play with controlled weight is imperative so that the bias of the bowl can still do it’s job; allowing you to peg around the block and into the head.
If your team is already counting shot then the role of skip is similar to the other playing positions, whereby you should aim to protect those bowls already counting shot or look for opportunities to add more to your score.
Occasionally, an end can be played out where your opponents have the shot bowl and it is extremely difficult to produce either a scoring wood or play an attacking shot that is without any great risk. In these instances, a skip might choose to play a “damage limitation” bowl, where they aim to deliver a wood within the head to try and reduce their opponents’ shot count. Although, I have to say it’s not too often that you see this kind of play as most skips I know will always give themselves a chance to save the day with a dream bowl!
So that just about covers all the playing positions involved in games of short mat bowls. Hopefully, you'll now have a good idea about the roles and responsibilities (and maybe personality traits!) that tend to be associated with each member of a short mat bowls team.
The responsibilities of the second and third positions in a short mat bowls game are essentially the same, so the strategies of both are covered in this next post in this series of short mat bowls playing positions.
The second and third positions are effectively there to support the lead. If the lead has managed to achieve the shot bowl, then it’s down to you to either protect the end with a blocker or if there’s no danger, attempt to add to the score with your own woods.
Depending on how the end is panning out, a second or third might also decide to place a bowl behind the head, to counter any possibility of your opponents hitting the jack and “springing” it towards the back of the rink. Should they decide to do this and are successful, then you stand a chance of still counting shot with a strategically placed bowl ready to “receive” the sprung jack. Be sure to say thank you to your opponents in these instances!
If, however when you step up to the delivery mat you find that your lead has let you down and your team doesn’t have the shot bowl, then it’s down to you to either rescue the end or at least give your skip a chance to rescue it.
Similar to the lead bowler’s strategy in this scenario, you shouldn’t be overly aggressive with any bowl where there is a risk of leaving the end wide open. If the lead hasn’t managed to place a bowl within the frame, then it’s usually best to make sure that you do get one there. By playing too adventurous a bowl, you can run the risk of failing in your attempt to be a hero and can give your skip an impossible task of salvaging anything from the end at all.
However, if your lead has managed to get at least one bowl in the head, then you might have a bit more licence to be adventurous and go for glory! You just need to weigh up the odds and make a decision. As someone once said “it’s all about playing percentages!”
Overall, if your team is counting shot, aim to either add extra woods into the scoring frame or protect what you’ve got. If your opponents have shot then you should attempt to beat their bowl or at least give your skip a chance of rescuing the end.
Keeping things in a sensible logical order, the first post in this series of short mat bowls playing positions covers the responsibilities of the lead bowler.
As a team, the ideal end is for you to achieve the shot wood as early as you can and then look to protect that counting bowl; and even add to the shot count if possible.
So as obvious as this sounds, the number one aim of any lead bowler is to get a bowl counting shot, as close to the jack as possible…as early as possible. If you can get both or all of your bowls counting shot then even better.
Taking this a step further, it’s widely considered that the best result for a lead bowler is to have one bowl positioned directly in front of the jack and one behind (touching the jack if you’re really good!); as not only does this mean you’re counting two, but also that the jack is fairly well protected.
Leaving your woods on the side of the jack is not so good as it makes a bigger target and sometimes provides an opportunity for an opponent to gain a wick (deflection) off of a side bowl, diverting their wood towards the jack. Placing one in front and one behind means that the head is narrower and therefore harder for your opponents to hit.
If however, your opposing lead happens to place a bowl close to the jack before you or even beats your bowl to be counting shot, it’s not always a good idea to play an attacking bowl to gain the shot wood with either of your remaining bowls. The reason for this is if you play with any weight and your bowl misses the end, then there’s a good chance of you leaving it open and therefore vulnerable for your opponents to add more scoring woods.
Instead, a better strategy is to still try and beat your opponent’s bowl or at least get as close as you can to the head, but with a measured shot, that reduces the risk of leaving your bowls completely out of the frame should you fail in your attempt.
By ensuring that you have at least one bowl there or thereabouts means that your team mates who will be bowling after you can take one or two risks and also have a better chance of rescuing the end; either by taking out your opponents’ bowls or by connecting with the jack and diverting it to one of yours.
Overall as lead bowler, your mantra should be along the lines of “if I can’t achieve the shot bowl then I should at least get one in the frame to give my team mates something to work with.”
Just had to interrupt this series of posts about short mat bowls team positions to bring you this announcement.
A new development has just taken place in the world of short mat bowls. A group of short mat England Internationals have formed the Short Mat Players Tour association, launching their website this month.
To quote the Tour directly:
"The idea is very simple, the SMPT will run several events over the course of a season. Starting with 4 International Singles Events in the 2010-11 season. We will also be having a season ending Champion of Champions for the top 32 players.
The basis of this venture has been taken from similar bowling associations which operate in different codes. Allowing any player to join and play against the Worlds best.
Our main aim to to increase the popularity of the game through media coverage and other mediums whilst giving the top players a chance to play in World class events."
This is awesome news!
I always tell people that now more than ever is a great time to get involved in short mat bowls. The formation of the Players Tour is hopefully going to elevate this fantastic sport to an even higher level!
Read more on the Short Mat Players Tour website.
If you’re playing a game of short mat bowls as a doubles, triples or even a team of four, then there’s a fair amount of strategy and varying responsibilities that go with each position.
A singles game is a little different as there aren’t as many bowls involved in a match and the responsibility of finishing the end with your bowls closest to the jack is entirely on your shoulders!
Playing short mat bowls as a team however, means that you need to consider the other bowlers playing on your side to a greater extent; and this sometimes means playing a more strategic bowl that is more about manipulating the end for your team mates to take advantage of as opposed to going all gung ho and trying to be the hero all the time!
As a general guide for bowls players everywhere, the next few posts on shortmatbowls.net will be dedicated to the different playing positions that feature in the game. I’ll be covering the main strategies and responsibilities that are associated with each position; so hopefully there’ll be at least one or two titbits of information that will help your transition from maverick bowler to all round team player.
For today's post, I've decided to go back to basics by writing a general overview of the rules to short mat bowls. I figured that because this blog is read by veterans and newcomers to the game, there should be some sort of introduction for anybody reading who might be thinking "what is this game of short mat bowls all about?" So without further ado - here it is.
A game of short mat bowls is contested as either a singles game with 2 players, a doubles match with 2 players on each side, or as a team game with either 3 or 4 players per team. Depending on the rules for any individual match, each player may play with 2, 3 or 4 bowls each.
The Playing Area
A small ball called a jack is placed at one end of the mat, a block of wood is positioned in the centre of the mat across the middle and a delivery mat is placed at the opposite end to the jack.
All of these must be positioned either on or within specific boundaries which are marked out on the mat by a number of white lines.
Playing the Game
With one foot on the delivery mat, each opposing player or team will take it in turns to send a bowl and attempt to get as close to the jack as possible. As the block of wood prevents them from playing directly down the centre of the mat, players must bowl around the wood and avoid touching it. (The purpose of the block of wood is to encourage more skilful play).
Players on opposing sides play their shots alternately until all bowls have been played by all players. This whole process is called an "end.”
The duration of a game of short mat bowls is usually pre-determined where a set number of ends is decided before the match begins.
In games involving more than one person on each side, an order of play is decided for each player on a team. This means that you have a “lead” player for each team who bowls first and a “skip” who bowls last. If there are 3 or 4 players in each team then the additional players are referred to as “seconds” and “thirds.” A second cannot bowl until the lead players for both sides have sent all of their bowls; and this rule follows for the thirds, and skips.
Following the completion of an end, the bowl or bowls adjudged to be nearest the jack score for their respective owners' team.
As an example, if Team A has a bowl which is nearest the jack, but the second nearest bowl belongs to Team B, one point is scored for that end by Team A. However, should Team A have the second, third, fourth etc placed bowls for that end, then they score an additional point for each respective bowl.
When the score for that particular end has been agreed, the jack and delivery mat swap places at each end of the rink and the next end begins; with the lead from the team that just scored bowling first.
Once all pre-determined ends have been played, the team with the highest score (sometimes referred to as the most shots) is declared the winner!
That’s pretty much it as far as getting to grips with the basics of short mat bowls goes. As you’d probably expect, there’s a whole bunch of other rules such as foot faults, measuring, dead bowls etc, but for now, I’m hoping I’ve given any newcomers enough of an understanding to get started.
All of the other rules associated with the game are fairly easy to get your head around, so I’m sure that once you start playing it won’t be long before you’re arguing those contentious issues with the best of them!