Article 6 - Indoor or Outdoor Bowls

ARTICLE 6 - Indoor / Outdoor Bowls

(Originally published in 1998 and revised in 2009)

This article is for the UK as there is little difference in green speeds between outdoor and indoor surface in the Southern Hemisphere.

Bowlers often ask about the difference between outdoor and indoor models of bowl. The basic question that is asked is "if I play indoor and outdoor, do I really need two sets of bowls?".

The simple answer inYES, you do need two sets - I can hear a number of you saying "he would say that, he in only trying to increase his sales". Well yes that is true I would like to increase the sale of our bowls but seriously the bowls for indoor and outdoor use do perform differently and are specifically designed to give you, the bowler, the best chance of showing your skills on the green.

Take any other sport, in motor racing they change tyres between wet and dry road conditions, in fishing the coarse fisherman use different tackle to fly fishermen, tennis players use different balls for grass and clay courts. Crown green bowlers have a selection of bowls which they choose from, selecting the pair that most suits the green they are playing on. So the old saying "it's horses for courses" holds good for bowls as well. I am sure that you can think of many other examples.

Let me explain something of bowls performance that Drakes Pride designed into their outdoor and indoor models, this will be true for the other manufacturers as well. You are all aware that green speeds affect the bowls run and will have observed that the slower the green the less draw the bowl takes and the more effort that is required to reach the jack. Conversely the faster the green the greater the perceived draw and less effort is required to reach the jack.

What is happening, is that on the slow greens the higher coefficient of friction stops the bowl before the full bias affect can come into play. In simple terms more of the bowl's running surface is in contact with the green which slows the bowl down quicker. On the fast indoor greens, the surface contact area is smaller so the bowl is not subject to the same amount of friction, and the bias effect can work more easily.

Manufacturers aware of this basic physics have over the years developed outdoor bowls so that the bias is stronger and thus allows the bowl to perform in a more acceptable manner on the slower outdoor greens, ie. the bowls still allow the bowler to draw round blocking bowls and reach to the jack.

However if the outdoor models are taken indoor the design means that they will be "big swinging" bowls, going into the next rink and cutting back across the head. This may also perhaps prevent one hand or another being played especially on the side rinks or if the adjoining rink is playing a short jack. It is all the more noticeable as the majority of indoor rinks are narrower than those outdoors, so the problem described are more exaggerated and are unacceptable. Those problem do not have to be suffered if the correct model of bowl is selected and played!!

Thus indoor model bowls are required on these fast and narrower rinks. If the Indoor model is used outdoors, it will not show its full bias and will prevent players delivering their bowls to go round blocking bowls and make the drawing to the "head" extremely difficult. It will require a perfectly weighted shot, which even the top professionals have difficulty with.

What some bowlers find difficult to understand is how can both types of bowl have the World Bowls Ltd. official stamp which means that have both passed the test table regulations. Well it is all down to the geometrical shape that the bowls have been made to. The indoor or fast green model have been specifically made to suit the type of green speed they should be used on. Similarly the outdoor model bowls have been designed to show a bias on the slower UK style outdoor greens.

It is, as already stated "horses for courses", if you as a bowler try to make do with your one set then you are the one who will suffer. It may mean that you do not enjoy playing the indoor game, because you only have an outdoor model bowl, or vica- versa.

Therefore when discussing your requirements with your bowls shop retailer, I would always recommend that you go to a specialist bowls shop as they are experienced in bowling and can give you good advice. Ensure that you let them know which discipline you are purchasing the bowls for. If the bowls are described as being for indoor or fast outdoor green use, please remember that these have been designed for greens running faster than average U.K. outdoor greens and will be best suited for green speeds in excess of 13 seconds. Conversely if the model is described as being for outdoor or for slow indoor greens, then they will be best suited for speeds below the 13 seconds, and certainly for greens running the more usual U.K. conditions of an average 11 seconds or so.

Uk outdoor models with the stronger bias also are better able to cope with the variety of grass conditions as they can hold their line better. An indoor model, if played outdoor, would be more likely to be affected by the rink contours thus making it more difficult to play the shot chosen by the bowler.

© Peter Clare 2009 - © E.A. Clare & Son Ltd. 2018

This article can only be published in part or whole with permission of E.A. Clare & Son Ltd