Article 7 - Crown Green

ARTICLE 7 - Crown Green Bowls

(Originally published in 1998 and revised in 2019)


Images of some models of Drakes Pride Crown Green Bowls

All of the articles I have written have in general been more about or refer to lawn bowls and I have only made passing reference to other, closely associated, bowls disciplines. So I thought I should cover and look at those other disciplines in the next few issues.

As I am based in Liverpool, I grew up aware of only Crown Green Bowls. In fact, crown green bowlers used to speak in fairly derogatory terms about lawn bowls, for example "all those silly people dressed in white" or "like playing marbles up and down an alley its dead easy". However, I am pleased to say that those feelings and comments are becoming a thing of the past as more crown green bowlers are aware of the different skills needed by the associated disciplines. I am sure that the main contributor to this change in attitude has been the televising of such events, as the World Indoor Bowls.

Mind you, some attitudes are more difficult to change. For example, about ten years ago (1988) a gentleman from Tulsa, Oklahoma came to our works in Liverpool and he told us that he was developing a bowling green in Tulsa and could we help with the supply of bowls. Naturally I agreed we could and promptly offered him lawn bowls (you will note I was already a convert!). He looked at me slightly aghast saying that it was a crown green that he was developing alongside one of the Tulsa City golf courses. He then accused me, in jest, of wanting to sell sets of bowls with four in, rather than the pairs of crown green required! My comment was that I was promoting the International Game, which would allow him to play not only against other bowlers in the U.S.A., but other bowlers world-wide.

The reason that this first crown green was developed and built in Tulsa, since then another one has been developed, was that he had been stationed at Burtonwood, just outside Liverpool, and had married a local girl from Warrington. Therefore the only game of bowls that he was aware of, was in fact crown green. Several bowls tours have been made to Tulsa and the visiting players have always enjoyed great hospitality.(Sadly I hear that since the gentleman who introduced the game to Tulsa moved to Arizona the greens are no longer in use. It seems that as the greens were so isolated from Crown Green territory that once the 'force' behind the idea left the game faded in Tulsa. In about 2000 a lawn green at a Club in Sydney was made into a crown green one and they had the idea to try and promote the crown green idea in Australia but this idea did not last long.)

T.V. helped with the recognition in crown green areas of lawn bowls for example Granada T.V., who ran a very successful "Superbowl" series. Its format which brought not only indoor bowls to the North West, but also put crown green players against lawn bowlers and ladies bowlers against the male bowlers, was a success. Sadly it seems it was ahead of its time and the other independent channels didn't take it up.

The crown players won a lot of respect, for example Rob Crawshaw beat David Bryant with Noel Burrows, another crown green bowler, actually winning the event one year. Although the most memorable final was the last one played, Margaret Johnston MBE was beaten by David Corkhill with the last bowl delivered. Since then, the fact that the World Indoor has become a very popular televised event in Preston with a knowledgeable local audience has helped the crown green players respect the skills of the lawn bowler.(The main TV bowls event has for a number of years been the World Indoor which currently, as at 2009, is hosted and sponsored by Potters Holiday Resort, Suffolk)

When I am asked which is the more difficult game, I try and explain that though the object of both disciplines are the same, the games require different skill combinations. In crown green, for example, the skill in reading the green and being able to adjust to it. Or, finding a particular length or area of green where your particular bowls or your own skills in reading the green means you out perform your opponent, is all part of the art of the crown green game.

In Lawn Bowls tactical skills, the careful placing of the bowls at the head, is perhaps the major skill also the fact that the games take longer thus making concentration a very significant part of the game with the green craft skill being a secondary part of the game.

Perhaps even more than in lawn bowls the bias of the bowl plays a major part in the crown green game. As you follow a biased jack it is essential to have a pair of bowls which will follow exactly that line, an a fraction different in bias (particularly if less bias) can be magnified greatly by the contours of the green. The only controversy over "tight line" bowls in crown green bowls is that no one wants them !!.

 Standard Jacks

Drakes Pride Crown Green Standard Jacks

Some things in crown green are perhaps more logical, or is it that I am more used to them (?), for example crown green players when delivering their bowls refer to thumb or finger bias. To translate, if one holds the bowl (right hand description) with the bias side to your little finger, it is said to be finger bias. With the bias side to your thumb it is thumb bias. I think that in rather more easily understood than fore and back hand, but perhaps because of my early days I'm "biased"!

Crown green bowls differ not only in the sizes but the way the bowler describes them. For example a crown green pair of bowls would be described as being a 2 lbs. 10oz. pair or a 2 lbs. 12oz pair, rather than by a size. A 2 lbs. 12oz pair of bowls being the average for male bowlers and is equivalent to a size 2 Medium in flat green. The average crown green bowl tends, as you will note, to be smaller than the flat green bowl due to the different grip and delivery. A crown green bowler also has to achieve the long lengths especially when bowling corner to corner.

The other significant difference is that the crown green bowls still have the white discs, both of which are the same size and so to show which is the bias side it is usual to have a dimple in that disc. Some bowls players feel they can get an advantage by trying to confuse their opponents by not having the dimple so that they do have a guide. They put a very small or black dot on the bias disc or others do not like the feel of the dimple and will have a black dot on the bias side. The disc was originally a way for the bowls turner to hide the heart crack that is always present in Lignum Vitae bowls and for some reason this 'tradition' has continued even when the bowls are made from composition. Some Crown Green bowlers still prefer their Lingmum 'woods' especially on heavy greens as they can 'reach' the distances better - there is a saying that a 'Lignum bowl rolls on a yard after it has stopped'!! Lignum bowls certainly have a look and feel that is better than composition bowls but do need more care and attention.


Terms that will not be know by Lawn Bowlers players which are used by crown green bowlers are such descriptions an "round peg" and "straight peg. "Straight peg" is when you are playing along one of the sides of the crown green, close to the ditch, and playing with the bias of the bowl played to take the bowl away from the ditch. However, because of the fall-off of the playing surface towards that ditch, the bowl is trying to climb up the slope and as a result of the surface pulling one way and the bias the other. The bowl tends to appear to be running straight. In fact, sometimes it may even run off against its bias because of the lie of the playing surface. This is known as a falling mark.

Round peg on the other hand is playing the other way in a similar position. In other words you are playing with the bias side towards the ditch, and, therefore the bowl tends to show greater bias because it is coming down the slop of the green. It should be noted that with both of these effects that the running sole shape of the bowl is very important. A broad running sole will on a falling mark tend to hold its line more than a narrow running sole bowl, in other words the green will affect the narrow running sole bowl on a falling mark to a greater extent. With the "round peg" this effect is all but reversed and so you will realise that the "green craft" of the top crown green players is their great strength.

On a crown green the test of a pair of bowls of good shape performing as a matched pair is on a straight/falling mark! So much so that one of our employees who shall remain nameless, feels all bowls should be tested on an angled test!! Any weak or under biased bowls would not hold against the slope of the test or therefore the green!

Perhaps one of the things that most people would have thought was an obvious difference between the disciplines was the fact that the crown green jack is a miniature bowl complete with its own bias. This certainly is the item which stands out, also the fact that that jack can be randomly delivered any where on the green adds to the confusion when observed by a dedicated lawn bowl and particularly true when overseas players view the game.

For example, this year (1998) Drakes Pride had a visit from 32 bowlers from Surfers Paradise Bowls Club in Queensland. All commented on their afternoon of crown green bowls played at the Calderfield Bowling Club in Woolton, Liverpool, that they had found the reading of the green the most difficult part. Especially as they imagined it would be a "perfect" crown, not one with little dips and rises on it. They certainly felt that the home team would have a great advantage in crown green bowls more than would be the case at lawn bowls.

Certainly the world game is lawn bowls, but there is a significant and dedicated area of crown green bowls which lies roughly in an area East Coast to West Coast with Birmingham in the South and the Lake District in the North and includes North Wales and Isle of Man.

The mecca for crown green bowls is the green at the Waterloo Hotel in Blackpool. Many of you will have seen the televised tournaments from there and perhaps got a feel for the tremendous atmosphere, with the bookies in full cry and the crowd expressing their comments to each other and the bowlers as soon as the bowl leaves the hand.

It is the crown green bowlers who we have to thank for developing our skills at Drakes Pride. Their ongoing requests for different shapes for handling and performance, varying bias's for different greens are all part and parcel of our everyday work in our renovation department. This has given the company a great feel for what makes a "good" bowl and lets a bowler enjoy their game,which ever discipline they play.

In 2019 Jean & Maurice Rogers of Pershore Bowls kindly donated items to the Collection. Amongst then was a booklet published in 1938 by Taylor-Rolphin which was a page dedicated to Crown Green Bowls which we though worth producing below :-

Crown Green 1938



Frequently Asked Questions about Crown Green Bowls.

Question.  Are wooden bowls still used?
Answer.  Wooden bowls, which are made from the timber Lignum Vitae, are still used and are very popular.  It is now difficult to obtain good quality Lignum to make new bowls but Thurston do still have a small stock of timber from which to make their Standfast Crown Green bowls (see B2200).  Thurston's renovate many pairs of wooden bowls mainly during the closed season ( see section 1 for renovation services) and are recognised by many as the leaders in the field.

Question.  Can I have my wooden bowls polished natural.
Answer.  Yes, any wooden bowls can be polished natural.  It should however be remembered that all Lignum Vitae (wooden) bowls have cracks and the clear, specially formulated lacquer applied shows up all the imperfections so if the Lignum is poor or contains sapwood it is sometimes more sensible to have the bowls polished Black.

Question.  What size of bowls are available and which is most suited for my use?
Answer.  Crown green bowls have always been sold by weight as the size designation.  The popular weights being 2lb 6oz, 2lb 8oz, 2lb 10oz and 2lb 12oz.  It seems that with the Lignum Vitae, (wooden) bowls the bowlers were more interested in the weight and it is was certainly true that in earlier years the heavier the bowl that one could handle was always considered to the best bowl for the job.  Modern Crown Green bowls are made from a composite material which is so hard diamond tools have to used to turn the material.  Thurston's stock a range of bowls from 2lb 4oz to 2lb 12oz in even weight steps, odd weights such as 2lb 9oz, 2lb 11oz, etc can be supplied to order.  Also for children we have in stock 2lb and 2lb 2oz bowls.

Question.  I have heard of Hi-density bowls, what are they ?
Answer.  Material now used for bowls is a phenolic thermoset composition.  This can be produced to a specific density, unlike Lignum Vitae (wooden) bowls where the density depends on the actual original timber.  Manufacturers using the composition material such as Drakes Pride and Taylor have extended their standard composition weight range of crown green bowls to include both hi-density and also low density models.

Question.  Can you explain what advantages high density or standard or low density have compared to each other ?
Answer.  This requires quite a long answer and must include a reference again to Lignum Vitae (wooden) bowls as well.  It is said that a Lignum (wooden) bowl runs on a "yard" after it is stopped.  What is being implied is that when comparing the run of a wooden bowl against the original, now called standard weight composition, it is true that for a given strength of delivery the composition bowl will stop about a yard shorter than the Lignum (wooden) bowl.  The reason is simply that the standard weight composition bowl is slightly heavier for its size than the average wooden bowl.

What the manufacturers have done is to take a slightly higher specific gravity composition material and produce a bowl which is heavier for its size than a standard composition.  For example a high density 2lb 8oz bowl is about the same size as a 2lb 6oz standard weight. High density bowls are useful on very fast greens which usually occur after a period of dry weather or especially after dry and hot days.  The other advantage is that if a bowler suffers from a hand problem and they are having difficulty gripping the larger bowl, but still want to maintain the weight, then the hi-density allows them to come down a size but maintain the weight.
On the other hand a low-density composition bowl, made from slightly lighter material than the standard weight and is more similar to Lignum (wooden) bowls in its density is better suited to heavier greens, such as early season or rain effected or "heavy" greens.  The reason being that as they are lighter they "ride" the surface more easily and therefore run further.  A 2lb 8oz low-density bowl will be approximately the same size as a 2lb 10oz  standard composition bowl.  It is also useful for low-density bowls to be polished as this helps to feel more like a wooden bowl.  Thurston's stock the Excel model by Drakes Pride (see B2222) which is a low density, polished bowl.  Also, made to order "Harlequin" coloured bowls available in 5 colours(see B2275). Speckled coloured crown green are stocked see item B2210/SP.

At  the Liverpool Thurston stores there are examples of the different weights and densities of crown green bowls so you can try them in the hand for size and feel.

Question.  What size bowl do I need ?
Answer.  Bearing in mind the answer to the previous question.  The simple answer is what feels comfortable in your hand.  Remember that you have to be able to hold the bowl even in wet conditions.  IF the bowl feels right, then it is probably the right size and if it doesn't feel "right" then this will be in your mind when you are playing your shots.

Question.  Do I need a jack?
Answer.  If you are wanting to practice or just play socially, then the answer is definitely yes.  But if you only play at the club with other club members then it is usual for the club to supply the jacks as they do for matches and then you would not need one.  The crown green standard jacks are available from Thurston's in both the traditional Black and the popular Yellow versions (see B2000 & B2030) or use a practice jack, 2 full bias see item B2060 .

Question.  What bias should I use ?
Answer.  Some years ago you used to be able to tell what area a bowler came from by the bias they requested, but in more recent years the standard bias of 2 full has proved to be dominant.  This is the same bias as the standard jacks which most clubs have.  Other biases that are available to special order are 2 ¼ bias which is slightly stronger than the 2 full and also 2 ½ bias which is stronger than the 2 ¼.

Question.  My friends bowls have no dimple, are they legal?
Answer.  Most crown green bowlers prefer to have the dimple in the bias side but some keen bowlers who do not want their opponent to see how they have delivered the bowl sometime opt to have no dimple and occasionally mark the bias side with just a black spot.

Question.  My recently polished bowls are showing pin prick marks is the polish faulty?
Answer. Probably not, the usual reason for such marks, which tend to be seen at the start of the season, is the fertiliser and top dressing applied to the greens. Granular fertiliser and top dressing can break through the polish causing blemishes. In most cases top dressing contains 70% sand and this creates an abrasive surface early in the season. Chemical fertilisers can break down the adhesion of the polish on the bowls so it might start to come away.

Question. Our Clubs Standard Jacks have been three stamps on. Can they be re-tested?                                                                                                
Answer. The B.C.G.B.A. States ' Jacks (Standard) are not to be stamped on more than four occasions. The first three, in date order to be made on the bias side. So a Standard jack with three date stamps can be re-tested and providing meets the regulations can be re-stamped for the four & final time with the stamp on the non bias side.

In 2018 the B.C.G.B.A require that the date stamps on the Standard Jack must run consecutively.

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

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