Article 8 - Coloured Bowls

Article 8 - COLOURED BOWLS Will they catch on?

If you had asked me that question prior to 1999, when in the January of that year coloured lawn bowls became legal, my answer would have been no. I would even admit to being one of the people who were against the introduction of coloured bowls and therein lies this months article.

So with a little bit of history thrown in I would explain my reluctance and why perhaps I have been "converted" not fully but sufficiently to admit that some of my reasons to reject them were wrong.

Coloured bowls are in fact not "new", as early as 1949 composition coloured bowls where available (see picture).

Coloured Bowls 1949 

However they where only legal for crown green bowls and in the early 1970s Taylors of Glasgow offered coloured Crown Green Bowls which were sold at 50% higher price than the standard black variety. Drakes Pride in the early 80's made special crown green blue and red sets to be used for the final stages of the Midland Bank Crown Green bowls competition held in Rhyl. So coloured bowls where not really something that new and it was of course possible to coat composition bowls in any colour required. This technique was used in lawn bowls for a specially sponsored tournament in Australia in the early 90's when each bowler had bowls and clothing matching in colour so that the spectators could more easily follow the game. This idea was used more recently at the BUPA competition last year (2001) and the World Indoor Bowls Championships this year so perhaps nothing is "that new".

Therefore based on my experience of coloured bowls and the demand or should I say lack of demand from crown green bowlers, I could not foresee a demand building up for coloured bowls from the more conservative and greater regulated lawn bowler. The other main consideration from a company perspective was the cost of holding even more material so that the bowler could have a choice. Our stock of powder and mouldings for just black and speckled brown made our Company accountant ask questions about stock rotation! There is also our concern for the specialist bowls shops and their stock holding. How could they be expected to hold a selection of makes, models and colours?

 You only have to think about this problem with just black bowls bear in mind that there are 9 sizes of bowl quite often in a choice of two weights (Drakes Pride can offer lightweight as well!), they can be with or without grips and they can be in several models. At Drakes Pride we only have the two main models (refers to 2001 UK information only) so that could be 72 individual sets of bowls required to be stocked in just our own make in black for a specialist to offer a customer a choice. Add to that brown, green, blue, dark blue, red and maroon plus the other manufactured models and you have some idea of the size of the problem. So perhaps you can see why I thought it might not be particularly beneficial to the game of bowls to introduce colours.


Some of the arguments put forward for the introduction of coloured bowls I can accept for example using them for coaching must enable the coach to more easily pick out from the mat the "head" and explain the situation rather than having to always walk to the "head" to explain. It was also argued that coloured bowls would appeal to the younger players but then cost of ownership come into consideration. It has certainly been apparent to my company that overseas players had taken more readily to coloured bowls than UK players. It was not until coloured bowls where used in the recent TV tournaments that the interest and the sales of coloured bowls improved in the domestic markets. From my own perspective anything that helps provoke an interest in the sport of bowls outside the current participants must be a good thing for the sport.

The fact that National newspapers were willing to write about Carol Ashby, as a person being somewhat outside the usual perception of a lady bowler is good for the sport! As it gives the press and media something to write about. The fact that a team of bowlers representing their country may all be playing with the same colour of bowl does help to develop the team identity and spirit. Equally those other players who wish to be individualistic can now make there own statement on the green and this is where having characters whether we or the authorities approve of them or not is also good for the sport. Take snooker for example the number of people who would watch a snooker match with Hurricane Higgins playing was far greater than perhaps some of the even more successful players such as Steve Davies, so from both a sponsors and spectators view Hurricane Higgins was more "interesting"!

So part of my change of heart is that coloured bowls do allow for players to show their characters and we also decided from a Drakes Pride point of view to help the bowls specialist shops in that coloured bowls are also offered as bespoke bowls i.e. they are made to order and the customer can select not only the colour but the type of grip there emblem etc.

(Since this article was written coloured Lawn Bowls are now very well accepted. In fact the proportion of coloured bowls increases each year. So the range of colours has increased for example this year, 2008,  Drakes Pride offer bowls in the following colours Red, Dark Blue, Mid Blue, Speckled Blue, Black with a Red Speckle, Maroon, Speckled Maroon, Magentta and Green. For Crown Green melamine can not be used due to the weight but coloured crown green are available from Drakes pride in their Harlequin range of colours).

Colours _2013

Since 2009 more speckled colours have been added to the range, not only of Drakes Pride but also the other manufacturers - so to see the current range of colours visit the Drakes Pride web site -

© Peter Clare 2009 - ©E.A. Clare & Son Ltd. 2013. This article can only be reproduced in part or whole with the permission of E. A. Clare & Son Ltd.