Buckinghamshire Short Mat Bowling Association

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The Importance of Bias in Bowls

Bias is one of the most important ideas to grasp when playing bowls; it helps to give the game some unique characteristics and it is important to master it if you want to improve.

Bias Through History

Bowls are specially designed to follow a curved path because of their bias. Previously, this curved path was achieved by inserting weights in one side of the bowl.

Legend has it that the first biased bowl was built by the Duke of Suffolk in 1522; one of his bowls split and he mended it by using an ornamental ball from a bannister. Because one side of the bowl was flatter it followed a curving path in the end of its run.

Nowadays the use of weights is strictly forbidden. However bias is still an integral part of the sport and is achieved by the shape of the bowl, which is shaved down on one side, and with recent technical advances, the distance the bowl travels, and how sharp the bowls turns in, can be achieved by the shape given to the  crown (running surface)The bowl will move in a curved motion towards the biased side, which is the larger/heavier side.

How Important is it?

Bias has huge implications for the way the sport is played. A Biased Bowl means you can play shots on either the backhand or forehand side, usually known as a draw, this allows you to draw around shorter bowls which would normally be in the way if the bowls had no bias.

The bias side of the bowl will always be on the inside of the curve; you can work out the bias side from the markings, or by the fact that it has a smaller symbol within a smaller circle.

Remember the bias will not really start to take effect until the bowl has travelled at least three-fifths of its distance; part of the skill of the sport is gauging when this will happen. Even drive shots, where the objective is to remove the jack or as many of the opponents’ bowls as possible, may have to factor in a small amount of bias.

The weather and the type of surface played on may both may be factors in how much the bias takes effect.

Current Rules and Regulations

The minimum and maximum amount of bias permitted is determined by World Bowls (previously the International Bowling Board) or national organising bodies. Each bowl also carries an insignia which shows they meet these overall quality standards.

All bowls bearing this hallmark are usually tested and re-stamped every 10th year to make sure they are still running smoothly.