Ardgowan Club

Willie's Ideal Skip... By Willie Wood

Willie Wood gives his top tips on how to be an effective skip...

Qualities a Skip Looks for in a Rink:
Before I look at what a skip would look for in his/her rink, and considering Tony Allcock has begun his series on the role of the skip, I would like to first of all explain what I believe makes you a top skip.
The editor, Patrick, was right when he wrote in May’s editorial that people should always play lead before jumping up the order of positions. It is important you ‘serve your apprenticeship.’ ,,
Even as an international, I was a lead for 10 years before I was promoted to three and then skip two years later.

Skills you need to be a top skip...
• You should be a master of the draw shot. It is probably the shot a skip uses most often than not in a game.
• You should observe the good skips playing; watch how they build heads and the shots they call their players to play. You should also watch how they conduct themselves on the green.
• A skip must be able to play all the shots – the draw, the trail and the ‘chap and lie.’ By that I mean turn an opposing bowl and lie in its place. The player should also be able to play the drive at various speeds up to the full out drive.
• Lastly, a top skip must be a good leader and earn respect from fellow team-mates.
Now that it has been determined what a top skip must do and be, I will analyse what the skip wants and should expect from his/her team-mates.

What a skip expects from the lead...
• Jack placement
It is very important that a jack is not lost to the opposition when a game is tight or thrown all around the green when the skip wants it in a specific area.
• Drawing
The lead must be a good draw player to a bare jack.

• Adaptable
The lead should be able to draw to different lengths of jack – short, medium and long, and the lead should also be able to play with the mat up the green.
• Show an interest
The lead must be a good team player and show a bit of enthusiasm during the game.

What a skip expects from the two...
• Adaptable in shot play
The two must be a good draw bowler, but also a player that can play good positional bowls in and around the head.
• Playing weight
He/she must be good at the running shot and also the full drive if called upon.
• Encouragement
The number two must encourage the lead as they are both at the same end during play.

What a skip expects from the number three...
• Knowledge
The number three must have a good knowledge in building the head as he/she may be called upon for additional advice during a game.
• Adaptability
The number three should be able to play ALL the shots in the game, from the draw to the full drive.


Recently I attended a seminar provided by Dennis and SISIS and was a guest speaker, explaining what a top bowler would hope and expect from an outdoor bowling green.
Although we are well into the indoor season, I thought that this question was timeless and the editor, who was also in attendance, thought it would be good for me to write about it.
Furthermore, I explained in my talk that many clubs do not know the rule has changed regarding the legal width of an outdoor rink. I think clubs are potentially failing to maximize the use of their green because they are not aware of the change in the rule.


What sort of surface do most bowlers look for on an outdoor bowling green in the UK?
It is a bit of a hypothetical question and different people will have particular preferences, and you must remember that you will NEVER please every bowler! That said, I believe that the majority of bowlers would look for a good, even paced green, running at around 12 seconds outdoors.
If the greenkeeper can get it faster then that is good greenkeeping on his part.


A lot of clubs don’t bother to test the speed of a game before a big game because they don’t believe it to be of any importance, but to the good bowlers, it is a very important factor to their play! The proper procedure to find the pace of the green is to place the mat and put the jack 27 yards from the front of the mat. Using a stopwatch, the moment the bowl has left the player’s hand and touches the green, you should start the timer and stop the stopwatch when the bowls stops rolling when it is a few inches from the jack. Your stopwatch will then indicate how long it took that bowl to travel 27 yards and that is your green speed.


If a green is running at less than 10 seconds then that means that you really are having to push the bowls very hard to reach, especially on long jacks. If the green is heavy then it can make your delivery inconsistent. For example, it can result in a jerky delivery, not grounding the bowl properly, snatching, hooking, and slipping on the mat on the point of delivery if your shoes are worn on the soles and have no grip left of them.

And not a lot of people know that…
In the last couple of years or so, rink sizes have now changed. Rinks outdoors do not need to be set at 18 feet anymore. Rinks can now be set at 4.8 metres, which equated to six inches under 16 feet. It is probably easier to set the rinks at 16 feet and that makes sure you are definitely legal. Setting the rinks at 16 feet gives you more leeway for adjustment on your green to set up an extra rink if you have a busy club. The game has changed: Modern bowls don’t draw as much nowadays, so why do we have to have such wide rinks for play? I think it has been a good change but a lot of clubs I visit to play in competitions still don’t know that there has been a change in rink sizes when you mention it to them. As an aside, bowlers never forget a bad rink. By changing the width of the rink regularly, this could help change the lines favourably.
Ironically, indoors, they use different width measurements, and the minimum width is 15 feet, which is narrower than outdoor. You’re going to and outside of the strings all the time indoor whereas you won’t even go near the strings outdoor on a centred jack.

By Willie Wood -