Crown Green Bowls Buyers Guide
This buyers guide is the culmination of a great deal of effort, so I hope that it is of some use to anyone looking to buy new or second hand crown green bowls. Don't buy crown green bowls until you have read this guide - we hope it will help you to find the best crown green bowls for you!
Before reading this guide, it is important to make it clear that this buying guide relates to Crown Green Bowls only. I have no experience of Flat Green/Lawn/Rink or Indoors bowls, and the bowls themselves do differ. Equally, if you are looking for Crown Green Bowls and have come across guides or sites selling bowls for these other versions of the game, then disregard them and pay attention to learn how to find the best crown green bowls for you!
Bowls were originally made from wood - hence why they are often still referred to as ‘woods’ despite many bowls these days being made from a composite plastic material. If you’re looking to buy a new set of crown green bowls, you will most likely be purchasing plastic bowls.
Some suppliers do still sell new pairs of wooden bowls, referred to as Lignum Vitae and often essentially reconditioned from older, vintage wooden bowls. However, they are not particularly common and there is no guarantee that all suppliers will stock them.
However, if you are really keen to be using wooden bowls, it is likely to be possible to pick up some second hand crown green bowls for sale. They require a lot more care and maintenance to keep them in good nick, but can be really good bowls if cared for well.
Although on occasion I have used wooden bowls, plastic ones are now far more common and play perfectly well.
The weight of a bowl is an important consideration when making your selection and there is a wide selection to choose from. It depends where you go for your bowls, but many stockists have bowls between 2lb 0oz and 3lb. Generally, they are available in 2oz increments. Heavier bowls are generally larger in your hand (see density for some more about this) so you should look to ensure you can comfortable hold a bowl. The heavier a bowl is, the further it should run and as a result it is generally thought that you should bowl with the heaviest bowl you are able to comfortably bowl with.
You should look to find a bowl that you can hold easily, get a good distance with and still maintain control and accuracy. I would always advise that you ask fellow club members if you can have a practice with their bowls in order to find ones that suit your style and ability. Try out different weights in a practice game if possible, and in different conditions. Be aware that heavier bowls can slow quicker in wet weather and require a lot more effort to send through puddles!
Crown Green Bowls come in three densities; standard, high and low.
From a personal point of view I have only ever consistently bowled with high density bowls. I was bought my first pair of bowls when I was still young and so having a high density bowl ensured that I could use a higher weight and still be able to comfortably hold them.
A bowl with a higher density can be the same weight as one of a lower density, but be smaller. The advantage is that this tends to make it easier to hold and control, giving good accuracy. On a fast green, higher density bowls will pull up quicker, rather than flying past the jack, but they tend to be short of the jack on slower greens - so require more effort to send on these instances. The reverse is true for lower density bowls.
Bowls with a standard density tend to be good all rounders and work reasonably well on fast or slow greens, requiring less adaptability that either higher or lower density bowls. Some bowlers may find that two pairs of bowls - of different densities - is an easier compromise, changing which bowls they use depending on the run of the green. This is not something I would recommend from a personal standpoint as I have always felt that consistency is key and prefer to make my adjustments based on the conditions on the day.
As with the different weights, it would be advisable to try using bowls of different densities before actually looking to purchase your own bowls - or see what other bowlers at your club use or recommend.
Crown green bowls being newly manufactured have a standard bias - known as 2-full (the same bias as the jack!). Some older bowls may have a bias of 2 ¼ or 2 ½ so this is something to keep in mind if you are looking to buy second hand crown green bowls, as it will mean your bowls will follow a slightly different line and may take a little adjusting. However it is unlikely that you will make your decision based on the bias of the bowl - just something to keep in mind for those looking at the second hand option!
In this instance, grip does not refer specifically to how you hold your bowls, but the grip that is put on the bowl during the manufacturing process. Whilst some bowls are completely smooth all over, many have lines around the side. These don’t just serve a decorative purpose, and can be used to get a little more purchase on the bowl in awkward conditions. Other bowls take this a little further and have dimples along the side, which improves grip even further. If when using a friends bowls as a test, you find that grip is an issue you may wish to consider either higher density bowls, which will be smaller and therefore easier to hold, and/or buying bowls that are specifically designed to give you a better grip. Bear in mind that many bowls stockists also sell products that can be wiped onto the bowl, or used on your hands to give you a better grip - so a bowl with extra grips is not the only option!
When purchasing something like electrical items you might often make the decision based on a particular brand name that you know and trust. It might be because they have good customer support or warranty, or because you know or have heard that the product is well manufactured.
Unsurprisingly this is not so much the case with bowls. As quite a niche sport there are only a few manufacturers of note.
Again, on a personal level I have only owned Drakes Pride - they were simply the first bowls I was given and I had no reason to change them in my years of playing. Most people will likely have the same bowls for many years and there have been very few instances I have heard of where bowls have broken, so quality is generally not an issue. You may find that different brands have different prices, so this could well be something you wish to consider. However, provided you have done your research and practiced with bowls of different weights and densities the brand is not something that I would recommend you pay too much attention to. I would certainly avoid making a decision based purely on being told that a certain brand is 'best'.
This likely depends on what is available to you and what bowls you have determined are suitable for your playing style after following the advice and steps above. If there are players at your club with second hand bowls available and which you think are suitable, then this is certainly one option. Alternatively, you may be able to pick up second hand bowls via ebay - which might give you a bit more of a choice. Obviously if buying off ebay, ensure that you are looking at crown green bowls and not any of the other variety of bowls!
Although crown green bowls are somewhat of a niche, there are plenty of providers - both online and some bricks and mortar retail stockists - where you can purchase new bowls. I’m afraid having not utilised any of these in recent years I wouldn’t feel comfortable recommending any in particular, but a simple google search should reveal these sellers. I hope to be adding reviews of online sellers in the coming months, but if you have had either a good or bad experience with any in particular, please let us know!
Unsurprisingly there is not much difference in design with bowls, although that has changed a little in recent years. As crown green bowls have shifted from wood to plastic there is a greater opportunity for different colour options. Bowls do now come in a variety of colours - perhaps not a decision that is popular with all bowlers! You can also get different coloured indents on the side of the bowl, known as mounts. There also tends to be a range of different grip designs on bowls, as discussed above. Obviously most of these differences are purely aesthetic. However, it can sometimes be useful to get a mount or style that is less common, as you are less likely to come up against an opponent with the same woods - in these cases you have to pay careful attention to whose bowl is whose!
For a lot of people, this may well be the deciding factor after you have chosen the weight and density that is right for you. The more unique a design style you choose to go for, the more you should expect to pay, but as a general guide you will likely be looking at between £60 - £140 for a pair of new bowls. Although not always the case, most bowls over around £90 will likely be an unusual design or colour. Certainly anything around the £70-80 range will likely serve you fine and would be a perfect starting place for a beginner. As long as the bowls feel comfortable to hold and are the weight and density that is best for you, then in my view, you cannot go too far wrong.
I hope that you have found this guide a useful starting point in selecting your next pair of crown green bowls. If you think anything has been missed from the guide, or would like any element to be expanded upon, please let me know!