4 game tactics to raise your competitive edge



Having a preconceived game tactic or a greater understanding of game tactics at your disposal can shift game momentum and ultimately the match result in your favour.  Game tactics are a key tool used to take advantage of your strengths, whilst also exploiting your opponents’ weaknesses.  We have all seen games where a team/player is struggling with a certain jack length and the opposition is dictating and controlling the game by playing their preferred jack length.  Utilising some game tactics at crucial moments during a game can increase your competitive edge, and ability to overcome the most fearsome of competitors.    


In order to become a more competitive and versatile bowler, I encourage you to approach purposeful practice sessions with these 4 game tactics in mind;

See also our blog post – Fast track your game development with purposeful practice



1              –              Minimum Length Jacks

Jack lengths that bowlers typically neglect to practise tend to be either minimum or maximum lengths, or both. The vast majority of bowlers tend to practice medium length jacks on a regular basis, which leads to opportunities for the more purposeful bowler to fine tune their minimum jack length skills and create a competitive advantage.  Going into the start of a game when neither opponent has any game tactic, the first few ends are typically medium length jacks, which becomes the default length for the rest of the game. I find that players may be trapped in battling it out to see who ‘picks up’ that length the best, rather than playing to their strengths.  Sometimes as a player you may not even realise that this is occurring.  What if your opponent’s main weakness was minimum length jacks and you didn’t exploit this to your advantage; you might have won that game with ends to spare instead of it coming down to the last bowl or the last end to win the game.



2              –              Maximum Length Jacks

Even if you are not an expert at maximum length jacks, you can still use them to your advantage while you hone your skills.  Usually with maximum jack lengths you can score even if you have not ‘nailed’ the jack, with heads generally more open and allowing you more room to play the winning shot.  With purposeful practice sessions focused on this game tactic, you will become confident in your maximum length ability which can give you a competitive edge, compared to the majority of bowlers who tend to stick to the default medium length jacks during practice sessions and competition.

Maximum length ends also bring into play the element of the ditch.  This can also exploit an opponent’s weakness if they are constantly overweight with their shots, or their inability to ditch draw if the jack ends up in the ditch.



3              –              Matt Position

For me, this is one of the key elements overlooked by an ‘average’ bowler and used to great effect by ‘elite’ bowlers.  All too often you see many bowlers position the matt for the next end at the location the previous end has finished, possibly saving them from kicking bowls back.  How is consistency with the line achieved, when the matt position fluctuates depending on the previous end length?  Being consistent and precise with matt position can help to build momentum in your favour, one less variable you have to contend with when trying to pick that winning line.  Matt position can also be used to disrupt an opponent’s flow.  Moving the matt forward or back even just a few meters can off-put your opponent and give you that little more space to make the winning shot.

TBA TIPDon’t be afraid to significantly move the matt position on end 1!! This could really set a different tone for the game from the get-go and will make for an interesting reaction possibly from your opponent.  With the majority of first ends starting with the matt position near the ‘T’ it adds an element of psychology to the game tactics by not allowing your opponent to settle into their ‘default’ position.

4              –              Jack Position

The jack position is obviously dictated by the end length that you want to play and potentially the matt position also.  However, an important factor to remember with jack position is the ability to ‘kill’ an end or not ‘kill’ an end.  If a strength of yours is the drive shot, it may be in your favour to play a short jack in order to have the option of ‘killing’ and replaying the end.  Having the jack position near the ‘T’ will drastically reduce your ability to ‘kill’ an end with the jack ultimately ending up in the ditch.  This tactic could also be used in your favour, by positioning the jack near the ‘T’ and not allowing your opponent to constantly ‘kill’ ends to get themselves out of trouble.


Game plans can not only be utilised in an attacking sense, but also as a defensive tool.  By incorporating these four game tactics into your practice sessions, they can help you become a more competitive and versatile bowler on the green. Being confident in your ability to be able to play various length jacks for your own advantage and recognising when to implement and change overall game tactics, can be the difference in coming out on top.

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Author - Simon Lyttle

Author - Simon Lyttle

Simon is the founder of The Bowls Academy. He represented Ireland before permanently moving to Sydney and establishing himself at one of Sydney's strongest clubs, Taren Point. He has won multiple state pennants, zone and club championships and is a current zone 13 representative.

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