Bowls wear for the novice is very straightforward. Flat-soled shoes/trainers and clothes that you feel comfortable in to “bend and send”. Generally league matches simply require you to be dressed to a socially decent standard – a shirt must be worn – but some leagues are more stringent than others. Where competitions and leagues stipulate “dress code”, this means the dress code as determined by the BCGBA. For men, this comprises of flat-soled shoes/trainers, black or grey non-denim trousers and a collared shirt (polo shirts are acceptable, replica football shirts are not).
Comfy shoes and socks are key – you don’t want to be worrying about your shoes rubbing, thus taking your mind off your bowling. Similarly, you don’t want tight clothes that can restrict your bowling action.
Unfortunately crown green bowls is generally played in the north of England, so wet weather gear is required from time to time. Typically look at what golfers wear; we generally wear similar – a lightweight waterproof jacket and optionally waterproof trousers.
The main piece of advice I’ll give on bowls is to try before you buy. Bowlers were traditionally made of lignum vitae (wood) but are now far more commonly made of composite materials (plastic). They are sized in imperial weights, from 2lb 0oz (2-0) up to 3lb, although both ends of the scale are rare. Different manufacturers can also have slightly different-shaped bowls – do not simply assume that all 2-08 bowls will feel the same. There are even variations within the weight itself; for example, Taylor Bowls sell 2-10 bowls as follows: Deluxe, Grippa, Elite, GI Ace and Express. Deluxe are more ornate, Elite are the basic set but perfectly acceptable for beginners, Grippa have a more ornate side pattern for better grip, GI Ace are modelled on bowls used by GI Wilson, one of the top players in the game, while Express are made of a lower density composite, designed to emulate the size and running qualities of a 2-10 wooden bowl. It is also possible to get certain models in high density, thus making the bowl a size smaller – that is, a 2-10 high density bowl is roughly the same size as a 2-08 standard density bowl. For a beginner, I’d generally recommend standard density and then adjust if you are struggling after some coaching.
Jacks, mats, measures, etc.
Initially, the other items that you’d be particularly interested in investing money in once you’ve decided you want to take the game up on a longer term basis are your own jack and mat. Generally you’ll find black or yellow jacks are the most common; white jacks are being phased out as they become difficult to pick out across the green in fading light. A practice jack will typically set you back £25-30 and the mat another £2 or so. A basic rucksack or holdall that you have is sufficient initially for transporting your bowls equipment but there is a full range of bags available that can hold up to four sets of bowls.
Once you start to playing competitively, you may also want to consider investing in a set of bowls measures (although clubs should have these), a score card holder to make marking cards easier and other bowling accessories. Don’t worry about these for now, though, just concentrate on learning and enjoying the game.