One of the phases of the sport of lawn bowls that seems to receive less emphasis is measuring for shot. We mostly start by picking up a lawn bowl, being amazed by its weight, examining its shape, and being taught how best to hold it as we deliver it a short distance on the grass. We become first a ‘Lead’, setting the mat, using the pusher, making mistakes and being corrected; but managing to get our aiming point more or less fixed in our mind, so that we don’t get embarrassed when it doesn’t quite perform the way we expect it to.
Assuming we enjoyed it often enough for more seasoned players to stop changing the way we do all that beginner stuff, we moved on to the second challenging phase: measuring for shot. For this phase, we found ourselves observing the ‘Second’ or ‘Vice’ at the receiving end of the green, assessing the ‘head’. We noticed that the jack is often pushed around even more than we are, that chalk marks have been made on the bowls that did that pushing, and that it is important to know which bowl belongs to our team and which belongs to the theirs.
Whether it happens within months or years, eventually we are expected to answer the big question: “Who’s shot?” It might come in the middle of the end, just after the opposing ‘Skip’ has delivered her first bowl that appeared to do some damage to the end—or it might be after all the players have finished bowling that end. We quickly learn that only the ‘Vice’ is expected to express such an opinion and only when we have possession of the head; besides which sometimes it seems more obvious than at other times without ‘measuring’.
Measuring is, we learn, has two interpretations. The most frequent type is really humorous to watch—and often just a guess. The person asked for the opinion is likely the Vice, although in a ‘Singles’ tournament, it may be an appointed marker (so that the competing players can save the trouble and time of walking down to the head to decide for themselves). Assessing who is shot may involve standing over the jack and squinting, looking at the situation from two or three angles, or holding their hands in strange geometric analyses.
Only when the last bowl has been delivered can the decisive measuring be accomplished. The end is not always ‘measured’; but has to be agreed upon by both sides—either the Skips or the Vices, usually. However, the competence level at measuring ‘by eye’ varies between these players and sometimes the less experienced player accepts the other’s opinion. If the outcome of the end just played is not significant, the score is recorded and the game continues. If the visual assessment is questionable, the measuring tools are used.
As a Vice, you’ll need to know the tools used to ‘measure for shot’ – the tape measure and the callipers. Not everyone owns his or her own measure, and there are different makes and styles; but the concept is much the same, some being plastic and others being string, and some being much longer than others (for umpires). For very close measuring, the callipers are used. Meanwhile, perhaps twice or three times as often, you’ll be using ‘observation’ to make the determination of ‘who has the shot bowl’ and ‘is this the only counting shot?’
However, if still unsure, the final authority (especially during a tournament) is the decision by one of our umpires–who conveniently wear bright red shirts.