Introduction to the Game of Lawn Bowling

Rules and Terminology of Bowls

The complete “Laws of Lawn Bowls” is available for download on the World Bowls website.

The Game

The objective of the game is to deliver bowls closer to the jack than your opponent. The player or team with the closest bowl to the jack earns one point (or “shot”) for each bowl closer to the jack than the nearest opponent bowl.

Terminology

End Comprises the actions of delivering the jack and each player on each team taking turns delivering their bowls.
Bowl The oval and weighted ball that when rolled, or delivered, will have a curved trajectory.
Jack The smaller white or yellow ball delivered at the start of each end, that is the target for the bowls.
Head The area around the jack to which bowls are delivered.
Mat Rectangular pad from which the bowl is delivered.
Draw A type of delivery of a bowl where the object is to have your bowl end near or touching the jack.
Wick the act of a bowl when delivered that brushes against a bowl that is in play and then changes direction.
Runner An aggressive delivery of a bowl where the objective is to hit your opponent’s bowls to remove them from play.
Toucher A bowl that during its delivery has touched the jack.
Shot One point earned in an end determined by the bowls that are closer to the jack than your opponent’s bowls.

Game Formats

There are three game formats:

  1. SHOTS – A game point is predetermined. In championship games the number of points is 21. The first player to attain 21 shots is the winner of the game.
  2. ENDS – A game is comprised of a predetermined number of ends. The team with the most points after playing the predetermined number of ends is the winner of the game.
  3. TIME – A game is played for a predetermined period of time. The team with the most points at the end of the time period is the winner of the game.

Team Formats

Bowls is played between opponents of various arrangements. These include singles, teams, and sides.

Singles

A game between two players, usually playing four bowls each. Each player will alternate shots. Matches usually go to 21 points.

Teams

Teams may be comprised of two, three, or four players. In this game each position rolls all their bowls alternating between the person of the same position on the opposing team.

Pairs – A game between two teams of two players each. The positions on this team are the lead and the skip. (Four bowls each.)
Triples – A game between two teams of three players each. The positions on this team are the lead the second and the skip. (Three bowls each.)
Fours – A game between two teams of fours players each. The positions on this team are the lead, the second, the third, and the skip. (Two bowls each.)

Sides

This is a match between teams of teams. In this case the combined scores from all games per side are totaled to determine a winner.

 

The Green

The green is the square playing surface bounded by a ditch and divided into playing areas called rinks.

The Rink

Each rink encompasses several components:

Ditches – A rink has a ditch at each end. The front ditch is at the far end, according to the bowler, and the rear ditch is behind the mat. A bowl falling into the front ditch is considered “dead” and is removed from play. The bowl remains in play in the ditch if the bowl is a toucher and then falls into the ditch.

Bank – An area beyond the ditch. The face of the bank rises above the level of the green and markers that indicate the center and sides lines of each rink are placed.

Side Lines – Side lines are not marked on the green but are instead indicated by markers on the face of the bank. Bowls can pass these lines but must end inside the two side lines. Any bowl that ends past these side lines are removed from play.

Mat – The mat is placed on the center line of the rink by the lead bowler of each end. When delivering a bowl one foot must be on or above the mat.

The Jack

The jack is a small white (or yellow) ball that is delivered first during each end. A coin is flipped to determine which team delivers the jack to start the game. The winner of the previous end delivers the jack to start the next end. Once the jack is in play it may be moved by a bowl to a new position as long as it stays within the side lines. If the jack moves outside these lines the end is started anew.

Delivering the Jack

First the jack must be properly delivered. Then the jack must be centered at that distance. If the jack is improperly delivered then it must be returned to the mat and given to the opposing team to deliver. If both teams fail to deliver the jack properly it is placed on the center line 2 meters from the front ditch.

No matter who delivers the jack the team who started delivering the jack will always throw the first bowl.

If delivery of the jack is a long delivery, within 2 meters of the front ditch, the jack must be spotted on the center line at a point 2 meters from the front ditch.

Below is a list of types on improperly delivered jacks:

  1. Short Delivery – when the jack is delivered less than 21 meters from the mat.
  2. Ditch Delivery – when the jack is delivered too long and falls into the front ditch.
  3. Wide Delivery – when the jack is delivered outside the side boundaries of the rink.

Bowls

Lawn bowls are available in a choice of sizes and weights. The bowl is not symmetrical and one side is more rounded than the other, causing the bowl to curve to one side as the bowl slows down. This is the “bias” of the bowl.

Our objective is to deliver the bowl as close to the jack as possible. To allow for a curve, caused by the bowl’s bias, the bowl must be delivered to the outside so it curves in and approaches the jack from the either the left or the right (“backhand” or “forehand”, respectively for the right-handed bowler). The bowler (or the skip) decides if a right or left approach is more advantageous. The curving bowl allows for endless possibilities and many different strategies.

Scoring

At the completion of an end, only the team with the closet bowl to the jack is entitled to score points. The team will score one point for each bowl closer to the jack than the nearest opponent bowl.

Sometimes it is difficult to eyeball which of the two bowls is closer to the jack. For this reason, players usually carry a measuring device devised for this purpose. Bowls can not be measured until the end is completed and points are determined. If the competing players or teams are unable to agree on a count of shots for an end they should leave the bowls where they lie and call for an umpire to perform the measurements. The umpire’s decision is final.