Playing the Game of Lawn Bowls
It is said that Lawn Bowls is a game that can be played by
anyone aged from nine to ninety and in my time in the game I have come
across several nonagenarian players.
It does tend to have a crusty, "old people's game" image
due largely to the use of sponsors like Saga and over 55's insurance
companies. The reality is somewhat different and at county level in
Scotland the average player's age is probably somewhere in the thirties.
Competitive bowling can be an exhausting game and in matches players are
expected to perform for three to four hours without a break. During these
games they can walk two or three miles and bend up and down about 100
times. It's no wonder that bowlers traditionally suffer from both back and
knee injuries. Add to that the concentration and effort required and you
can see why we need a seat and a few beers after the match!
The Game is played on a Bowling Green. The surface is
generally grass but in some of the hotter, drier countries artificial
surfaces are increasingly being used. In countries with long winters, like
the UK and Canada, many indoor bowling centres have sprung up where the
game is played on a carpet like surface. While the weight required to
deliver the bowl changes on these surfaces the rules and objectives of the
game are essentially the same.
Lawn Bowls are available in different
sizes with a mid sized men's bowl being between 116mm and 131mm in
diameter. They are made of a hard plastic material which is able to
withstand the constant contact between bowls during play. Their weight
should not exceed 1.59kg.
Until 2001 all lawn bowls were either black or brown in
colour. The rules have now been changed to allow bowls in virtually any
colour and the manufacturers have taken up the challenge by producing
bowls in just about every colour imaginable, even pink!
During a game players deliver (roll) their bowls up the
green in turn trying to finish closest to a smaller white ball called the
A bowling green is normally square
and the Scottish Bowling Association rules say that it shall be not
less than 34 metres and no more than 40 metres in the direction of
play. It is surrounded by a shallow ditch.
The perimeter of the ditch is surrounded by a bank,
which should be not less than 230 mm above the surface of the green.
The green is normally divided into six "rinks" allowing six games to
take place concurrently. The rinks should be not less than 5.5
metres nor more than 5.8 metres wide.
Surface wear is spread by moving the rink settings
laterally and by changing direction of play every two or three days,
playing either across the green or up and
Rink extremities are marked off by boundary markers with
the centre of each being indicated by a "pin" which also carries a number
for the rink. The rinks are numbered 1 through 6. Players deliver their
bowls from one end to another during an "end" then, when the end is
complete, they turn around and play back again.
Lawn bowls are not spherical, they are shaped on one
side such that they follow a curved track to the jack. They carry a
mark to indicate to which side the bias is applied.
As shown on the adjacent diagram the bowls can be
delivered on the "forehand" or the "backhand" depending on the
players preference or where bowls that have already been played are
The curved path helps the player to find a way past
bowls that have been delivered short of the jack. Note that bowls
may travel outside the boundaries of the rink during their course as
long as they come to rest within these boundaries.
The players must stand on a rubber mat when
delivering their bowl. The mat is placed on the centreline of the
rink with its front end no less than 2m from the rear ditch or less
than 25m from the front ditch. Its position is chosen by the player
who throws the jack to start the end.
During an end the bowl nearest to the Jack is referred to
as "the shot". You may hear players on the mat asking, "who is lying the
The player who first delivers the jack must ensure that it
is properly centred. If it comes to rest within two metres from the front
edge of the green it must be moved out to a mark at that distance. The
player delivering the jack can choose the length to play it, but it must
finish at least 23m in a straight line of play from the front edge of the
The players then take turns to deliver their bowls. When
all the bowls have been delivered the number of "shots" is counted. A shot
is a bowl which is nearer the jack than any of your opponents bowls. For
example, if you have three shots nearer the jack than any of your
opponents bowls you score three shots at that end.
At the conclusion of this typical end of bowls in a singles match
each player has has played four bowls.
Who is lying and how many shots have been scored.
(Rest your cursor over the image of the bowls for the answer.)
Types of Lawn Bowls Games and
Games of bowls can involve singles play or teams of two in
pairs, three in triples or four in "rinks" games. Matches generally
involve a number of teams from one club playing another club. For example
a match could involve six rinks or 24 players (6x4) per team.
The jack can be moved by
the bowls during play. When a bowl moves the jack it is left in the new
position provided it remains within the rink boundary markers. It can also
be pushed into the ditch by a bowl. In this case it remains in the ditch
and the players must try to play their bowls as close as possible to the
jack, at the edge of the green, without falling into the ditch.
A bowl which moves the
jack is marked with chalk and classed as a "Toucher". If it touches the
jack before falling into the ditch it stays there, remains "live" and may
feature in the final shot count. A toucher that remains on the rink and is
later driven into the ditch by another bowl is also a live bowl. A bowl
that goes into the ditch and that has not touched the jack is classed as
being "dead" and it is removed. All bowls which finish outside the side
boundaries of the rink are dead.
Lawn Bowls Tactics
Bowls is a highly tactical game. This is one of its
attractions. It is not always about "drawing" closest the jack. Players
must constantly anticipate what shot their opponents may play. For example
when a team has a few bowls behind the head, (behind the jack), the
opposing team may see the need to place a bowl amongst these to cover the
possibility of the jack being moved.
Similarly, if one side is already lying the shot, they may
elect to play a guarding shot short of the target area to prevent their
opponents from moving anything. These are only two examples and there are
many other situations, too many to discuss here, where tactics come into
Types of Shots in Bowling
There are basically four different types of shot, or
delivery in Lawn Bowling. These are ...
A Drawing Shot is the most common and it is
really what the game is all about. This shot is the one in which the
player attempts to play with the exact weight required to finish closest
to the jack or to a point on the green dictated by strategy or tactics.
This shot is often considered to be the most skillful.
The Yard On
The "Yard On" shot is when the player
plays his bowl with the weight that will carry it a yard or two past the
target. The objective of this shot is usually to drag the jack away from
the opponent's bowls towards your own or to push a bowl out of the "head"
and take its place. This is often referred to as a "chap and lie" shot in
The Running Shot or Ditch Length Shot
Shot is one which uses more weight than the yard on. The object of this
shot is to remove opponents bowls from the head, to move the jack to the
ditch or to seek some other result that requires the bowl to be played
with weight. This can be a difficult shot to play as the line (bias)
required to get to the target changes with different weight.
The Drive is probably the most spectacular
shot on the bowling green. A drive is when the player delivers the bowl at
high speed and with maximum weight so that he can strike the head or the
target with full force. The object of this shot can be to completely
remove opponent's bowls from the head or from the rink or to drive the
jack into the ditch. It is also commonly used when a player has a few
shots against him. In this case the object is to destroy the head or to
"burn" the end by driving the jack out of the rink. This can be a very
effective and intimidating shot to have in your armoury but many players
have difficulty controlling their direction when concentrating their
efforts on so much weight.
Bias is the amount of curve that a
bowl will take during its course to the jack. Bowls are available
with several different biases for use in different conditions and
competitions. As part of the manufacturing process all bowls are
tested against "Master Bowl", which defines the limits of this bias.
Click this link for a description of this lawn bowls
A Burned or "burnt"
End is one where the Jack has been moved outside the boundaries of
the rink by a bowl in play. In normal competition Burned Ends must
Deliver is the
term used for throwing or rolling a bowl. The delivery is the action
of delivering a bowl. A bowler with a good delivery can be compared
to a golfer with a good swing.
The term draw can have
several meanings in bowling. As a noun it can refer to the type of
shot being played. A "dead draw" is an attempt to deliver the bowl
as close as possible to the target (generally the jack). It can also
be used as a verb. You may hear a skip issuing an instruction such
as, "Just draw to the jack".
A drive is type of shot in
bowling where the player delivers the bowl with maximum force toward
the target. Otherwise know in Scotland as a "blooter"!
An end of bowls comprises the
placing of the mat, the delivery of the jack and the playing of all
the required bowls of all of the opponents in one direction on the
A Guard is a bowl played to
a position that restricts the opposition from getting to the
The head refers collectively
to the Jack and the bowls that have been delivered and come to rest
within the boundaries of the rink.
When a player
unintentionally delivers a bowl beyond the jack or the intended
target it is described as being Heavy.
The Jack is the small white ball that is
the target in bowls. You may also hear it referred to colloquially
as the "White", the "Kitty" or the "Sweetie".
If a bowl is Jack high
it means that it has reached a position such that its nearest part
is laterally aligned with the jack. Effectively it means that the
bowl and jack are level.
A Lead is the person who
plays first in pairs triples or fours (rinks) game. The lead is
responsible for setting the mat and delivering the jack to start the
LINE OR ROAD
The Line or Road is
the curved route taken to the jack. E.g. "You are a yard short but
your line was good."
The Second in a triples
or rinks (fours) game is the player who plays second. In the rinks
game the second is responsible for marking the score card.
A bowl that does not reach
the jack or the intended target is described as being short.
Shot can have several
meanings. The shot or shots are the number of points scored in an
end. It can also mean the type of delivery, e.g. a drawing shot, and
during an end, the bowl that is currently nearest the jack.
The Skip is the captain of
a team in pairs, triples or rinks play. The Skip is always last to
play and is responsible for directing the play during an end. The
other players in a team must follow the Skip's instructions.
The third is the third
player to play in a rinks game. The third is normally responsible,
with his corresponding opponent, for deciding the result of an end,
i.e. who is lying the shot and how many shots have been scored. The
skips however have the final say in this in the event of any
A Toucher is a bowl that
during its course touches the jack before finishing within the
boundaries of the rink. A Toucher remains live even if it finishes
in the ditch.
Weight is the term used to
refer to the power applied to a delivery.
Before the introduction of
plastic composition bowls they were made from the heaviest most
dense wood available, Lignum Vitae. At this time bowls were often
called Woods and some people still use this as a generic term for