An Introduction to the Sport of Bowls


"Like many games, the object of Bowls is essentially simple. It can be played by almost anyone, but to play consistently well demands determination concentration and practise."

How Bowls is Played

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Players deliver their bowls alternatively from a mat at one end of the rink, towards a small white or yellow ball called a jack at the other end. The bowls are shaped so that they do not run in a straight line, but take a curved path towards the jack. It is therefore delivered to the jack not at it. To be successful the bowl must be delivered with the correct weight, along the correct line. It may be delivered either forehand or backhand. (In right handed players forehand is a line to the right of the jack with the bowl curving inwards to the left, backhand is a line to the left of the jack curving inwards to the right.)

The object is to get one or more bowls closer to the jack than those of the opposition - one point is scored for each counting bowl. After playing all the bowls in on direction, and agreeing the score, the direction of play is reversed - the next end is played back down the rink in the opposite direction.

Bowls can be played as singles, or in teams of pairs, triples or fours (a team of four is also known as a 'rink'). In fours or rinks games, each team member has a particular role to play:

  1. The First, or Lead, places the mat, delivers the jack and centres it before attempting to bowl as close as possible to the jack.
  2. The Second, or Two keeps the scoreboard up to date. The two will normally be required to improve of consolidate the position achieved by the lead.
  3. The Third, or Three may be called upon to play different types of shots in order to score more, or to place bowls tactically to protect an advantage. The three also advises the skip on choice of shots, and agrees the number of shots scored, measuring if required.
  4. The Skip is in overall charge of the rink, directs the other players on choice of shot, and tries to build the 'head' of bowls to his or her advantage. The Skip is also responsible for keeping the score card up to date throughout the game liasing with the opposing team's Skip.

The normal game formats are as follows:

You should use every delivery to collect data about the rink, the changing weather conditions, and whether or not your aiming point needs to be adjusted. Notice how various coloured grass areas impact bias or length, where there's a rut or a wrinkle that you may want to avoid in future.

Perhaps the most important data you can capture from each and every shot has to do with the "muscle memory", the force you expend and how far it propelled the bowl.

What You Need to get Started

If you decide to start playing bowls, you will need some clothing to begin with.

You will need to wear Bowls Shoes (special flat smooth soled shoes) at all times on the green.

For Roll Ups (Practise Sessions)

For League matches, Club competitions, Friendly matches.

For Touring Teams, County Games, Finals Day.

NB: Check Team Sheets for any alterations to the above.

At some stage you may wish to buy a set of wet weather clothing, a white bowls hat for the sun and a white jumper/fleece for those cold summer days/evenings.


Club members will give advice on type of bowls that might suit you but personal preference always plays a large part in choice of bowls you decide to purchase. The club has a number of bowls sets you can try before making this decision.

Specialised bowls equipment suppliers will also give advice and some have the facilities to try bowls before purchase.

When you come to buy your bowls you may find suitable second-hand sets available for sale either privately, in clubs or in some bowls shops or on the internet. It is not advisable to buy new bowls initially as most clubs have second hand sets that can be used to get an idea what size and weight feel right. A new set will cost from £150 to over £200 depending upon the make and material; coloured bowls are more expensive than black.








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