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Lawn Bowls

A mysterious and ancient game played by people old enough to know better, using balls carefully designed to go in the wrong direction.

A Basic Guide to Bowls

Object of the Game


The object of the game is very simple - to get your bowl closer to the jack than any of the opponents bowls. A point is scored for every one of your bowls / your teams bowls that is closer to the jack than the closest of your opponent's / the opposing teams bowls.

Players & Equipment


The equipment required to get started with bowls is relatively simple too, starting with the level playing surface, foot mats and the jack. Players require shoes with flat soles that are reserved for use on the green and a set of bowls - though these can usually be borrowed from the club at the beginning.


The bowls themselves come in a variety of sizes but are generally around 1.5kg in weight and possess a bias in weight so they roll in a curved path, the precise judgement of which is where much of the challenge of the game lies.

The bowling green is usually split into individual “rinks” in which games are played as singles (one player against one other), pairs (two against two), triples or fours. The rinks are 4.3 to 5.8 metres wide and 31 to 40 metres long. There is a ditch at either end of the green which must be wide enough for bowls to be able to fall into it if they reach it.


A point is awarded to the player or team whose bowl is closest to the jack at the end of a round (or “end”). If a player or team has more than one bowl closer to the jack than their opponents, they will score the corresponding number of points.

Winning the Game

The number of points required to win a game varies from competition to competition, but commonly the first player or team to reach 21 points or to have accumulated the greater number of points after 18 or 21 ends is declared the winner.

A Beginner's Guide to Lawn Bowls

The website publish a quite readable  "Complete Beginner's Guide to Lawn Bowls".

It provides a useful guide rather than the definitive Laws of the Sport.


Etiquette Norbert.jpg
 Lawn bowls etiquette refers to guidelines which describe the way responsible players behave when bowling. They ensure an enjoyable experience for everyone playing, and watching. They are simple, common-sense 'rules' which can be followed easily.

1. Be on Time


Timekeeping is perhaps one of the oldest rules on courtesy. The greatest way to start lawn bowling is by showing up on time for a game. Arriving on time will also give you adequate time to change before the game. Being early will also give you a chance to help organize the equipment and familiarize yourself with the game. Ensure all equipment, jacks and mats are in position before the game begins.


2. Dress Appropriately


Ensure that you know the dress code for the game to avoid looking confused. Stay informed and pack your gear in good time to avoid forgetting the essentials. Remember not to arrive in your bowling shoes in case you carry harmful fungus to the greens.

3. Stand Still When Someone is About to Bowl


Lawn bowling is a game of concentration. Distractions are of least importance when playing, and for this reason, you should avoid moving around when someone else is playing. If you are at the head, wait until the person playing is done bowling, then move. If you are at the same end as the player delivering the bowl, stay away from the mat and the player’s line of vision. You are expected to stand at least one meter behind the mat. On sunny days, ensure that your shadow is not cast upon the jack. Likewise, if you are in white shoes, avoid standing behind a white jack because your shoes will interfere with the player’s vision. If you are standing at the head, stay inside the rink markers but avoid obscuring the central rink number. Also, stay silent during the game. Being loud is equally distractive and unnecessary when you can communicate with signals.


4. Be Alert as You Walk Around Adjacent Rinks


Usually, bowl clubs will organize their rinks in parallel, which means the people next to you could be involved in a completely different game. When walking to a game, to the clubhouse or anywhere around the lawns, stay alert. It would be quite unfortunate if you walked into a game and tripped over a ball because you were not looking. Restrict all walking to the steps provided to avoid walking across other people rinks. Also, avoid standing or sitting on the banks while waiting to play. People tend to place their feet on the greens while sitting on the banks, which is damaging to the edges of the greens.


5. Observe the Rules of Possession


According to the rules, after you have delivered a bowl, you have two choices. If you desire to track your bowl, you must be at the head when it stops. If you choose to stay at the mat, you must be there when the bowl stops. By observing this rule, you ensure that the next player gets to play immediately when your turn is over. Avoid frustrating other players by following the rules. The rules also state that the rink shall belong to the team whose bowl is being played. While playing, players in possession of the rink shall not be disturbed or interfered with. If you have business to conduct at the clubhouse, wait till after the game and start a conversation over drinks.

6. Acknowledgments are in Order


Competition is a critical ingredient in enjoying a game, but so is acknowledgment. Good bowling is the appreciation of skill to keep the congenial spirit alive. Congratulating an opponent, or tapping a player in the back for making an exceptional move is always in order. Also, take note of lucky shots and acknowledge them whenever necessary.


7. Do Not Drop That Bowl


Dropping or throwing bowls on lawns for no particular reason is considered impolite. Bowling lawns are delicate and dropping bowls on them could damage the greens. You should not kick bowls or drop them. Pick them up gently and place them on the ground if you do not need them.


8. Enter and Leave the Mat on the Correct Side


The rules are simple. Once it is your time to bowl, come into the mat from the left side and once you are done bowling, step off from the right side of the mat. It is customary to observe this rule to avoid bumping into other players as you exit the mat.

9. Send Signals from the Head End


If you have visited a bowling green, you have probably realized that it is difficult to see the results without walking on the green. However, if you are standing at the head end, it is easier for you to observe the game. Signal your team player as necessary. Tap your knee to signal that the struck bowl belongs to the adversary team or tap your shoulder if the struck bowl is yours.


10. Shake Hands


It is good sportsmanship to shake hands before and after a game, and introduce yourself when necessary. After a game, it is tempting to leave immediately, especially after losing. Ensure that you shake hands. It is also customary to offer to buy drinks after you win a game.


11. Keep the Complaints to yourself


Perhaps your green was not as smooth as you expected, or you are at loggerheads with one of your team players. It would be wise not to complain about any green, including yours, or about other people, especially at the bowl club. As earlier stated, bowling is a game of propriety, and pointless complaining is impolite.



How to Handle Wrong-Doing


Unfortunately, even with several rules of propriety, behaviour contrary to the rules will arise once in a while. Whether deliberate or as a result of a mistake, a breach can be dealt with using the following framework.


  • Politely ask the player to stop breaking the rules. If necessary, explain which laws they are breaking through their behaviour. If the person is an opponent, be careful not to use insulting or vulgar language as it is contrary to lawn bowling custom.

  • If your attempt to inform them fails, seek the help of a knowledgeable club member. A third party may be in a better position to resolve the dispute before it escalates to the Board of Management. The third party’s opinion should be respected, and if necessary, he should be allowed to watch the game and note the relevant behavior carefully.

  • If all efforts should fail and the resolution is unsatisfactory, parties in dispute should report the matter to the Board of Management. The Board will do its best to gather evidence and deal with the issue appropriately. The consequences of a breach could lead to disqualification or the suspension of a member.

  • Above all, it is imperative to remember that disputes are bound to arise and can be resolved without extending the matter beyond the game or the clubhouse. Always strive to maintain good relationships with all players at the clubhouse


By far, the most important part is to enjoy your game!

Laws of the Sport


World Bowls is the recognised International Federation for the Sport of Bowls.

The World Bowls Laws Advisory Group (LAG), in conjunction with World Bowls Member National Authorities (MNAs), undertakes a comprehensive review of the Laws of the Sport and periodically  incorporates revisions into the Laws of the Sport.

At the time of writing the latest version of the laws is the Crystal Mark Fourth Edition, dated August 2022.

Click on the link for access to the latest edition of the Laws and Revisions posted on the World Bowls website.

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