Like many games, the object of bowls is essentially simple. It can be played by anyone, but to play consistently well demands determination, concentration and practice.
The game is played on a square of closely cut grass called 'the green', which is divided into playing areas called rinks.
The green is surrounded by a small ditch to catch bowls which leave the green, and a bank upon which markers indicate the corners and centrelines of each rink.
Players take turns to deliver their bowls from a mat at one end of the rink towards a small white or yellow ball called the jack at the other end. The bowls are shaped so that they take a curved path towards the jack. To be successful the bowl must be delivered with the correct weight, along the correct line.
The object is to get one or more of your bowls closer to the jack than those of your opponents on each end - one point is scored for each counting bowl.
There are many different formats to the game, but the most common in England are singles or in teams of pairs, triples or fours. In singles, the winner is the first to score 21 points. In the other three formats, the winner is the team that scores the most points over a set number of ends.
Bowls - Basic Play
A standard bowling green is a flat square lawn between 33 and 44 yards long. Delimiting the edge of the lawn is a ditch. The surface is divided into strips or "rinks" 19 to 21 feet apart so that multiple games occur across the whole lawn, one in each rink
Each person has a set of uniquely marked bowls called "woods" which are slightly eccentric balls - each bowl is a tad less than spherical on one side. The resulting weight differential is called the "bias" and woods are rolled with the bias on the left or right side so that the bowl adopts a curved path towards the target. In the past woods were normally made from lignum vitae but these days hard rubber or a compound material is often used. The woods are 4 3/4 - 5 1/8 inches in diameter and weigh 2lb 12oz - 3lb 8oz.
The target is a smaller ball, usually white or yellow, called a "jack" which is 2 1/2 inches in diameter.
A coin is tossed to decide which player will start the first "end" or "leg". After that, the player who won the previous end bowls the first wood of the next one.
The player who is to bowl the first wood of the end is the player who also bowls the jack. Under most circumstances, the first try is all that is needed.
The mat is placed by the player who starts. The same player then bowls the jack. The jack must go at least 23 yards, must stay within the rink and must not fall into the ditch. If it is within 2 1/2 yards of the ditch, it is moved back so that it lies 2 1/2 yards in from the ditch. Before the first bowl is thrown, the jack is always carefully centred to the middle line of the rink
Once the first wood has been bowled, the other players then take turns to roll their bowls towards the jack. In "singles", each player plays four bowls. In "pairs", for each end, each player plays four bowls - the first player on each side bows all four bowls and then the second player bowls four bowls. In "triples", three players play three bowls each. And in "fours" or "rinks", four players play just two bowls each. A player must stand with one foot on a centrally placed small black mat, 24 x 14 inches while bowling.
Woods are not always played with the aim of being closest to the jack - they are often played to knock opposing woods out of contention or to move the jack or other woods of the same team into a more advantageous position.
A bowl that falls into the ditch is out of play unless it is a "toucher" meaning that it has previously touched the jack during the end. To keep track of this, any bowl that touches the jack is marked with a cross using chalk.
If the jack is knocked into the ditch by a toucher, it is still in play and its location is marked by a small white peg on the bank above the ditch. No subsequently played bowls can become touchers - if they touch the jack in the ditch, they are still considered to be out of play.
The winner of the leg scores one point for each wood that is closer to the jack than the opposing team's closest wood. The player or team that first reaches 21 points or some other amount agreed up front, wins.
In lawn bowling, each team is made up of 4 people. These 4 people each have their own role within that team and each role has their own responsibilities. The 4 roles are called The Lead, The Second, The Third, and The Skip. Here’s a brief explanation about what each does.
The Lead – The first player to bowl is called The Lead and they will approach first, lay down the mat, position the target or jack where The Skip would like it, and deliver the first bowl. Generally The Lead tries to position their bowl just in front of the jack or just behind it. The worst thing The Lead could do is deliver a short bowl, which could hinder the other players on his team, or deliver a wing shot, which could help players of the opposing team.
The Second – The Second is the second person on the team to bowl. The Skip may offer them tips on how to deliver their bowl, depending on whether or not The Skip thinks they are in a good position.
The Third – The Third is the third person on the team to bowl but is generally a more experienced player. This is because they will require a greater level of skill as there will already be several bowls in the playing green and they will need to know how to manouver around them. The Third may actually tell The Skip what they think is best but ultimately, they must leave the decision to The Skip and carry out what they think is best.
The Skip – This is the hardest role within lawn bowling. Not only must The Skip be extremely knowledgeable about lawn bowling and its techniques and strategies but they must also be able to throw just about any shot there is. In addition to all of this, they must be able to advise other team members on what they should do and should also offer support throughout each match. Skips usually record the score of each leg, though this may vary depending on the match or competition rules.