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How it’s Played

For an excellent, short introduction video titled “How to Play Bowls”, click here

Bowls (also known as Lawn Bowls or Lawn Bowling) is a precision sport where the goal is to roll slightly radially asymmetrical balls (called bowls) closer to a smaller white ball (the “jack” or “kitty”) than one’s opponent is able to do. This game is most popular in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and in other UK territories.

The game takes place on a 120 ft. square of closely cut grass called a green. A green is divided into rinks, each 14 feet wide, with 8 rinks to a green.

Four types of games can be played:

  • Singles: one player against another, each using four bowls.
  • Pairs: a team of two against two, each playing using four bowls.
  • Triples: a team of three against three, each player using three bowls.
  • Fours: a team of four against four, each player using two bowls.

First, a small white ball called a “jack” is delivered down the surface of the rink and centered. Then, standing on a mat and going alternately, players deliver (roll) their bowls, the aim being to have their bowls come to a stop as close as possible to the “jack”. The trick is that the bowls are biased (eccentrically balanced) and, therefore, do not roll in a straight line, but curl towards the “jack”. A player must decide where the bowl should come to rest and then deliver the bowl along this visualized “line of aim”.

The “feel” of the green is another important element in the game and dictates the “weight” with which a bowl should be delivered: e.g., less weight for a fast green or short distance, more for a heavy green or long distance. The “jack” can be knocked and moved away (if lucky!) from the opponent and closer to one’s own bowls.

The game is made up of a predetermined number of “ends” which consist of the playing of all the bowls of both sides in one direction on the rink. The first player lays the mat and, standing on it, rolls the jack up the green where it is centred by the “skip” (or, as in singles, the “marker”). The player then rolls the first bowl which is followed by one played by the opposition until both teams have played all their bowls. When the last bowl of the end has been played, the players decide who has the winning “shot(s)”, how many, and the number is entered on the scorecard.

A game generally lasts about two hours.

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