The Game

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 practice.

The green, divided into rinks

The green: rink positions are moved and rotated every few days to ensure even wear.

The game of Bowls is played on a 34 to 40 metre square of closely cut grass called the green. The green 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.

A rink, showing the lines to the jack

Forehand and backhand lines to the jack (for a right-handed bowler)

Players deliver their bowls alternately from a mat at one end of the rink, towards a small white ball called the 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. To be successful the bowl must be delivered with the correct weight, along the correct line. The bowl can be delivered either forehand or backhand.

The head: showing two shots to Highworth

Highworth (blue and white) have the nearest bowl and the second nearest, scoring two. No other bowls count.

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 one 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:

Team Roles

The Lead, Second or Third should NEVER give instructions to a player on the mat. This is the job of the Skip. When the Skip is on the mat, the Third may offer advice but the Skip makes the decision. Players who do this will make the team look out-of-control, and wit will look like the Skip is being undermined, and is not good for team morale.

Match Formats

      • In Fours or Rinks play, the lead, two, three and skip each deliver two bowls for 21 ends.
      • In Singles, the two opponents deliver four bowls alternately. The first to reach 21 shots is the winner.
      • For Pairs, the players deliver four bowls each. The team scoring the most shots after 21 ends is the winner.
      • In the Triples game, the lead, second and skip deliver three bowls each, for 18 ends.

Although these are the most common formats, variations are allowed by the controlling bodies. Matches may be mixed or single-sex.