A reminder of the basics of the game

If you are a beginner to the game of bowls you will have been instructed in the basics by the Club Coaches, but the following may be helpful as a reminder.

There is no substitute for starting right, and there are a few basic requirements of you as a bowler starting the game; for example:

  • The correct grip on the bowl

  • The correct position of the feet

  • Being well-balanced

  • Keeping the head still

  • Taking your time on the mat – don’t rush it

  • Bowling to a line

  • A smooth arm action and follow through

 Contrary to the view of many people who don’t know the game, it is not simple. There are many things to think about, but don’t let it worry you. Take one thing at a time, and slowly, things will become automatic. But don’t stop working at it; it’s always as well to recap on the basics: what you are doing well, and what can be corrected or improved. Watch other bowlers who seem to be successful. Improving your game can enhance your enjoyment and the team’s chances of success.

Bowls or woods as they are often called, come in matched sets of four, in a range of sizes and weights. Experiment with various bowls at first and decide what suits you best. Remember that the inside bias of a bowl is the one with the smaller concentric rings. You will occasionally bowl a “wrong bias”, but don’t worry about it – everyone does it now and again!!

The game can be played by one player (singles), two players (pairs), three players (triples) or four players (a rink) – against the same number of players in the opposing team.

In all team games it is the skip’s job to direct the play. Other players should play the shot directed by the skip even if they don’t agree with it. In fours (a rink) games the Third should direct the skip when required to do so. In Triples the Second may do this and in Pairs the Lead may do this. Other players should NOT interfere unless invited to do so.

A team that gels well, communicates well, plays well and normally wins well. We all win together just as we all lose together.

In the team format, the following usually applies:

  • LEAD is the first to play, places the delivery mat, delivers the Jack and ensures it is properly centred before attempting to bowl as close to the Jack as possible.
  • SECOND plays after the Leads have each played their bowls. The second may be asked to play a variety of different shots by the Skip depending on what the Leads have done.
  • THIRD may be called upon to play different shots in order to score more or to place bowls tactically to protect an advantage. In addition the Third is also responsible for:
    • Advising the Skip when requested;
    • Agreeing the number of shots with their opposite number each end and measuring as required;
    • Maintaining the scoreboard at alternate ends.
  • SKIP has overall responsibility for the rink and should be an experienced and capable player to offer assistance to new bowlers. The Skips duties include:
    • Directing the development of each end;
    • Overall responsibility for the rink;
    • Settling any disputed points with the opposite Skip – especially in the event of no umpire being present.

The Skip is also responsible for the score card, but may delegate this duty to another member of their team (subject to the same player in both teams assuming this duty). The responsibilities include:

  • Entering the names of all players of both teams on the score card;
  • Recording on the score card all shots scored for and against the team as each end is completed;
  • Maintains the scoreboard at alternate ends.
  • At the end of the game, recording on the score card the time that the game finished and then sign it.

The game usually starts with the toss of a coin, although in friendly matches (as opposed to League matches or competitions) the visiting team is, as a matter of normal courtesy, offered the first bowl to be bowled. The position of the delivery mat can be varied, and this is the prerogative of the team winning the previous “end”.

In matches and competitions, two trial, non- scoring ends are played, allowing the bowlers to assess the speed and run of the green, which can vary with the weather, atmospheric conditions and length of the grass.

Each team bowls alternate woods. A score is made by the team having the greatest number of woods nearest the jack. The winner of a game is:

  • SINGLES – the player who reaches 21 shots.
  • PAIRS – the highest score at 21 Ends.
  • TRIPLES – the highest score at 18 Ends.
  • RINKS – the highest score at 21 Ends.



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