Bowling Rules

The Equipment

Lawn Bowls or Flat Green Bowls is popular throughout England and the world.

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 target is a smaller ball, usually white, called a “jack”.

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.

The unbiased jack is 2 1/2 inches in diameter while the woods are 4 3/4 – 5 1/8 inches in diameter and weigh 2lb 12oz – 3lb 8oz.

The Play

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.

To start, players take turns to bowl the jack until one bowls it to a position that is in accordance with the rules.  The player who is to bowl the first wood of the end is the player who has the first chance to bowl the jack.  Under most circumstances, the first try is all that is needed.

Once the first wood has been bowled, the other players then take turns to roll their bowls towards the jack.  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.

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.

The game is played up and down a rink.  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.

The mat is placed by the player who starts.  For the first leg, it is placed four yards in from the ditch, thereafter it is placed anywhere more than 2 1/2 yards in from the near ditch and more than 25 yards from the far ditch.  Once the end is over, the mat is moved to the other end of the rink and play starts in the reverse direction.

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.

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.

Please note that 1 metre = 100 cm = 3.28 feet.  3 feet = 1 yard.