How Bowls is Played

The following introduction covers the basic aspects of the game, as normally played in the UK and Ireland. It is not intended to be a complete definition of the game or the rules.

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 game is played on a 34 to 40 metre square called the green. This is divided into six playing areas called rinks. The green is surrounded by a small ditch to catch stray bowls, and a bank upon which markers indicate the borders and centrelines of each rink. The object is to get one or more bowls closer to the jack - a small white ball - 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').

Eamonn Kennedy bowling.

Leads, Seconds, Thirds and Skips

In fours or rinks games, each team member has a particular role to play:

  1. The first, or lead, places the mat, delivers the jack and has it centered by the Skip before attempting to bowl as close as possible to it.
  2. The second or two keeps the scoreboard up to date and agrees the scorecard with his opposite number. The two will normally be required to improve or consolidate the position achieved by the lead.
  3. The third or three may be called upon to play different types of shots in order to score more, or to place bowls tactically to protect an advantage. The three also advises the skip on choice of shots. When bowling is finished he agrees the number of shots scored with his opposite number, measuring if required.
  4. The skip is in overall charge of the rink. He/she directs the other players on choice of shots, tries to build the 'head' of bowls to his or her advantage and keeps the scorecard.

It is worth stating that the head must not be disturbed by any player until the shots have been finally agreed. When the Thirds or Skips are deciding the shots the other players should stand well back from the head and not interfere. During the game encourage your team mates, do not criticise them. Commend good shots and learn to accept that flukes are a part of the game. Sometimes they go for you, sometimes against.

Singles, Pairs,Trips, Fours

The normal match formats are as follows:

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

Short descriptions of bowling can be found at Wikipedia or BBC Sport with the official rules at The World Bowls Federation.

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