This page is designed to introduce you to the sport of bowls, from showing you a little of the history, how to play, who can play and the facilities required to play the game.
Frequently Asked Questions
Give us a ring and we will get you to come along to one of our social “roll-up” afternoons on a Tuesday or Saturday and get one of our members to show you around.
First year players pay $75 for the year (2016/17 season)
No you don’t – we have some club bowls you are welcome to use until you decide you would like to be a regular player.
The most important purchase you will make will be your choice of bowls. At first glance it appears to be a fairly simple choice, but when you have played a few times you will understand that there is much to be considered.
Firstly there is the make of bowl. Each manufacturer produces a range of models unique to them. Each model within the range has slightly different characteristics and an individual bowl line. Lawn bowls are biased causing them to travel in a parabola. Some take a narrower parabola and some a wider one. Some follow a more even parabola and some have a more of a distinct hook at the end of their travel.
As well as bias there is size and weight to be considered. Bowls range in size from size 00 (smallest) to size 5, and there will be a size that is correct for your hand. It is very important that a bowl feels comfortable in your hand using your preferred grip. Bowls can be either medium or heavy in weight (with some makes / models also offering extra heavy in some sizes). They can be regular or slim in their diameter (profile) and this has also an effect on the size bowl you can manage. Some bowls have ‘dimples’ on the side to assist your grip and others are smooth. It’s a personal choice as to what feels best. Every set has its own individual colour markings / motif. With some manufacturers you can pay a little extra and order your own personal motif.
Talk to one of our club coaches or quiz other members on their choice. Read up about the manufacturers and generally take your time before buying. Some manufacturers / agents have sets of trial bowls available – it’s well worthwhile to trial if you can before you commit.
Some bowlers inherit a set of old family ‘heirloom bowls’ – beware – it is unlikely they will fit your hand properly and the bowls being made today are definitely superior in handling and running characteristics. Like all sports gear, bowls move on and improve.
A well looked after set of bowls should last you 15 or 20 years. Dry them thoroughly after use and apply a sparing amount of bowls polish regularly to help protect them from scratching and marking. A few marks on your bowls won’t affect their performance, but over time as the bowls wear and get progressively scratched, it does affect their bias and run on the green.
Laws of the Sport of Bowls (including domestic regulations for Bowls NZ) is a booklet covering the ‘laws’ governing lawn bowls. We recommend all bowlers have a copy of this book to familiarise themselves with the laws.
The green is either rectangular or square. The length of the green (in the direction of play) is between 31-40 metres. Greens have natural surfaces, or artificial surfaces. Clubs can have either one or the other or both types of surfaces, many Clubs have more than one green, so have both natural and artificial surfaces. The natural surfaces are the preferred surface to play on, and the artificial surfaces are mainly used during wet weather conditions. A full green is a group of 8 rinks.
The green is divided into sections called rinks. Most greens have 8 rinks on them. Each rink is marked, with a numbered peg in the middle of the rink (dictating which number rink it is), and a boundary peg on either side of the rink marking the edges of the rink. These pegs are situated on the bank.
The bank is the vertical border against the outer edge of the ditch above the surface of the green.
The plinth is the edge of grass which adjoins the ditch.
The ditch is the gully that surrounds the edge of the green and can be filled with stones, pebbles or chipped rubber or can be laid in artificial grass.
The bowl is made of wood, rubber or plastic resin. It is nearly round in shape it has one side that is semi-flat. The side of the bowl that is the more flat is the bias side, and it is identified by the small grooved rings surrounding its centre. Opposite it is the non-bias side of the bowl, its identified by the large grooved rings surrounding its centre. The bias is weighted which causes the bowl to curve when it is moving. When delivering a bowl the bias should be on the inside, for example; if you are bowling with your right hand, forehand, you will have the bias side on the left. If you are bowling with your right hand, backhand, you will have the bias side on the right. A bowl is solid and reasonably weighty (between 1.4kg-1.59kg. The weight of a bowl varies depending on the size, with the size of the bowl ranging from sizes 00 to 5 with 00 being the smallest.
The centre line is the line marked at each end of the rink indicating the middle of the rink. The mat is placed on the centre line. After being rolled, the jack is also straightened to rest on the line.
The mat when it is your turn to bowl you stand on the mat. You must be standing on it with at least one foot when you deliver your bowl.
The scoreboard is situated at the end of each rink. It displays the opponents names or team colours, the score for the current match and the number of ends played.
The jack is the small white or yellow ball that you are trying to get your bowls closest too. The jack is delivered by the Lead of the team.
Re-spotting the jack – if a jack in motion passes completely outside of the boundaries of the rink of play then (in most games) the jack will be re-spotted, and will be returned to the rink of play at the nearest point that it left at.
Delivery is the action of rolling the bowl or jack.
The head is where the jack and any bowls have come to rest (within the boundaries of the rink of play).
Aiming line is an imaginary line the player aims along to allow for the bias of the bowl.
Aiming point is a point on the aiming line where the bowler focuses during delivery of the bowl.
Draw shot is the standard shot where players aim to deliver their bowl as close as possible to the jack or a designated position.
Heavy is when a bowl is unintentionally delivered beyond the target, also refers to a slow green.
Jack high means a bowl has reached a position whereby its nearest part is laterally aligned with the jack. Effectively it means the bowl and jack are level.
Narrow is when a player has insufficiently allowed for the bias. The bowl will curve too far in front of the jack and finish wide of the mark. This is referred to as being ‘too narrow’.
Shot can have several meanings. The shot or shots are the number of points scored in an end. It can also mean the type of delivery, eg a drawing shot, and during an end, the bowl that is currently nearest the jack.
Toucher is a bowl that touches the jack and remains in play which is marked with spray/chalk to signify it as being a toucher.
Wide is when a player has allowed too much for the bias, the bowl will curve behind the jack and finish wide of the mark. This is referred to as being ‘too wide”.
An end is the delivery of the jack, and of all the bowls by all opponents in the same direction on a rink. At the end of an end the number of shots scored is determined. Ends should be played in turn from opposite directions.
A set is a pre-determined number of shots or ends forming part of a game.
Trial ends are an opportunity for players to practice on the greens just before a tournament starts.
How to bowl a bowl
The bowl is held comfortably in the hand with the middle finger directly along the running surface, with the first and third fingers placed along the rings on the bowl. The position of the thumb is no higher than the top rings and the little finger is allowed to rest lightly on the side of the bowl in a comfortable position.
To achieve this:
- Take the bowl in the non-bowling hand, place the bowling hand on top of the bowl ensuring the middle finger is positioned along the centre of the running surface of the bowl. Place the index and third finger on top of the outer rings. Now allow the thumb to position itself on the outer rings opposite the index finger, with the little finger resting comfortably on the side of the bowl with no pressure.
- Turn the hand over in the delivery position outside the line of the body, ensure the hand, elbow and shoulder are in line.- check for correct bias.
- The thumb and the little finger should only be used to support the bowl in the hand.
- Keep the hand and arm aligned behind the bowl throughout the delivery and follow through.
Comfort and control are the most important factors.
The centre line of the running surface of the bowl forms a direct line through the arm, elbow to the shoulder, with the middle finger centred on the bowl.
- Straight line through arm to shoulder.
- Straight back and through pendulum arm action.
- Wrist locked.
How to score in a game of bowls
At the end of an end, after all bowls have been delivered, the head of the game will be examined to see which team won the end and how many points they scored.
1 point is awarded for each bowl that is closest to the Jack before the first bowl of the opposition.
For example: Team A = Red bowls, Team B =Green bowls. Both Teams deliver all of their bowls. The end is finished. The head is assessed. When looking at the head, the first bowl closest to the Jack is a Red Team A bowl (1 point to Team A), the next bowl closest to the Jack is another Red Team A bowl (another point to Team A, so 2 points to Team A), the next bowl closest to the Jack is a Green Team B bowl. Meaning that no other bowls are counted, so no more points are scored, so the total is 2 points to Team A.
Bowls is commonly played in singles, a pairs team, a triples team or a fours team.
- Singles is a game that is played between two opposing players.
- Pairs is a game that is played between two opposing teams, with two players in each team. In a team of Pairs there is a Lead and a Skip. The Lead bowls first, the Skip bowls last. Each player has a set number of bowls that they deliver in turn with the oppositions equal team position, for example; the Lead of team 1 delivers this first bowl, the Lead of team 2 delivers their first bowl, the Lead of team 1 delivers their second bowl, the Lead of team 2 delivers this second bowl, when they have delivered all of their bowls, the two Skips come forward to deliver their bowls in turn. Once all bowls have being delivered the end is finished.
- Triples is a game that is played between two opposing teams, with three players in each team. In a team of Triples there is a Lead, a Second and a Skip. The Lead bowls first, the Second bowls second and the Skip bowls last. Each players has a set number of bowls that they deliver in turn with the oppositions equal team position (please see the explanation in the Pairs definition to see how the bowls are delivered)
- Fours is a game that is played between two opposing teams, with four players in each team. In each team of Fours there is a Lead, a Second, a Third and a Skip. The Lead bowls first, the Second bowls second, the Third bowls third and the Skip bowls last. Each player has a set number of bowls that they deliver in turn with the oppositions equal team position.
As stated above, bowls is commonly played in the above formats. Sometimes tournaments are made to be more fun and interesting by changing the number of bowls that each player has (for example; 2-4-2 pairs), or by changing the format slightly (for example; a classic).
In team games places the mat at the discretion of the skip
Delivers the jack as close as possible, to a distance determined by the skip
Plays draw shots close to the jack to lay a good foundation for the development of the head
A lead should practice the art of delivering the jack and try and perfect the basic shot of the game. “The draw shot”.
Should consolidate the head
Should always play up to, or through, the head
Often undervalued a second player can have a massive influence on a game strengthening existing position or retrieving shot
Should be open minded and prepared to play a range of shots
Should be a versatile and experience player
Should be competent in playing all shots. Draw, metre on, resting shot, wresting shot, on shot and drive
Is the director for the time spent at the head
Acts as the measurer at completion of an end
Should have a good knowledge of the rules
One of the greatest strengths of a third is their ability to relate positively to the skip – being able to take pressure off the skip, as well as motivating and supporting the skip
Should be a good communicator – giving precise and effective instructions to the skip in the manner the skip is comfortable
Should act an effective link between the front end of rink and skip
The most important player in the rink being in complete charge of it
Should have wide experience of all playing positions
Should be able to withstand pressure
Should be a good communicator and motivator
Should be adept at shot selection
Should demonstrate tactical skills taking advantage of opposition weaknesses and utilising their team strengths to best effect
For most tournaments, teams or sides should be dressed in the same uniform unless the conditions of play otherwise state so.
Most Social Bowls tournaments are mufti and you can wear whatever is comfortable.
All players must wear completely flat-soled footwear when they are on the green.
Common bowls lingo
- Whites/Creams – this what most players wear while they are playing if they do not have a set team uniform. It is (obviously) white or cream clothing (shirt and pants).
- A marker is a person who is a non-player and stands by the head of the game, the player can ask the marker how far away bowls are from the jack.
- Conditions of play are the rules and regulations that are set down by the controlling body of the tournament.
- Scrim is a cloth mat that sometimes lays at either end of the rinks, where the mat or head is. It is used to protect the green.
- Ham tournaments are tournaments which take place just before Christmas and the prize is a ham.
- Extended tournaments are tournaments happen over a long weekend, or are of 3 or more days in length.
- 2-4-2 pairs is a format of a tournament where the players bowl 2 bowls, then 4 bowls, then 2 bowls.
- A Classic is a format of a tournament where a team of four players is entered, and for part of the tournament they play in two teams of pairs and for the other part of the tournament they play in one team of four.
- Gold star players receive Gold Stars once they have won five Centre Titles.
- Champion of Champion events are tournaments where all the Club Champions come together to compete for the Centre Champion of Champion title.
- Composite teams are a team that has players from more then one club in it.
- An acquired team member is someone who replaces an original team member.
- A Clearance Certificate is required when a player leaves one club (and does not want to be a member of that set club anymore) and wants to join another club they must get a Clearance Certificate from the original club first before they join with the new club. The Clearance Certificate has a lot of valuable information on it, including how long the player has being playing for.
You can also download the Introduction to Lawn Bowls Manual from World Bowls below.
Download the Manual