The game of lawn bowls is very simple to learn but can take anyone years to perfect. Games are played in a gentlemanly fashion, with positive support and comments for all players.
The goal of the game is to get more of your team's bowls closer to the jack (the small white ball) than your opponents on each "end" played. A typical game is 14 or more ends, with an overall running tally being kept at all times to establish the winner.
Bowling bowls come in sets of 4, the maximum number of bowls you will roll in one end of a game. (Only 3 bowls each are used in triples and 2 in Rinks - as quadruples is known). The big surprise of the game is when you first pick up a bowl, and feel how heavy it is. Notice that all bowls come in sets with different pictures on each set to identify who the owner is - which is very important when you come to scoring.
But the bigger surprise is when you try to roll it and see it doesn't go straight! Wow. These bowls are not round. They are weighted to one side and have a built in natural bias. So you always roll the bowl on its smooth areas (areas without emblems or markings), with the small emblem on the side to which you want it to curve. How much it will actually turn is a factor of how fast you roll it (known as "the weight"), where you aim it (known as "the grass"), the condition of the green, and other bumps of nature. But you always try to release the bowl smoothly aiming at a distinct point that you hope will bring the bowl to rest at its best target position.
While the whole Bowling Green is square, games are actually played in assigned lanes (known as rinks) which are designated with small markers on the edge. These also act as great reference points for aiming when you roll. To protect the grass, different rinks and different directions are used on different occasions.
There are both forehand shots and backhand shots, and you will need to learn both. But don't forget to check your emblems...to avoid the embarrassment of a reverse bias shot when your bowl will surely take off into a neighboring rink.
In singles play, it is just you against an opponent (with a neutral spotter to help center the jack). In team play, the following positions exist:
Lead: The person who leads off
Vice: The next person to play, and the Vice Skipper of the Team
Skip: The Skipper. Always plays last. Usually the most experienced player who also guides most of the strategy.
The skipper of whichever team "has the mat" waits at the far end, then the Lead player, physically places the mat and has their Lead player role the jack to establish its position for that end. The Skip aligns it on a center line, with hand guidance signals from the Lead. After that, teams alternate who rolls their bowls, starting with Leads, then Vice. Once these players have all rolled, they change ends with the Skips who in turn try to improve on their respective team's scoring positions. You are allowed to roll your bowls however you wish, provided you have at least one foot over the mat on release. Most will find that the smoother the roll the better. So watch the experienced players and see how smooth and consistent their releases are, even if they can't get low down to the ground.
If one bowl gets a bounce off another player's bowl, it is known as a Wick. Skips often get good at promoting their team's bowls to better positions around the jack.
SCORING: When all have finished rolling, the Vice's are in charge of agreeing on the score. The bowl closest to the jack scores one point. Subsequent bowls, of the same team, that are closer to the jack than any of their opponents continue to count one point. As soon as an opponent's bowl is the next closest to the jack, scoring stops for that end. The losing Vice or Skip puts the score up on the blackboard or scorecard, while the losing Lead rakes the bowls back. Simultaneously, the winning team's Lead places the mat and prepares to roll the jack for the next end.
Each game is played to a pre-determined number of ends (common for pairs, triples, fours) or a pre-determined number of points (usually in singles). Often this only 12 or 14 end for social bowlers or early rounds in a tournament, but 18 ends in a serious competition. For singles, a tournament will often be first to 15 or 18 points total, and to 21 points in the final games.
Back Bowl: A bowl that comes to rest beyond the Jack.
Backhand Draw: When the bowl is aimed to the left of the Jack, and curves to the right (for left handed bowlers)
Be Up: Instruction from Skip to bowl longer (don't be short of Jack).
Bias: Weighted offset to make the bowl curve. The bias side of the bowl is noted by the smaller button. Bias is correct when the bowl curves towards the Jack.
Blocker: A bowl that blocks someone (usually an opponent) from reaching the desired target.
Dead End / Burned End: When the Jack has been knocked out of bounds. The end is not counted and is played again.
Draw Shot: Shots where the bowl is rolled to a specific location without causing too much disturbance of bowls already at the Head. (See Hand).
Drive: This involves bowling with considerable force with the aim of knocking either the Jack or a specific bowl(s) out of play.
Dead Bowl: When a bowl either goes in the ditch or rests outside the rink field of play (Lane).
Down: When your team does not have the Shot Bowl, you are considered to be Down. You may be down by one or more points.
End: Means playing of the Jack and all bowls of both opponents in the same direction on a Rink. Bowling to the Jack is called "one end." The number of Ends played is decided by Club Rules. A typical game has 14 ends in social games, 18 in tournaments.
Foot Fault: A foot fault occurs when the bowler does not have one foot over the mat on release of the bowl. Foot may be on the mat or in the air.
Forehand Draw: When the bowl is aimed to the right of the Jack, and curves to the left (for right-handed bowlers).
Grass: Apart from the surface, the directional line the bowl takes in order for it to curve towards the Jack. So a "too much grass" bowl will be wide.
Green: Lawn bowls is played on a square "Green" of grass, with directions being alternated to protect the grass.
The Hammer: The final bowl of the end.
Hand: The side on which the bowl is delivered: either Forehand or Backhand.
Head: Rolling bowls toward Jack to build up a Head, which means such bowls that have come to rest within the boundary of the Rink and have not been declared dead.
Hog Line: Special markers (often flags for tournaments) that dictate the minimum line beyond which the jack must be rolled for the end to be valid.
Holding Shot: Team with their bowl(s) closest to Jack (see also Shot Bowl).
Hook: Shape to the end some bowls take, especially older Classic bowls with extreme bias.
Jack: White ball or "kitty" used as a target to play to, which determines point scoring (see Points).
Lane: All games are played within Lanes that are at least 14 ft wide. The lanes for a given game or tournament are designated with markers on the edges of the green. This way, multiple games can be played simultaneously on one green. Bowls that come to rest out of their lanes, are Dead Bowls and are removed from the end.
Lead: The person who starts off the play. Also places the Mat and rolls the Jack if their team "has the mat".
Mat: The actual mat that is placed by the team losing the last end, to start the next end. This is also known as having the Mat. The team with the mat always rolls the Jack. Newer rules allow the winning team to give away the mat, thereby losing control of the Jack, but ensuring they have the final bowl of the end (the Hammer).
Measure: When bowls are too close to visually decide which one is closer, it is known as a measure. Players carry special lawn bowls tape measures to do this. The distance is irrelevant so the tapes are only used to see who is closest.
Narrow: Bowler didn't start out far enough from centerline to the Jack.
Pairs: Bowls games in which each team has a pair of players ( a Skip and a Lead)
Points: Whoever gets their bowl(s) closest to Jack at conclusion of an End.
Potato Bowl: A badly thrown (or released) bowl that hops, skips and jumps.
Promoting a Bowl: Pushing up one of your team's bowls to a better position.
Rink: The lane on the grass court playing surface. Often 15 feet wide from one end to the opposite end. Each Rink is defined by markers on the edge to clearly define the lane.
Rinks bowls: A bowling game in which there are 4 players per team a Skip, a Vice, 2nd Lead and a Lead.. Typically then players only use 2 bowls each.
Skipper: Team captain or Skip who always plays last. This person is usually the most experienced player, who also guides the strategy.
Shot Bowl: The bowl closest to the Jack.
Tie: When the two closest bowls are both exactly the same distance from the jack and belong to opposing teams, even after measurement, the end is declared a tie. (Note: Unlike old conservative English clubs, the men never ever wear ties at our club - not even for Xmas dinner!)
Touchers: Bowls that hit the Jack. These bowls are marked with chalk and remain "alive" even if they are in the ditch.
Trial Ends: Formal practice ends, usually only allowed at the start of a tournament, in which each team rolls 2 bowls down and back to get a feel of the green. Such ends do not count in the scoring.
Triples: A game in which each team has 3 players on their team - a Skip, a Vice and a Lead. Typically each player then only uses 3 bowls each.
Up: When your team does have the Shot Bowl, you are considered to be Up. You may be Up by one or more points.
Vice: The person who plays after the Lead and is responsible for deciding the winner of a head, and recording the results.
Weight: The amount of speed applied in delivering the bowl from the mat to the Jack. "Heavy" weight means that the bowl stops beyond the Jack, while "Light" means that it stops short of the spot desired.
Wide: The bowl is started too far out of the centerline to the Jack (also called taking too much "Grass").
Wick: When a bowl bounces off another bowl. (This term is derived from curling).
Woods: An old term for bowls.
Yard On: A shot delivered with an extra degree of speed to displace or disturb other bowls in the Head with intent of killing the End.
RULES OF LAWN BOWLING
Click on the below link for the USLBA & Southwest Division rules on Lawn Bowling
NUMBER OF BOWLS PLAYED - Singles and Pairs are played with four bowls. Triples are played with three bowls and Fours (or Rinks) are played with 2 bowls.
END - An End involves the playing of the Jack and all Bowls of each opponent. An End is completed when both teams have agreed to the score or the End is declared Dead.
DEAD END - An End is declared Dead if the Jack has been hit by another Bowl beyond the boundaries of the Rink. A Dead End is usually replayed unless the Skips decide not to replay it or the written tournament rules designate that it not be replayed.
STARTING A GAME - The first End nominally starts with the flip of a coin. The Skip who wins the toss has the choice of his team bowling first or second. On each succeeding End, the Skip who won the preceding End must be the first to play
PLACING THE MAT - The Mat shall be placed lengthwise on the centerline of the Rink at a distance no less than 6 feet 6 inches from the rear ditch and not less than 82 feet from the front ditch.
DELIVERING THE JACK - The Jack is properly delivered by the Lead as long as it stays within the boundaries of the Rink and, after being centered, is at least 68' 10 3/4" from the edge of the Mat. If it comes to rest outside the boundaries of the Rink, lands in the ditch, or is less than 75 feet from the front edge of the Mat, the Jack is redelivered by the opposing Lead. If the Jack is not properly delivered, it is placed 6 feet 6 inches from the rear ditch, and the Mat can be placed at the option of the first to play provided the Jack is at least 75 feet from the front edge of the Mat. The Lead who delivered the first Jack bowls the first Bowl of the End.
POSSESSION OF THE RINK - The player whose turn it is to bowl and his Skip shall have possession of the Rink after the previous Bowl has come to a stop. The player in possession of the Rink can receive instructions from his Skip during this period until his Bowl comes to rest.
FOOT FAULTING - A player at the moment of delivery of the Jack or Bowl must have one foot entirely within the confines of the Mat. If a player, after one warning, continues to foot fault, an Umpire may stop the Bowl and declare the End Dead. If the Bowl is not stopped and hits any part of the Head, the opposing team shall remove the Dead Bowl and decide whether the head should be reset, remain as disturbed, or the entire End be declared Dead.
PLAYING OUT OF TURN - If a player bowls out of turn, his Bowl should be stopped and replayed in its proper turn. If the Bowl is not stopped and does not hit any portion of the Head, it shall remain as played and the opposing team shall bowl two Bowls. If the offending Bowl touches the Head, the opposing team has the option of allowing the Head to remain as disturbed or declaring a Dead End.
DEAD BOWL - A Bowl is declared Dead if (a) it does not travel 46 feet from the front edge of the Mat, (b) is not a "Toucher" and falls into the front ditch, or (c) at any time comes to rest beyond the boundaries of the Rink.
TOUCHER - A Toucher is a Bowl that in the course of being bowled touches the Jack before the next Bowl has been delivered. A Bowl is not considered a Toucher if it contacts a Jack that is resting in the front ditch. A Toucher is distinguished by placing a chalk mark on the Bowl. The chalk mark must be removed before the next end. If a Toucher comes to rest in the front ditch and within the boundary of the Rink, it remains in play and part of the Head.
MOVED OR DITCHED JACK - If a Jack is moved to a different position on the Rink or into the front ditch within the boundaries of the Rink, it shall remain in play and part of the Head.
HEAD DISTURBED BY A PLAYER - If a Jack or Bowl is moved or interfered with by any player while in motion or at rest or in the Ditch, the opposing Skip shall have the option of (a) having the Jack or Bowl replaced to its former position or replayed, (b) remain in its disturbed position, (c) declare it a Dead Bowl and remove it, or (d) declare the End Dead.
DISTURBANCE FROM BOWL IN ADJOINING RINK - If a Bowl at rest is likely to be contacted by a Bowl from an adjoining Rink, it may be lifted out of position and replaced to allow the Bowl to pass.
SCORING - Measurements shall be made from the nearest point of the Jack and the Bowl. If the Jack or Bowl is moved at the time of measuring by a player, it shall be restored to its former position by an opponent. If some measurements have been agreed to prior to movement of the Jack or Bowl, such agreements shall stand. The team having the nearest Bowl to the Jack shall score one point and one additional point for every other Bowl that is nearer the Jack than the nearest Bowl of the opponent. The score for an End will be final when both opponents agree and signal the score.
THESE RULES ARE THE MOST COMMON USED IN LAWN BOWLING; however, the entire set of rules should be read in the United States Lawn Bowls Association, Laws of the Sport of Bowls; 2004 Rules and Regulations for the United States Championships; third edition