You can consider this your introduction to how to lawn bowl, or as it is otherwise known play “Bowls”. This game in one form or another has been around for a very long time. It combines strategy, skill, social interaction, some degree of exercise, affordability, competition, and fun.
Bowls is played on a flat grass surface, called a green. You play on a designated rink on the green, indicated by a number at each end at the ditches and white stakes on the banks for boundary markers.
Your equipment are called “Bowls” and are large balls with a “bias” to them caused by their shape, as they are not completely round, with one side flatter than the other. You also need one smaller white ball, known as the “Jack”. As a result of their elliptical shape the bowls turn as they travel across the green and slow down. The skill in the game is mastering the weight required to reach the target bowl (the “Jack”) and finding the proper line to see the arc of your bowl bring it closer to the Jack than any other bowl. This line for the bowls will vary with different green and weather conditions.
The game can be between individuals (Singles), or teams of two (Pairs), three (Triples) or four (Rinks or Fours). Singles and Pairs are each played with four bowls for each bowler, while triples is played with three each and fours with two. Games are usually played to a pre-determined number of ends (in team play), sets play (usually for singles in which there are two "mini-games" and a tie breaker if needed) or to a certain number of points (singles play).
At the start of a game, the teams flip a coin or bowl to determine which team has the choice on who throws the jack to start a game. Following that, the team that scores in an end throws the jack for the following end. The person rolling the Jack also gets to set the mat, from which everyone will roll their bowls. The mat must be placed in the centre of the rink, at least two meters out from the near ditch, and not further than the nearest “hog” line. When a bowler releases their bowl, they must have one foot on or above the mat at the point of release to be a legal delivery.
The Jack is rolled first, and it has no bias so goes in a straight line. You may roll the jack any distance as long as it is between the “hog” line and the ditch, and is at least 21 meters down the green from the mat. As a result you can control the length of the end to play long or short ends depending upon your team’s preference, or your opponents’ perceived weakness. The Jack is then centered in the green before rolling the first bowl.
Bowls are then delivered by alternating between the opposing teams, the leads playing their bowls first, then the seconds, then the thirds, and finally the skips. If your bowl hits the Jack it is marked with chalk to signify it is a “toucher’ and will still be “live” if it ends up in the ditch on its own rink. After all bowls are rolled, that end is concluded, and the team closest to the jack gets a point (a “shot”) for every bowl they have nearer to it than their opponents’ nearest bowl. If the Jack is bumped off the green to the side across the boundary line with the next rink, the end is “burnt” or “dead”, and may need to be replayed depending on the rules of the event. I the Jack is bumped into the ditch on your own rink, the end continues, with the nearest “live” bowls being the counters. A live bowl is any bowl on the green or in the ditch after hitting the Jack on its original path down the green (a “toucher”).
The game has some added issues, since the jack can be moved by any bowl rolled down the green, bowls which were lying shot at one point in the end may no longer be the closest at the conclusion of the end. It is therefore essential that someone pay attention to where all the opponents’ bowls are in any given end, in order to consider the need for a defensive shot, to get one of your bowls amongst your opponents’ cluster, or in the track that your opponent may want to use to move the jack.