What is Lawn Bowling? The Next Fad In Outdoor Entertainment? You’ll Be Surprised

What is lawn bowling?

What are the rules and how do you score in lawn bowling?

Lawn bowling or bowls is a sport which the objective is to roll biased balls so that they stop close to a smaller ball called the jack or kitty. It’s played on a bowling green which may be flat, convex or uneven. Lawn Bowls is completely different to 10 pin bowling. The rules in both sports are very different to each other.

 Rules of bowls:

The player or team to bowl first is decided by a coin toss. The first bowler will put their mat down and roll the jack onto the green. The jack must travel at least 23 metres to be in play and moved to the centre of the rink once it has come to rest.

The players then take turns to bowl, with points being scored by each bowl that is closer to the jack than the opponent’s closest bowl. Upon completion of an end play recommences in the opposite direction (i.e. from the end at which the jack previously rested).

Bowls that fall into the ditch are disregarded unless they happen to touch the jack before going into the ditch. In that case they are still classified as in play.

If the jack is knocked into the ditch but is still within the side boundaries of the rink it is still alive and in play. If it passes over the side boundary of the rink (whether in the ditch or not) a dead end is declared and the end is replayed with no scores being counted.

Striking other players balls with your own ball is allowed in the game. This is a strategic tactic that is used to hit opponents balls away from the jack and get your ball closer to the jack.

When bowling, you must have at least one foot on or above the mat. If both feet are off the mat, the umpire will declare a foul.

If the jack is knocked out in bowls, it remains in play unless it is hit outside of the lane. If the jack is knocked sideways out of the lane, a ‘dead end’ occurs and the end must be replayed from the beginning using the same starting mat.

If a bowl hits the jack, the ball used is sprayed to mark them as touchers. Touchers cannot be knocked out of play by hitting them into a ditch. The spray is more accurate than what is used in indoor bowls clubs which is chalk.

Scoring in bowls:

The current method of scoring in the professional tour is by sets. Each set contains nine ends and the player with the most shots at the end of a set wins the set. If the score is tied, the set is halved. If a player wins two sets or gets a win and a tie, that player wins the game. The team or player with the closest bowl to the jack earns one point for each ball closer to the jack than the opponents nearest bowl. Bowls can be played in teams of four or two as well as singles. 

Equipment and players

The first piece of equipment is the balls or bowls. This is what you play the game with. You have to roll the ball onto the green and try and get it closest to the jack. There are four main common ball sizes in bowls. They are labelled as 1,2,3 and 4. An average man will typically find sizes 3 or 4 to be suitable for them whereas, an average lady would find sizes 1 or 2 to be suitable. In singles and doubles each player gets four bowls per set and in triples each player gets three bowls per set. In lawn bowling, the bowls are biased and these are not perfectly round. When a player rolls the bowl, it moves in a path which is curved by nature. This forces the player to roll his bowl in an outward direction with an angle to reach the target. Lawn bowling is similar to 10 pin bowling in the sense that players have to roll a ball towards a target or a goal. 

Another piece of equipment is the jack. The jack is a small white ball which is as big as a billiard ball. Before the match starts, the jack is rolled onto the green where the match will be played and it becomes the target for the game. Each player will roll a ball on the green and will try to place the ball as close to the jack as they can. The lawn Bowls are biased whereas, the jack is unbiased. The person who starts the game will roll the jack on the field in a straight line, unlike the bowling balls the jack’s movement path is straight as it is unbiased. When the jack stops, it becomes a target for the players. The players while rolling the ball are allowed to hit the jack with their own bowl and can also move the jack. The jack is always the centre of play.

Measuring tape is also another piece of equipment used in bowls. Players will roll the ball in the competition and they all have a competitive approach, so there might be instances where more than one ball will be placed near the jack. At some times, it will be impossible to tell which is the closest with a naked eye. At this moment, the measuring tape is used to find out which ball is closer and determine the winner.

Score cards are another piece of equipment used in bowls. This club game is very popular in North America and Europe with each club having its own method for displaying the score cards. The score cards are usually pre-printed and are used to record the score of the game. Many clubs have stands with clips, which hold the cards in place. A red can is usually used to collect chips and these chips are used to determine where and who as player will play.

The playing surface is also considered another piece of equipment. Bowls is played on a flat green surface usually made of astro-turf. Bowls can be played on grass but it has to be cut very often and be flat. However, crown-green bowls is played on a convex surface which is a curved or rounded out surface. Bowls can also be played indoors using a short mat or a carpet mat. These indoor games are called short mat bowls and carpet mat bowls and are usually found in community or town halls. Indoor bowls is only recreational. The length of the playing surface, known as the lawn, is between thirty-one metres and forty metres. The width can vary from as little as eight metres, which can fit one rink, to as big as sixty metres or more. The width of a rink for lawn bowls is between 4.3 metres and 5.8 metres. Lawns can usually last between twenty to thirty years if they are kept in good condition.

The last piece of equipment is the mat. The mat is placed on the centre line of the rink with its front end no less than two metres from the rear ditch or less than twenty five metres from the front ditch. It’s position is chosen by the player who throws the jack to start the end. When a bowl is being delivered, one foot must be on or over the mat as it leaves your hand. 

In singles, each athlete will have four bowls, and the player to score twenty one shots first will be deemed the winner. There is usually two sets and twenty one ends are played. In doubles each player will also have four balls as well and play twenty one ends. In triples each player has three balls and eighteen ends are played. In fours twenty one ends are played and each play gets two balls. If each team or player win a set or both sets are tied then a third set will be played.

How to play bowls

The steps to successfully bowl a legal ball is:

Stand on the mat, feet together, knees and waist bent slightly.

Take the ball in your preferred hand.

Step out with your opposite foot. 

Take a small back swing.

Bend down and roll the ball along the ground.

Roll it out at an angle, so the ball curves towards the jack. 

Avoid dropping or bouncing the ball so you don’t damage the green.

There are two types of strategies used to bowl a ball in bowls. The first shot is called a draw shot. This is a slow, measured, finessed bowl trying to end closed to the jack. The other shot is called a drive shot. This is a harder, faster bowl used to try to knock other players bowls away.

There are many ways to improve your lawn bowls game. The first way is to always take a consistent mat position. Each time you deliver a bowl, step onto the same spot on the mat. For the majority of bowlers, that means standing with the shoulder of your bowling arm centred above the mat and then turning slightly to face your aiming point. Your aiming point will be different for every shot, and your brain will struggle to get an instinct for your bowls path. However, if you are playing on uneven rinks or when there’s an obstacle in the way, you can stretch one foot out to the side while keeping the other on the mat. Some bowlers can perfect this style of delivery, but it usually effects your aim or weight in a negative way. 

Another way to improve your bowls game is to aim your feet, and square your shoulders. When you pivot slightly on the mat so your feet are in line with your aiming point, keep your shoulders square to that line when you swing. This help you develop a smooth pendulum swing without crossing without crossing your arm in front of your torso. A square stance works for most people, but if you have wide hips that forces your swing out to the side. Try positioning your body more like an archer’s, one foot a little in front of the other and shoulders angled slightly. Suddenly your hips aren’t in the way. Your swinging arm will angle across your body, but it can follow a straight path along the aiming line.

Another way to improve your bowls game is to not let your arm go floppy when bowling. When you move your arm as a controlled unit, you will get a true pendulum swing, with much better weight control. Muscle memory also becomes easier because your brain has just one thing to learn. However, if your elbow flexes a lot, your brain gets confused. Bowling with a floppy arm makes your shot uncontrolled resulting in the bowl being very inaccurate. The worst thing that can happen is getting into the habit of bowling with a flexed elbow or a “floppy arm”. To prevent this, you need to practise a lot on bowling with a controlled arm so that your brain memories this technique and uses it all the time.

The final and most simple way to improve is through practice. With any sport, the more you play, the better you will get. Lawn bowls is a very low intensity game and it doesn’t put much stress onto your body. Therefore, you can play bowls more or less everyday if you wanted to. Learning from your mistakes is the best way to improve so, the more you play, the faster you will find out your mistakes and where you’re going wrong. The hardest part is correcting these mistakes. Many people will correct their mistakes by practicing new techniques or altering their existing techniques to make it for effective. Another way to learn and improve is to watch other bowlers that are more experienced and at a better level than you. This can help you adopt new skills and techniques that they might be using.

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