The Sport of Bowls

Bowls is a vibrant, dynamic and exciting leisure activity that can be played and enjoyed by all ages, both indoors and outdoors.

Outdoor Bowls is usually played on a 35-40 metre flat grassed (or artificial grassed) surface called the green. The green is divided into playing areas called rinks which are about 5 metres wide and the length of the green. (Bowls played indoors is usually played on a flat carpeted surface similarly set out and divided as the outdoor green.)

Surrounding the green is a ditch, and a bank upon which markers indicate the boundaries and centre‑ lines of each rink.


Players deliver their bowls alternately from a mat at one end on the centerline of the rink, towards a small white ball called the jack at the other end placed on the centerline. Bowls (which weigh about 1.5 kg each) are shaped so that they do not run in a straight line, but take a curved path (bias) towards the jack. Therefore, a bowl can be delivered either forehand or backhand.

The aim of the game is to get one or more bowls closer to the jack than those (the closest bowl) 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. Every game consists of a series of ends and the winner can either be the one who has scored the most shots after a specified number of ends or the first to reach a designated score.

The art of this game is to be able to deliver bowls consistently close to the jack or the aiming point which is usually over a distance of 23 ‑ 35 metres from the mat.


The game can be played as singles, or in teams of pairs (2 players per side), triples (3 players), or fours (a team of four is also known as a rink). In the team games each member has a particular role to play, such as in fours:

The first to play or lead, places the mat, delivers the jack and centres it before attempting to bowl as close as possible to the jack.

The second plays after the leads and his duty is to keep the score card and scoreboard up to date.

The third 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 third may also advise the skip on choice of shots, and agrees the number of shots scored, measuring if required.

The skip is in overall charge of the rink, directs the other players on choice of shots and tries to build the “head” of bowls to his or her advantage.

The normal game formats are as follows:

In Singles, the two opponents deliver four bowls alternately. The first to reach 21 shots is the winner.


For Pairs, the players deliver four bowls each alternatively against their opposing team. The team scoring the most shots after 18 ends is the winner.


In the Triples game, the lead, second and skip deliver three bowls each alternatively against their opposing team, for 18 ends. However there are many permitted variations. Matches may be men only, women or mixed.


The game is reasonably simple but like most sports, to play consistently well demands determination, concentration and practice.