The object of the game is to get your BOWLS as close as possible to the JACK. Simple!
Play occurs on a GREEN, which is flat and usually square-shaped. The length of the green in the direction of play is standardized within a specified range. The diagram to the left shows a green with a length of 120 ft.
The green is divided into sections called RINKS. The width of rinks is standardized within a specified range. The diagram to the left shows a rink with a width of 14 ft.
A DITCH surrounds the green and is usually filled with sand.
The ditch has a BANK against its outer edge. Banks are constructed to prevent the jack and bowls from leaving the area of play.
Vertical MARKS along the bank identify the center and boundary lines of each rink. While the diagram has dashed and dotted lines to indicate the center and boundary lines, greens do not have these lines drawn on them.
The MAT is what the player stands upon to deliver the jack or bowl. While the mat must be placed lengthwise along the center line of the rink, it can be placed at varying distances from the rear and front ditches.
The JACK is a solid sphere and either white or yellow in color. It is delivered by rolling it to a minimum distance from the mat and then centering it. The jack becomes the target of the bowls. The jack can be moved by bowls during play and is ALIVE as long as it remains on the green or in the ditch within the rink boundaries.
BOWLS are solid and round, but not spheres. They have a circular running surface, but if you look closely at the sides, you’ll see that one side is flat and one side is tapered. This results in a “bias” and causes the bowl to curve towards the tapered and weighted side while it rolls. Bowls are delivered by rolling them along their running surface towards the jack. A player may use a forehand or backhand delivery. Depending on the bias, bowls may exit and re-enter the side rink boundaries. A bowl that come to rest outside the rink boundary is removed from play. If a bowl goes into the ditch, it is usually removed from play, but, if the bowl touches the jack prior to going into the ditch, then it is known as a TOUCHER, and remains in play. Bowls come in sets of four and each bowl of a set is identical to the others. Sets of bowls are distinguished from other sets of bowls by the unique emblem on the sides. The emblem is large on the flat side and small on the tapered side, which helps indicate which way the bowl will curve when rolled. Sets also come in come in different sizes, weights, colors and biases. Bowls can be made of wood, rubber or plastic resin. A set of bowls will last for decades.
Before play, the opponents toss a coin. The winner of the coin toss chooses to a) place the mat and deliver the jack and first bowl or b) tell the opposing player to place the mat and deliver the jack and first bowl. After the first bowl is delivered, the players alternate turns delivering their bowls. Like the jack, bowls can be moved around by knocking them with other bowls. If a bowl is knocked outside the rink boundaries, it is declared DEAD and removed from play. If a bowl is knocked into the ditch and has not been previously designated a TOUCHER, it is declared DEAD and removed from play. If the bowl is knocked into the ditch and has been designated a TOUCHER, it remains alive and in play. When all the players have delivered their bowls, they count the SHOTS (points) in the HEAD (arrangement of bowls around the jack). Only one player/team scores and gets one point for each bowl that is closer to the jack than the opponent’s closest bowl. If there is a question of whose bowl is closer to the jack, the players use a MEASURE. If the players still can’t decide who has the shot or the number of shots, an UMPIRE is called to make the determination. Once the shots are awarded, the END is considered complete. The loser of the end collects the bowls into a pile while the winner picks up the jack and retrieves the mat. The next end is played in the opposite direction that was just played. The winner of the prior end places the mat, sets the jack, and delivers the first bowl of the next end.
Games can be played for predetermined lengths of time (e.g. 90 minutes) or number of ends (e.g. 12) or until the first team reaches a minimum number of shots (e.g. 18). The number of bowls used by each player in a game is also predetermined. All players use the same number of bowls. Games can be arranged as singles, pairs, triples, or fours games.
- A SINGLES game is played between two opposing players. Players may use two, three, or four of a set of bowls.
- A PAIRS game is played between two opposing teams, each with two players. Each player on the team plays a certain position, LEAD or SKIP. The opposing lead players take turns delivering their bowls towards the jack. When the leads are finished, the opposing skips take turns delivering their bowls towards the jack. Each player may use two, three, or four of a set of bowls.
- A TRIPLES game is played between two opposing teams, each with three players. Each player on the team plays a certain position, LEAD, VICE SKIP or SKIP. The leads play first, followed by vice skips, and then the skips. Each player may use two or three of a set of bowls.
- A FOURS or RINKS game is played between two opposing teams, each with four players. Each player on the team plays a certain position, LEAD, SECOND, VICE SKIP or SKIP. The leads play first, followed by seconds, then the vice skips, and finally the skips. Each player may use two of a set of bowls.
Bowls is a dynamic game requiring a minimum level of physical fitness and mental toughness to play. The sport is easily learned, but can take years to master. Are you ready for the challenge?