The game of lawn bowls dates back to thirteenth century England or maybe when the first caveman rolled one rock towards another. The game is played on natural grass or artificial surface called a green. The green should be very flat and level. The green is at least 120 feet square and surrounded by a shallow ditch and an elevated bank and is divided into rinks. There are eight rinks, each at least 14 feet wide. The rink boundaries are defined by white markers and a colored center marker on the wall of bank.
The object of the game is for players to roll each of their bowls and have them end up as close as possible to the single small white ball (known as the jack or kitty). Bowls may hit and move the jack but it must remain within the boundaries of the rink or the end will be declared dead (a burnt end). Bowls may also hit and move other bowls. A bowl moved outside the boundary marker line that will be out of play. Bowls delivered or knocked into the ditch are out of play unless they came into contact with the jack when they were originally delivered (a toucher).
Each bowler has a set of four identical bowls. Each bowl in a set has matching emblems on opposite sides with one being smaller than the other. The bowls are not symmetrical and do not roll straight. The two sides are flattened somewhat and one side (with the smaller emblem) is more flattened than the other. It is towards this biased side that the bowl draws in a sweeping arc as it begins to slow at about 3/5 of its path of travel. The precise manufacture of different models of bowls leads to different amounts and characteristics of bias. Bowls designes range from an even, narrow bias all the way to a wide bias with a hard hook at the end and each have their advantages and disadvantages. The bowler does not aim at the target (jack or other desired placement) but rather down a line to one side or the other so that the bowl draws around to the target. The distance the aim line is off from the center is the "grass." The target may be the jack (a draw) in front (a block) or in back (a catcher or back bowl). The goal of the shot may also be to displace another bowl (running or yard-on shot) or to disrupt the head (drive). The mastery of the distance (weight) and draw (bias or curve) is at the heart of the challenge and excitement of the game.
Games are played between opposing teams, each with from one to four players. Each position, starting with the Lead, alternates with their opponent until all of their bowls are delivered.
The position titles and game formats are as follows: Singles Skip 4 bowls each Pairs Lead and Skip 4 bowls each Triples Lead, Vice and Skip 3 bowls each Rinks Lead, Second Vice, Vice and Skip 2 bowls each
Many clubs assign ranks to their members that are used as guidelines for organizing informal games. Members may progress through lead, vice and finally to skip as they develop the skills and knowledge required for each position. Teams put together for tournaments are usually formed based on the players strenghts.The members of each team has specific duties. These duties vary depending on the number on the team. Here are examples for a triples game:
Leads: Leads go first. In general the novice players are leads and their primary duties include setting the mat and jack and raking the bowls.They will typically be called on to draw to the jack. A good lead will put a bowl just in front of the jack, one just behind, and a back bowl a little further behind to serve as a catcher in case the jack gets moved. At the conclusion of each end the losing team rakes the bowls while the winning lead sets the mat and jack. The bowls are left two or three feet to the right and behind the mat so that players can step off of the mat clockwise and pick up their next bowl.Vices: The Vices go second. The skip may ask them to play more complicated shots in order to develope or react to the changing head. The vice will also monitor the head while the skip is bowling and answer questions as needed. At the conclusion of the end the vices will determine the score and will measure when it can not be easily determined who has the nearest bowl. Each vice will signal the score to their skip and the losing vice will record the score on the scoreboard.Skips: The skip is the final player to deliver the bowls for each team. The skip is in charge of the team and the strategy during the game. They monitor the head while the leads and vices bowl and provide feedback and direction as needed.
A game is started by flipping a coin. The winner of the toss may choose to go first (take the mat) or have the other team go first. The starting team sets the mat on the centerline with the front edge at least at the mat line which is 6’6” from the ditch. The jack is rolled to a minimum distance (past the hog line) from the front of the mat and centered. If the jack falls short or out of bounds then the opposing team gets the privilege of rolling the jack.
The teams alternate with each position finishing before the next position starts. For example: In a pairs game the skips would stand behind the jack and watch the head develope as the leads alternate and each deliver all four bowls. The Skips and leads would then change ends and the skips would alternate and each deliver all four bowls.
After all members of each team have delivered their bowls (a completed end) the score is counted. The bowl in the head that is closest to the jack counts as one point for that team. Every other bowl belonging to that same team that is closer than the nearest competitor’s bowl counts as an additional point. The winner of the end determines the mat placement and jack delivery for the following end. Part of the strategy of the game depends on the advantage gained by controlling the position of the mat and jack. A game consists of a pre-determined number of ends (typically 10 to 18). Games may also be played to a predetermined point total.
If you decide to join the club we'll let you use the club bowls for a while. However, you'll eventually need your own set of bowls which range from $50 for used ones to $450 for the spiffiest new ones. You'll also eventually need a measure, a bag to put your stuff in, and whites for tournaments and special events. However, that really is about it! There is no better bargain for a sport or pastime that can bring you years of fun and tons of new friends.