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Guidelines for New Bowlers

Guidelines for new bowlers

A booklet can be obtained from www.bowlsengland.com,  price £1 but the following may help.

Dress Code

  • White tops – Polo shirts which are mainly plain
  • Below waist – Grey trousers – any which are comfortable – when playing at club or evenings

    White trousers – for Saturday mixed friendlies and other matches

  • Club shirts – can be ordered via Dave Saunders – must be worn when playing other clubs. There are some tops which can be borrowed from Dave from those whose tops haven’t arrived or yet to be ordered
  • Shoes – must be smooth soled – no ridges or heels – can be bought from Sports Direct, Online, or from bowling specialists e.g. B & H, Melton Mowbray
  • Waterproofs and windproofs – must be predominantly white –  For those members who would like one with the club’s emblem on Dave Saunders may be able to order one with his main order.

    A lot of clothing can be bought from online websites (eg. Amazon) just type in lawn bowls trousers, tops or shoes. Good quality second hand clothing can sometimes be found at other clubs.

Bowls –As there are lots of different bowls on the market it is advisable to anyone who has never played bowls before not to rush into buying but to try different makes and types by borrowing from other bowers.  It is also advised that 2nd hand bowls should be the first buy.  Charnwood Indoor Bowls Club has a notice board where bowls are advertised for sale.  Some bowls makers have 2nd hand bowls for sale online.

Types of bowls:  Almark, Aero, Drakes Pride, Henselite, Taylor.   Sizes 00 upwards.  H = Heavy, M = Medium.   Once a make and size has been decided upon, local suppliers can be found via the internet.

Bowls Shops   - for bowls and clothing - B&H Midland, Melton Mowbray sell Almark and Taylor.  Shot Bowl, Nottingham – most makes.  Other suppliers Burton Bowls Centre; Shotbowl Market Deeping Peterborough; Shotbowl Nottingham.

Before playing any game – all players shake hands before and after the game.  Usually the visiting team play the first jack, but if an inter-club game then a coin is tossed.


Singles (4 bowls each) winner is first to score 21                                                    

Pairs ( 2 players with 4 bowls) winner has highest score after 21 ends

Triples (3 players on each side – 3 bowls) 18 ends

  • Lead - First to play. Places the mat, delivers the jack and centres it then bowls as close as possible to the jack. Each lead bowls their 3 bowls taking it in turn.  The lead on the loosing side of the last end gathers all the bowls
  • 2nd – Usually keeps the score card and records players names and agrees numbers of shots with opposite number each end and measuring as required. Also advises skip as to positions at head when skip bowls
  • Skip –In charge of rink, directs development of the head and settling any disputed points with opposite skip

Rinks (4 players on each side – 2 bowls) 21 ends

  • Lead (First to bowl) Places the mat, rolls the jack (skip may indicate length). Jack should be in line with number of rink.  Players from each team delivers their bowls alternatively from the mat. The side which lost the previous end gathers all the bowls
  • 2nd – usually keeps the scorecard – records players name and records all shots for both sides – compares score with opponent No 2
  • 3rd – measures all disputed shots and informs skip of situation at head when skip bowls
  • Skip (last to bowl) – in charge of head and other players must obey any directions he may give as to delivery of their bowls.  Decides with opposing skip all disputed points and their decision is final.

After everyone has bowled, the bowls nearest to the jack are counted by the No 3 (or No 2 in triples) and the score indicated to the skip.  The winning side then leads the next end.

Placing of mat – the mat is placed by the lead player and the front of the mat must be  at least 2 metres from ditch and square on to end – skip may indicate that mat is not square or can be placed further up the rink.

Jacks – The jack can be rolled so that it ends up either near the opposite end or anywhere between the end and the middle white line (if mat has not been moved up the rink). Minimum jack 23 metres from front of mat.

If the jack ends up outside the rink then the opposite Lead rolls the jack but the first Lead still plays first.

If during the game the jack is pushed off the rink by a wood, its position in the ditch is indicated by a marker placed on the side of the rink.  Any wood which has hit the jack previously, marked with chalk and ends up in the ditch is still classed as ‘live’ and is in the count if the jack has ended up in the ditch. The position of any wood which is still ‘live’ and in the ditch is also indicated by a marker on the edge.

Holding bowls in hands – There are several ways to hold the bowls in the palm of the hand and it can depend on comfort etc. 

Each wood has a bias. The shape of the wood means that it can lean either to the right or to the left.  The side of the bias is indicated on the wood by the smaller emblem.  The wood is held in the palm of the hand with the smooth side sitting on the palm and the emblems face to the side.

For right and left handed bowlers - if bowling to the right then the bias side should be towards the left side.  The bowler stands on the mat with feet pointing towards the right.  The angle of delivery will depend on whether the wood has a big or small bias. If bowling to the left (backhand) then stand with feet pointing towards the left and the bias is on the right side.

Some bowlers stand on the mat with both feet together and don’t move their feet, but most outdoors bowlers stand on mat and then step into the delivery.  One foot should remain on the mat during delivery of the wood.  The bowler then remains on the mat to see where the wood finishes and then the next player steps up.