Railway Union Bowling Club: Getting Started

Bowling 101 Video

The following video, made by Newport Harbour Lawn Bowling Club in California, gives a useful introduction to the basics of the game. Just click it once to watch...


To get started in lawn bowls, you will need a set of bowls and flat shoes/runners (i.e. with no heels or ridges). Railway Union Bowling Club has a set of bowls for use by newcomers, as well as the other bowling paraphenalia needed for a game (jacks, mats and scoreboards).

Bowls for Beginners: The Basics of the Game

  • The game of bowls is played on either a green (a square of closely-mown grass quite like a very large, square, golfing green) or a mat (an artificial bowling surface, of which there are several different types)
  • The green/mat is divided into several playing areas called rinks. It's surrounded by a shallow ditch, which catches any bowls that leave the green, and a bank, upon which markers indicate the centreline and the edges of each rink
  • Players deliver their bowls, in turn, from a small mat placed at one end of the rink, towards a small white or yellow ball (called the jack) at the other end, until all the players bowls have been sent. This is called an 'end'
  • The bowls themselves are shaped so that they don't travel in a straight line to the jack. Instead they curve towards it
  • The object of the game is quite simple: you try to get your bowls closer to the jack than your opponent
  • When all the bowls in the end have been delivered, the arrangement of the bowls around the jack is called the 'head'. Once you and your opponent agree the score for the end, the next end is played back down the same rink in the opposite direction. This continues until the end of the game
  • A game of bowls can be played one-on-one (singles), or in teams of two (pairs), three (triples) or four (fours - also known as a 'rink')
  • In singles games, the winner is normally the first player to score 21 shots. However, team games are played over a specific number of ends (usually 18 or 21), and whichever team has the highest score when all the ends have been played wins the match

So Bowls is really easy then....

Well yes, bowls is an easy game to learn and get started in, but while it all sounds quite simple, it can actually take years to perfect your game and learn all the tricks of the trade. You're always trying to stay a step ahead of your opponent/s and anticipate what their next move might be. For example - 
  • will they try to draw their bowl close to the jack, or...
    • will they fire at one of your bowls to move it, and if they do, where will their bowl and your bowl end up, or...
      • if they fire at the jack instead, have you got a bowl behind it to collect it if they hit it, or...
        • should you try to block their path to the jack by bowling a short bowl yourself (a 'blocker'), or...
          • maybe you should fire at your opponent's bowl or the jack instead, or
            • maybe you could fire at your own bowl and try to knock it closer to the jack, or...
              • ....questions decisions questions decisions AAAGGHHH!!!!!....
Your strategy and how you play and 'build' the head is important and you may well change it several times during the match, or even during a single end, depending on how things are going!

The important thing is to get out there and give it a go. Remember to play in a spirit of sportsmanship and, especially, to enjoy your game!

Click <<here>> to go to some bowls games you can play right now on your computer, laptop, netbook, SmartPhone, iPad, whatever you're using. They're fun, and they'll give you a good idea of how the game actually works.