Getting Started

Bowls for Beginners: The Basics

To get started in lawn bowls, you'll 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 all the other bowling paraphenalia needed for a game (jacks, mats and scoreboards).

A bit more detail ...

  • The game is played on either a 'green' (a square of closely-mown grass, quite like a golfing green) or a 'mat' (an artificial bowling surface)

  • The green/mat is divided into several playing areas, each of which is called a 'rink'. It's surrounded by a shallow ditch to catch any bowls that leave the playing surface, and a bank on which the centreline and edges of each rink are marked.

  • Players deliver their bowls, in turn, from a small rectangular mat placed at one end of a rink, towards a small white or yellow ball (called a 'jack') at the other end, until all bowls have been sent. This is called an 'end'

  • The object of the game is quite simple: you try to get your bowls closer to the jack than your opponent. But it's not like marbles - the bowls are shaped so that they don't travel in a straight line to the jack. Instead they curve towards it

  • 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 rinks)

  • 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), with whichever team has the highest score when all the ends have been played winning the match

Lawn Bowls 101 video

This short video, made by Newport Harbour Lawn Bowling Club in California, gives a useful introduction to the basics of the game.


So Bowls is really easy?

Well yes, it's quick and easy to learn the basics and get started, but after that 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 and anticipate what their next move might be. For example -

  • On their shot, 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...

      • Will they fire at the jack instead, and if so have you got a bowl behind it to collect it if they hit it, or...

        • On your shot, maybe you should first try to block their path to the jack with a short bowl (a 'blocker'), or...

          • Maybe you should fire at your opponent's bowl instead, or at the jack, or...

            • Maybe you could fire at your own bowl and try to knock it closer to the jack, or...

              • ....questions decisions questions decisions question decisions AAAGGHHH!!!!!....

Your (or your team's) strategy and how to play and 'build' the head is very important and it may well change several times during the match, or even during a single end, depending on how things are going!

Piece of Cake!

... and after a little while playing, maybe you too will be able to do something like this ...

The important thing is to just get out there and give it a go!