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Canadian lawn bowler, Tim Mason

Bowls is a sport. It is also known as lawn bowls or lawn bowling. Players try to roll their ball (called a bowl) closest to a smaller ball (known as a jack). The bowls are heavier on one side so that they turn when being rolled. The game is played either in teams or one against one.

The game was first played in the 13th century. The game is played on grass, although other surfaces are sometimes used. Matches are held either until one player gets to a score, or when an amount of ends are played.

History[change | change source]

The game of bowls started in 3200 BC in Ancient Egypt. It was a type of boules.[1][2][3] Writings of that time include an image showing a historic game of bowls.[4][5] It was played in England from the 13th century onwards. Both Edward III and Richard II banned the game.[1] They wanted England to practice archery instead.[1] The ban was lifted in 1845.[1] The game was played unofficially before this.[1] The invention of the lawn mower in 1830 helped the game spread.[1] The game became popular in Scotland in the 19th century.[2] The Scots set standard rules and played on flat surfaces.[2] In the 1960s, the sport came to New Zealand.[2]

The world's oldest surviving bowling green is the Southampton Old Bowling Green, which was first used in 1299.[6] Lawn bowls is a core sport in the Commonwealth Games.[7][8] It has been played in every edition of the Games.[1] In the past the game had a strict dress code, especially for women. Their clothes had to be of a set length and colour.[2][9] Now, dress code is more relaxed.[10]

There are bowls events held every year. The biggest is the World Bowls Championships.[11] The World Bowls Championship was first held in 1966.[12] A World Indoor Bowls Championships has been held yearly from 1979.[13]

Playing the game[change | change source]

two balls with a smaller white ball in front
Two bowls with a jack in between.

Equipment[change | change source]

The game has very little equipment apart from the playing surface. It has a small ball called a "jack". The jack is the target to throw at. The jack can be white or yellow. The players roll larger balls (known as "bowls" or "woods") at the jack. The bowls were historically black or brown. Recently, these can be in any colour. At the end of the area where the game is being played is a small channel called the "ditch". There is also a rectangular carpet called a "mat". The person playing has to stand on the mat.[14]

The game can be played on different surfaces, but mostly on grass (or Cotula [en] in New Zealand). Other ways to play include on an indoor artificial grass or a moveable carpet.[15] The length of the area a game is played on is 44 yards, and no wider than 5.2 meters.[16]

Rules[change | change source]

The player has to stand on the mat. Teams of up to four players compete. The players are named by what position they are in order. The first player is the "lead". The next two are "second" and "third". The last player is called a "skip". The skip usually starts at the other end of the area until their turn to play.[2] The bowls are heavier on one side. The heavier side is known as the bias. When rolled forward, the bowl will turn left or right towards the bias.[16]

Players of opposing teams take turns to throw their bowls. Each team gets an amount of bowls, from four for singles matches to eight for teams of four. The game can be played as a race to a score (usually 21 or 11), or over a certain amount of ends. An end is over when both teams have played all of their shots. When an end is finished, the bowl that is closest to the jack scores a point. If their team has the next closest, they score another point. A team scores as many points as bowls they have closer than their opponents closest bowl.[17]

At the start of an end, the team's first player (known as a lead) throws the jack. Then, plays their first bowl towards the jack. The two teams take turns to throw. Bowls that go into the ditch are removed. However, bowls that hit the jack are marked with chalk. They are allowed to stay in the ditch.[17]

Other games[change | change source]

Lawn bowls is played on rectangle area of grass. When played in a square area, it is called crown green bowls.[18][19] In crown green, the playing surface is not always flat. It also does not have a set size for the playing area.[20] Indoor spaces have artificial playing areas (sometimes known as "carpet bowls").[21]

A version played on a rollable carpet is known as short mat bowls.[15] Short mat is played on a much smaller carpet. The jack is placed rather than rolled. It also has a piece of wood in the middle to prevent powerful shots.[22]

A version played on a slope is called tra bowls. The surface is higher on the edges than the middle. There is no jack, but a drawn target on the floor.[23] This game is played in Belgium.[24]

In popular culture[change | change source]

  • Blackball – a 2003 comedy movie about a young bowls player.[25]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 "The Surprising History of Lawn Bowls | Bowlr". CMS. Retrieved 2024-01-25.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Knight, Lindsay (5 September 2013). "Lawn bowls: game, history and organisation". Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Archived from the original on 12 February 2023. Retrieved 20 January 2024.
  3. "The shady past of the genteel game of bowls". Burnley Express. Archived from the original on 2023-02-10. Retrieved 2023-02-10.
  4. "The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Sports and Pastimes of the People of England by Joseph Strutt". Archived from the original on 2023-02-10. Retrieved 2023-02-10.
  5. DCHP (2021-07-19). "Jack of the green". Denham History. Archived from the original on 2023-02-10. Retrieved 2023-02-10.
  6. "Southampton Old Bowling Green, Southampton, England". BBC. Archived from the original on 11 June 2009. Retrieved 6 January 2009.
  7. "Australia fight back to snatch women's pairs gold". Commonwealth Games - Birmingham 2022. 2022-08-06. Retrieved 2024-01-23.[permanent dead link]
  8. "Commonwealth Games". Bowls England. Archived from the original on 2024-01-19. Retrieved 2024-01-20.
  9. "Bowls: President recalls days of starched white dresses". Otago Daily Times Online News. Retrieved 23 January 2024.
  10. "Lawn Bowls Dress Code - What To Wear Playing Bowls | Providing expert guides on the basics of the rules and equipment on a variety of sports - to get you playing and enjoying sport today".
  11. "Upcoming events". World Bowls.
  12. Newby, Donald (1989). Bowls Year Book 89. Daily Telegraph. ISBN 0-330-31093-3.
  13. "World Indoor Bowls Championships 2018: Schedule and BBC coverage". BBC Sport.
  14. Venkat, Rahul. "Lawn bowls rules: Know how to play the sport". Retrieved 24 January 2024.
  15. 15.0 15.1 "Short Mat Bowling For Beginners". 20 June 2017. Archived from the original on 2023-02-10. Retrieved 2023-02-10.
  16. 16.0 16.1 "Lawn Bowling - A Complete Beginners' Guide". 2017-04-07. Archived from the original on 2023-10-31. Retrieved 2024-01-23.
  17. 17.0 17.1 "Bowls Rules: How To Play Lawn Bowls | Rules of Sport". Archived from the original on 2023-10-14. Retrieved 2024-01-20.
  18. Tomlinson, Alan (2010). A dictionary of sports studies (1st ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 133. ISBN 9780199213818.
  19. Mills, Chris (1983). Winning bowls : an introduction to crown green bowls. London: Foulsham. ISBN 9780572012199.
  20. Weekes, Barry (1988). Bowls, crown & flat green. London: Ward Lock. p. 20. ISBN 0706366603.
  21. McKenna, Kate (September 15, 2015). "Carpet bowling a dying sport in the Eastern Townships". CBC News. Archived from the original on November 20, 2022. Retrieved January 20, 2024.
  22. "Short Mat Bowls – Centre Block". Bowlsdirect. Archived from the original on 2023-09-21. Retrieved 2024-01-23.
  23. "Tra bowls information brochure" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 December 2013. Retrieved 11 December 2014.
  24. "Website of the West-Flemish tra bowls federation". Archived from the original on 30 November 2020.
  25. "From bowling green to silver screen". BBC News. 28 August 2003. Archived from the original on 22 May 2012. Retrieved 4 May 2008.