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Bowls Basics

Four bowls and jack

The object of the sport of bowls is essentially simple. It is played on a square of closely cut grass called ‘the green’, which is divided into playing areas called rinks. The green is surrounded by a small ditch to catch bowls which leave the green, and a bank on which markers indicate the corners and centrelines of each rink.

Players take turns to deliver their bowls from a mat at one end of the rink towards a small white or yellow ball, often referred to as the “jack” or “kittie”, at the other end. Bowls are shaped so that they take a curved path towards the jack. To be successful the bowl must be delivered with the correct weight, along the correct line.

The object is to get one or more of your bowls closer to the jack than those of your opponent’s – one point is scored for each counting bowl.

There are many different formats to the game, but the most common in England are singles or in teams of pairs, triples or fours. In singles, generally the winner is the first to score 21 points. In the other three formats, the winner is the team that scores the most points over a set number of ends.

The Players’ Roles in Team Games.

In all team games it is the skip’s job to direct the play. Other players should play the shot directed by the skip even if they don’t agree with it. In a fours game the ‘Three’ should direct the skip when required to do so. In Triples or Pairs the Second or Lead may do this.

Other players should not comment or offer suggestions unless invited to do so.

The Skip

The Skip is in charge of the team and their instructions must be followed by all the players.

With the opposing Skip, they will decide all disputed points and when both agree, their decision is final.

If both Skips cannot agree, the point in dispute is referred to and considered by an Umpire (or other competent person) whose decision is final.

A Skip may at any time delegate their powers, or any of their duties, to other members of the team providing the opposing Skip is informed and the same player in both teams assumes those duties..

The Skip should sign the scorecard at the end of the match (even if scorecard has been kept by the 2). They should also record on the scorecard the time that the game finished.

A Skip should be able to play all shots.

The Three

The third player (the Three) measures any disputed shots and agrees with their opponent the score for each end. If they  can’t agree then the skips will resolve the issue (unless the umpire is called).

The Three and the Skip often work together in deciding the best shot to play, although the Skip has the final say.

A Three should be able to play all types of shots, including weighted shots, – as directed by the skip.

The Two

The Two is often delegated to keep the score-card.

In keeping the score-card you should;

  • Make sure each player’s name from both sides is correctly recorded
  • Enter each end’s result on the card immediately this has been agreed by the 3s
  • Compare the card with your opponent frequently during the match to ensure both cards agree (and resolve any differences)
  • Ensure that the scoreboard is correct and up-to-date
  • Pass the completed score-card to skip at end of game for them to sign etc.

A Two should build on the head started by the Lead by drawing close to the jack or place positional woods as directed by the Skip.

The Lead

If not done by the Skips, the Leads often toss the coin at the start of the match to see who has choice of the mat. Even then it is up to the Skip to decide to take the mat or not.

The Lead places the mat and delivers and centres the jack at the start of each end. The Lead must follow the Skips instructions on where to place the mat and the length that the jack is delivered to (i.e. short or long).

The losing lead uses the pusher (where employed) to collect the bowls after each end. If a pusher is not used, all the players at the mat end kick the bowls back.

A Lead should aim to deliver all their bowls as near to the jack as possible and, if possible, slightly behind the jack.

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