Lawn Bowling (or bowls), is perhaps the oldest of all ball games. It was played in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome and spread to Europe by the 10th century.

"Some confusion exists between the games of Lawn Bowling which does not use pins and the entirely unrelated game of Ten Pin Bowling, which does use pins. Both, however, rank among the most popular participant sports in the world. Today, more than 100 million people in 80 countries participate in bowling."

Lawn Bowls is an outdoor game in which players roll balls (about 5 inches or 13 cm in diameter) called bowls or woods, over a flat lawn. The object is to get as many as possible nearest a target, a smaller ball called the jack.

Old Scottish Bowlers from the 1880s.
Seen here measuring the head .i.e. after all bowls have been
delivered measuring to determine which bowl is nearest the jack

Bowlers must stand with at least one foot on a rubber mat in the center of the rink being played; the back edge of the mat must be 4 ft (1.2 m) from the ditch.

The bowls are rolled alternately by the opposing players toward the jack (2.5 inches or 6.3 cm in diameter). Each bowl nearer the jack than any bowl rolled by an opponent scores a point. Bowls are termed dead if:

  1. They travel less than 15 yd (13.5 m) from the mat
  2. Come to rest outside the rink, or
  3. Go into the ditch without touching the jack.

Bowls that hit the jack on their initial roll are called touchers; they remain potential scorers wherever they land.

An end is completed when all bowls have been rolled.

Matches may be played for a certain number of ends, usually 15 or 17, or until a particular points total is reached, 21 points in single games. Matches may be played by either individuals (singles) or by teams of two to four players (pairs, triples, and 4s).

The game is played mainly in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa and to some extent in the United States, where it was introduced by English settlers in the late 17th century.

There is an indoor variety of lawn bowls and other forms more popular in continental Europe. Among the latter is boccie (or bocce), played in Italy and also in the United States.


The lawn, or green
, on which the game is played must be at least 40 yd (at least 36 m) square, surrounded by a ditch 12 in (30 cm) deep and 12 in wide, enclosed by a sloping bank.

The green is divided lengthwise by strings into six "rinks," or alleys, 18 to 21 ft (5.4 to 6.3 m) wide.

Bowls and Jack

The bowls may not be more than 16.5 in (41.9 cm) in circumference or 3.5 lb (1.6 kg) in weight. They are made of wood, hardened rubber, or a synthetic composition and are flattened (biased) slightly on one side so that they roll with a curve.

In singles and pairs, each player has four bowls while in triples, each player has three bowls and in fours competition, there are two bowls per player.

World lawn bowls competition is administered by the International Bowling Board, which was established in 1905.

Many thanks to Will McA
of Cambuslang Bowling Club
for this article.

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