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Let's play bowls

So you'd like to try bowls? Well it's an easy game to learn, but takes a little while longer to master.

What kit do I need to start playing? -

Well at Marldon and most other clubs a pair of flat soled shoes is essential, to protect the green. That is all you need to try out the game.

White or brown are the normal colours but there are many variations available now.Picture of bowls shoes

You will need a set of Bowls (otherwise known as Woods, as they used to be made of hardwood before the introduction of modern materials) and these come in various sizes (to suit the size of your hand) and you need a set of four, which will be identical in shape, size and weight. (In some games you might only use two or three of the four)

We can supply woods if you are trying the game out for the first time and we suggest you try out various woods before purchasing your own.

Coloured bowls are now popular with a lot of people but tend to cost more than the equivalent black ones. A set of bowls has a unique marker on it to distinguish it from other sets of the same colour. For a team game each team might also use coloured team stickers to mark all of their team's bowls with the same logo.

Picture of bowls woods Picture of bowls woods

Where do I play?

Well you could try it out on your back lawn, but the grass might be too long.

You need a Bowls Green. There are two types, flat greens (which as the name suggests, should be perfectly flat) and Crown Greens which have a hump in the middle! I'll say no more about crown greens because they are commoner in the Midlands and North West of England than here in Devon.
Marldon has a nice flat grass green which is a square shape and has room for 6 rinks with a bit of spare green either side. The surface is a very fine type of grass that is cut very short.

Marldon Bowls Green. Picture of Marldon Bowls Green

(Some clubs have artificial grass, which reduces maintenance, but most people prefer real grass. Some clubs have oblong greens, usually because that was all there was room for, and they may only have 4 rinks.)

In flat green bowls the green is split up into a number of rinks, (a bit like 'lanes' in a bowling alley) and you play on one of the rinks which go straight up and down the green. Up to 8 players can play on one rink. I've drawn the sides of the rink on this picture, many years ago the sides used to be marked out with string. Around the green is a ditch and bank which prevents the bowls from leaving the green. You and the other players on your rink should stay within the confines of your rink when playing.

Rink 2 at Marldon. Picture showing a rink on the green

A Rink Number on the bank indicate the centre line of the rink and white markers show the two side edges as shown below.

Picture showing the rinkmarkers

You need a small rectangular mat to stand on and a 'jack' which is a small yellow or white ball which has to be rolled first to a position at least 23 metres from the mat. When the jack stops it is always moved to the centre line of the rink. Mats and jacks are always supplied by the club, you don't have to buy these items. The mat is placed on the green by the first player to bowl, it can be placed at varying distances from the ditch but the front of the mat must be at least two metres from the ditch at the near end of the green. You must stand on the mat when bowling your woods. Everyone on the rink then bowls from the same mat without moving it.

The Jack can be white or yellow.Picture of white and yellow jack

A marker on the side of green helps you to position the mat Picture showing mat position

The mat must always be placed on the centre line of the rink. Picture showing mat position

The Object of the game.

Is to roll your bowls up the rink to finish as near as possible to the jack. When all the players on the rink have sent all their bowls to the jack that comprises one 'end', you all walk up the green to where your woods have finished and score 1 shot (or 1 point) for each of your bowls that is closer to the jack than your opponent's nearest bowl.


The wood with yellow ring is closer than the one with a Star emblem and scores '1 shot'

Picture showing two woods near jack

Both woods with yellow rings are closer than the nearest wood with the other emblem and so they score 'two shots'

Picture showing 4 woods near jack

You them repeat the process in the other direction, A game can consists of a specified number of 'ends' where ends are the number of times you go up and down the green or 'shots' where the first player to reach for example 21 shots (points) is the winner. You keep score with a scorecard or a scoreboard, or often use both.

Scorecard Picture showing mat position Scoreboard Picture showing mat position

The bias.

Rolling a bowl along a flat surface to a jack may sound easy, but bowls are not as round as they look! They are designed with a ' bias' which means they do not follow a straight line down the green, but travel in a shallow arc. A set of bowls will always have the same bias but different sets of bowls and different makes of bowls can have different 'bias' so they will turn more or turn less as they travel up the rink. Our coach will explain this, or you can see on the picture below the line that four varieties of one particcular manufacturer's bowls will take. There is a 'minimum' bias to prevent anyone from using unbiased woods which would go in a straight line to the jack.

drawlines of Almark Woods

The EDGE Wood has the minumium bias allowed and the STERLING GOLD has the most bias, the advantage of the larger bias becomes obvious when it is your turn to bowls and there are bowls between you and the jack as it can curl round the side of them to get close to the jack.

How do I know which way the bowls will turn. A marker on the bowl shows this, which you will see when you pick one up.

Sizes/Colours/Weights of bowls (woods). There are 9 different sizes of wood, from size 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0 and 00. Size 7 are the largest, (for giants with big hands), size 00 are the smallest, and you use the size that is most comfortable for you. I used to use a size 4 but now I'm older I find a size 2 easier to hold. When you start playing bowls it is a good idea to borrow woods of different sizes before committing yourself to buying woods of your own. When you have a coaching session the club coach will give you a clue how to decide on the right size for you. Most established players will have spare sets of woods they can lend out. (In addition there are junior size bowls that are smaller than 00, for very small hands) Bowls are now available in many colours.

On a rink, a game can be played between two players (1 v 1, or singles), 4 players (2 v 2 or pairs), 6 players (3 against 3, called Triples) or 8 Players (4 against four, sometimes referred to as 'Rinks', as this is the maximum number of players that can be on one rink for a game.) For a singles game each player usually uses either 2 or 4 bowls, for pairs each player usually use 4 bowls each, for triples each player usually has 3 bowls and for 4's each player normally uses just 2 bowls.

So that's easy, why not come and give it a try by calling us on 07525 780125 or emailing [email protected]