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Guide to........

Short Mat Bowls

Very often, there is insufficient space for several full-size bowls strips indoors. For that reason, a popular indoor variant called Short Mat Bowls, with characteristics all of its own, has become established with a really big following all over Britain and Ireland. It is really a miniaturised version of the outdoor game to enable it to be played more easily indoors while keeping as many of the features as possible. It is played on a mat measuring 40-45 x 6 feet with full-size bowls, the mat being easily rolled up and put away for convenience. There is a ditch but this is simply an area marked at the end of the mat with white fenders and to compensate for the shorter distance an intimidating block is placed in the centre of the mat. This makes it impossible for a bowler to aim a fast straight bowl at the jack area - all bowls must use the bias to curl around the block to their target.

The short mat bowls game was first played in South Wales by two South Africans who came to work in the area. They had played bowls outdoors in South Africa and, perhaps due to the poor climate and the long close season in this country, they began to play a simulation of the outdoor game on a strip of carpet in a church hall. Sometime later, they moved to Northern Ireland and took the new game with them. Rules and conditions of play were drawn up and the game soon became well established in the Province. It was introduced into England by Irish expatriates, but development was slow until the 1980's when its potential as a low cost sport for people of all ages was realised. The English Short Mat Bowling Association (ESMBA) was formed in 1984, and is now the governing body of the sport in England with over 25,000 registered players.

Here is a summary of the primary differences between the mother game and Short Mat Bowls:

  • Short Mat Bowls is, of course, played on a mat indoors. The mat is 12.2m min - 13.75m max long and 1.83m wide.
  • Short Mat Bowls has a centre block which is 0.38m long which must not be touched by a bowl. This prevents high force shots being played.
  • In Short Mat, a bowl must pass over the "dead line" or else it is removed from play.
  • The Short Mat Jack is positioned on a central line. The Short Mat Jack is heavier than either a Lawn Bowls or an Indoor Bowls Jack.
  • The ditch of Lawn Bowls is simulated by wooden fenders that surround the rear of the mat.
  • The delivery mat must be placed in the marked position and cannot be moved.

At Hadleigh Bowling Club we have two Short Mats which are the full length of 13.75m and we enter two teams into local competitions – the Spinners and the Weavers.

Dress code is the same as Lawn Bowls – grey trousers or skirt and white top – and normal lawn bowls shoes must be worn to protect the mat surface.

The leagues we play in are 2 Wood Triples games with two Short Mats.  Internal club games and roll-ups can be for singles, pairs, triples or fours.

Members who are registered with the English Short Mat Bowling Association (ESMBA) are issued with a full set of rules.