The basics of lawn bowls
Lawn bowls can claim to be the oldest sport still being played in the UK. The first set of rules to be published was in 1670 by none other than King Charles II. This is some 70 years before rules for golf or cricket were first published. Several clubs claim to be the oldest, there is evidence that the green used by Southampton Bowls Club was first used in 1187 with the first game of bowls (played to similar rules used now) in 1299. However, there is still some debate between sports historians with the earliest categorical evidence of bowls being played circa 1500. It was around this time the game took off in popularity being played by all classes of men, often associated with large sums of money wagered on the outcome of games. There have been periods in history when bowls has been banned from being played by the “working” man. In the 16th century it was considered an unwelcome distraction from the strategically essential archery practise, then in the 17th and 18th century the church intervened to have playing of the game banned on the Sabbath. There is a famous story that Sir Francis Drake insisted on finishing his game of bowls at Plymouth Hoe before taking on and defeating the Spanish Armada in 1588. William Shakespeare (1564-1616) makes several mentions of Bowls (or bowles) in his poems and plays, including Cymbeline, King Lear and Hamlet.
The basics of how to play Lawn Bowls.
Etiquette when a bowler is on the mat:
The bowler who is stood on the mat ready to bowl has what is called ‘possession of the rink’ so the following should be practised:
- All walking to and from the head should have stopped! You constantly see a bowler on the mat ready to bowl and their opponents are still walking back from the head or talking in the middle of the rink.
- The kicking about of bowls should cease until the bowl has been delivered. There is nothing worse than the click/clack of bowls when you are trying to concentrate!
- All loud talking, humming and whistling should cease until the bowl has been delivered. Some bowlers even speak to the bowler on the mat when they are about to deliver.
- Other bowlers at the same end should stand well back out of eye view and not crowd the bowler ready to deliver.
Many times you will see other bowlers nearly alongside the bowler about to deliver. This is ‘in vision’ and very off putting. [EBA Rule 50 states that bowlers should be a minimum of 1 m BEHÍND the mat]
- Bowlers in the ‘head’ should keep perfectly still until the bowl has been delivered. How many times do you see other bowlers going backwards and forwards whilst the bowler on the mat is trying to concentrate on their line.
- When the bowl has been delivered the bowler who sent it still has ‘possession of the rink’ until it comes to rest. The opponent who is to bowl next should stand back away from the mat until the bowl stops rolling. How many times do you see a bowler deliver their bowl and the opponent steps onto the mat before it has finished rolling. The two bowlers then nearly collide!
- If you are the one at the head who is giving instructions, do not leap forward at the last minute, when your fellow team mate is about to deliver with last minute instructions. This is extremely off putting and they are likely to deliver a bad bowl.
- If you are the bowler delivering the bowl try to deliver it smoothly onto the green. You will see some bowlers ‘throw’ it, more than deliver it, from their waist. In this case the bowl will cause a divot [dent] on the green as it bounces and damage the green especially if wet. On indoor greens you will hear a loud thud as the bowl hits the green when delivered in this way. Players carrying out this practise should be warned.
- If the last bowl was a ‘toucher’ and you are at the ‘head’ do not leap forward with your chalk just as your opponent is about to deliver the next bowl. You may nominate a toucher verbally and then chalk it when the next bowl is on its way.
Etiquette when Measuring:
When all bowls for that particular end have been delivered and have come to rest in the head, the following should apply –
- The two ‘nominated’ bowlers, one from each team, should decide shots [In ‘fours’ it is usually the number 3, in triples it is usually the number 2]. Other bowlers in the teams should stand back until these two nominated bowlers have decided between them.
- Be careful moving any bowls until the measuring has ceased. Bowlers have been seen to start to kick the outside bowls back and they have accidentally moved a bowl that the other team thought was in the count.
- When measuring do not under any circumstances touch the jack or bowl in the measure with your hand. Bowlers have been seen holding the jack with their thumb and finger whilst the measure is going on. This must not be done. You must not be in a position where you could move the jack.
- If the opposing bowls are close then get the measure out straight away and measure them. Bowlers have been seen to argue and eye up the bowls for several minutes, even measuring with their feet when they have the measure in their pocket!
- Which bowler removes the counting bowls at the completion of the end? The nominated measurer who has the shots against them.
Etiquette after a bowl has been delivered:
- Wait until the last bowl has completely come to rest before bowling the next opposing bowl. How many times do you see an opposing bowler who’s turn it is next, step onto the mat and bowl their bowl before the previous bowl has come to rest.
Where is the Possession of the rink’
- If you follow your bowl down the green remember to keep at least 1 metre away from it at all times and do nothing, like stamping, that would assist the bowl’s final position.
- Do not run on the green – some Clubs will have notices up to this effect.
- If you follow your bowl after delivery you should follow it all the way up to the head. Remember you should be clear of the green when your opponent steps on to the mat to bowl and this is when your bowl has come to rest.
- When you have delivered your bowl and you are watching it, hopefully, going towards the position that you have chosen, try to look where you are treading. Do not watch your bowl with such concentration that you step back falling over bowls behind, walk into other players or even stray onto the next rink.
- When a bowler has delivered his or her last bowl wait until it has come to rest before walking forwards to the other end.
Possession of the rink – no one should move until the bowl has stopped.