How to Play Lawn Bowls

Equipment Needed for Lawn Bowling

the balls and a jack

The Balls and a Jack

  • The Bowls: Four balls or bowls that are different colours, and have different symbols and etchings on them. Bowls are not round, so they are therefore biased, which means they will curve as they roll.
  • The Jack: The jack is like the pins in regular bowling, but in this case get as close as possible to the jack to win. It’s a small white ball.
  • Measuring Tape: Required to measure which bowl is the closest to the Jack. You want to be close.
  • Score Cards: A card to keep score while you play.

measuring tape

The Measuring Tape


  • Lawn bowling can be played either on artificial turf but it is more commonly played on natural grass. This manicured and rectangular field is known as a bowling green.
  • This rectangular field is divided into rinks. In “singles”, each player plays four bowls. In “pairs”, for each end, each player plays four bowls – the first player on each side bowls all four bowls, and then the second player bowls four bowls. In “triples’, three players each play three bowls. And in “fours” or “rinks”, four players play just two bowls each.
  • One of the two opponents flips a coin to decide the winner of the mat. The one who wins the toss wins the mat.
  • The winner then rolls a small ball called the jack or the kitty to the other end of the mat. This small white or yellow ball is about the size of a billiard ball. The jack is aligned to the centre of the rink and it then becomes the target.  After everything is set, the players take their ball and roll it toward the jack. As bowls accumulate around the jack, they form what is termed a “head”.
  • A ball typically curves in its path towards the jack, but it must come to a stop within the rink boundary so that it will remain in play. The bowls or balls are not perfectly round. This means they are biased. This biasing causes the ball to naturally curve down the green. To reach the target, the player is forced to roll the ball outward with an angle in order to attain his objective.
  • Balls that fall into a ditch are considered dead balls and are removed from the game. If a ball touches the jack and then falls into the ditch then it won’t be treated as a dead ball. Balls that touch the jack are called ‘touchers’ and they are marked with white chalk. This ball remains alive in the play even if it falls into a ditch.
  • If the jack or the kitty is knocked by a player into the ditch it is still treated as alive. According to international standards, the jack will be again placed at the center of the rink.
  • After each player has rolled all of their balls, the distance between the jack and the balls is measured. The minimum distance between the ball and jack awards a point to the bowler.
  • After the game, the distance between the balls and the jack is measured and the player whose ball is at a minimum distance from the jack is awarded with points or in lawn bowling it is called shots. The first person or team to attain 21 shots is the winner of the game.

A Short Video of the Basics

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Delivery of Balls

There are three basic methods to bowl the ball towards the jack.

In a Draw the ball is bowled to the target trying to avoid disturbing other balls in the ‘head’.

A Forehand Draw although widely used can be very tricky. It’s often called a Finger Peg Delivery. It’s typically aimed to the right side of the jack but when it rolls, it curves to the left.

A Backhand Draw is basically the opposite of a forehand draw. Generally, left-handed bowlers will use this kind of delivery. In this case, the ball is curved right but rolls to the left.

Be it a forehand or a backhand draw, the intention is to get as close to the jack as possible. Even blind or handicapped people play lawn bowls.  Anyone with a vision impairment can compete in Lawn Bowls.


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