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Lawn Bowling: How To Play and Equipment Needed

Shortly after enlisting in the Navy, I was shipped off to Antarctica for six months. On my return trip home, I had a two-week layover in Christchurch, New Zealand. While there, I decided to explore the city and found myself watching lawn bowling matches at a local club. Since this experience, I’ve always been fascinated with the game.

Lawn bowling is relatively simple to learn but challenging to play. It can be played indoors, outdoors, or on a rink. It has a single objective: all players need to bowl their bowls (or balls) as near as possible to a white-colored ball called the kitty or jack. 

What makes the game challenging is that the bowls are not symmetrical. Their disproportionate construction makes them travel along a curved path. That is why the game needs concentration and composure to play. This is not an article about 10 pin lawn bowling.

In this guide, I cover the following topics:

  • What is lawn bowling? What are its rules?
  • Best lawn bowling sets
  • And a lot more…
Picture of a group lawn bowling.

What is Lawn Bowling?

Bowling of some kind or the other has always been around – it is the oldest sport in the world. Lawn bowling has evolved over the years, but it remains a popular game.

It is especially popular in the UK, where it originated, and in Australia, where there are more than 250,000 lawn bowling courts.

Lawn bowling is a type of yard game played between 2, 4, 6, or 8 players. You can also have team games that have six fours per side. The game is typically played outdoors on manicured lawns, called the green, but you can also play on indoor rinks.

The game’s goal is to finish with your bowls as close as possible to the white ball called ‘jack,’ ‘white,’ or ‘kitty.’ It’s very similar to bocce ball, the key difference is the shape of the balls. Bocce balls are round and lawn balls are asymmetrical ovals.

The Green

  • The green or the ‘court’ on which you play lawn bowling has to be at least 32 m in the direction of play for indoor games. For outdoor games, this distance is about 34 to 40 m.
  • The green is surrounded by a ditch with a bank against its outer edge.
  • You also have areas called ‘rinks’ on the green. You can carry out multiple games in the confines of these rinks.

The Play

  • Players deliver bowls standing on a mat which is 2m from the edge of the ditch of the green.
  • They may deliver the bowls down either side of the rink.
  • If a player is right-handed, s/he can deliver the bowls on the left side of the rink looking at the jack. This is known as playing the backhand.
  • The other side of the rink is the forehand.
  • For left-handed players, the opposite applies. This means that the LHS of the rink is the forehand and the RHS is the backhand.

The Jack

  • The jack, as mentioned earlier, is a white-colored ball. It measures 64 mm in diameter. It is positioned on the centerline of the rink about 23 m from the mat.
  • At the commencement of the game, the jack always starts at the centerline of the rink. Throughout the gameplay, it will get knocked off the centerline but must stay within the confines of the rink.

The Head

  • The object of the game is to get the bowls as close to the jack. Each player will try to get his/her bowls as close to the jack as their opponent’s bowls.
  • The area around the jack where the bowls end up is called the head.
  • This is an imaginary area with no finite boundaries. Its extent is open to individual interpretation.

Equipment Needed to Play Lawn Bowling

Bowls

These are typically black, blue, maroon, or brown. They have a diameter of 4.75 to 5.75 inches. Bowls weigh no more than 3.5 lb. They sometimes have the manufacturer’s logo etched on the biased or weighted side. This asymmetric bias allows them to curve. 

Jack

The jack is usually white, although some manufacturers make it bright yellow so it can be seen clearly indoors or outdoors. It is smaller than the bowls measuring 2.5 inches and weighing 10 ounces.

Mat

For indoor play, players will bowl from a rubber mat. This measures around 24 x 14 inches and isn’t too different than an ordinary house mat. You place the mat centrally and squarely in line with the rink. Its front edge is about 6.56 feet from the rear ditch.

Measuring tape

As players bowl, their bowls may come close to the jack. It won’t be easy to tell how close they are to the target just through observation. This is why you need a measuring tape. This can accurately determine which bowl is closer to the jack.

Rules of Lawn Bowling

  • The gameplay beings with a toss. The side or player that wins the toss gets to bowl the jack. It will come to rest due to friction approximately on the rink’s centerline.
  • Players take alternate turns to roll their bowls towards the jack to build up the head.
  • The bowls have to remain within the rink boundary to remain in play. 
  • The player must always have one foot on the mat while playing a shot.
  • A bowl is considered a ‘deadball’ if it falls in the ditch. However, if it falls in the ditch after touching the jack, then it isn’t dead.
  • Bowls that touch the jack are marked white with special chalk. These are called touchers. Touchers can never become dead balls and remain in play even if they get ditched.
  • Any bowls that are in play can be displaced by other shots.
  • The jack can never become deadball. If it gets ditched, you simply put it back in the rink’s center.
  • Each player starts with 4 bowls depending on the kind of match you’re playing- singles (4 bowls), pairs (4 bowls each), triples (3 bowls), and fours (2 bowls each).
  • You measure the distance between the bowls and the jack. The player whose ball is at the minimum distance from the jack is awarded shots/points.
  • The game is scored once all players have had their shots. A player/or team gets one point for each bowl bowled closer to the jack than the opponent’s bowls.
  • The team or player that wins gets to go first on the next end. This is in the opposite direction than the previous end.
Picture of a lawn bowling match

Best Lawn Bowling Sets

When we talk about lawn bowling sets, most retailer sites will show you the 10-Pin Bowling sets. These are entirely different compared to lawn bowling. In the United States, most people refer to 10-Pin bowling played on lawns as ‘lawn bowling.’ But the term ‘lawn bowling’ in the UK relates to the bowls and jack described above. The two games are entirely different.

Ten-pin bowling is played using a large black ball that you roll down an alley to knock off ten wooden or plastic pins arranged in a triangular formation. You can play 10-Pin bowling on a lawn using lightweight wooden or plastic sets. These days, you also get inflatable pins that can be set up anywhere on the go.

Here are our favorite traditional lawn bowling sets:

Drake’s Pride

 Drake’s Pride is one of the top manufacturers of  lawn bowling sets 

They make their flat jacks in either yellow or white, and they measure around 63-64mm in diameter. Drake’s Pride hitting bowls are available in black, brown, red, maroon, green, and other colors. 

These uniquely-shaped bowls vary in size and are marked from 00 to 5. Each size has a different weight. For example, their size 00 bowl weighs around 1220 grams while the size 5 weighs 1580 grams. Players can choose bowls based on their degree of expertise in the game.

Drake’s Pride bowls start from £229. Amazon sells the yellow Drakes Pride Jack but not the entire set of balls.

Aero Quantum

Another top manufacturer for lawn bowling sets is Aero Quantum

Aero Quantum bowls are unique because they are made using robotic technology. Professional players like Alex Marshall also use AeroBowls.

Taylor Ace

Taylor Ace is another popular brand manufacturing lawn bowls. They have been in this industry for over two centuries! Their top-of-the-line bowls are priced from £160 to £320.

FAQs

  1. What are the best lawn bowls for beginners?

The best lawn bowls for beginners are from Drake’s Pride. They are lightweight and brightly colored so that they can be seen easily on the lawn. They are also ideal for indoor and outdoor play.

  1. How to practice lawn bowling at home?

The best way to practice lawn bowling at home is to keep your position consistent on the mat. Pivot slightly as you orient your feet towards the jack. 

Keep your shoulders square to the line you are aiming for. Visualize the bowl’s journey. There are several shots and tactics you can employ in the game. Practice makes perfect!

  1. Do all lawn bowls have the same bias?

No. Lawns bowls all have a different bias, meaning they will be heavier on that side and curve in that direction.

Conclusion

Lawn bowling is a fun team sport that you can play indoors or outdoors. The game has been around since the 12th Century.

Its objective is to get players to bowl their bowls close to a white/yellow-colored bowl called the jack or kitty. The team with the most shots closest to the jack compared to the opponent wins the game.

The best lawn bowling sets come from Drake’s Pride, Aero Quantum, and Taylor Ace. We hope this brief guide helps you get started with lawn bowling.

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