The Basics of Lawn Bowls

The object of the sport of bowls is essentially simple, but the fact that the bowls do not travel in a straight line seriously adds to the tactical challenge. It is played on a square of closely cut grass called 'the green', which is divided into playing areas called rinks.

The green at the Alexandra Bowls club is the traditional square and contains six rinks as illustrated in the image below.  As the green is an exact square the six rinks are rotated 90 degrees frequently during the entire season.  This not only allows the green more time to recover between matches but also adds an additional dimension and challenge to each game as the draw line changes on each rink when played East - West or North - South.

The green is surrounded by a small ditch to catch bowls which leave the green, and a bank upon which markers indicate the corners and centrelines of each rink.

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Players take turns to deliver their bowls from a mat at one end of the rink towards a small white ball, often referred to as 'the jack' at the other end. Bowls are shaped so that they take a curved path towards the jack. To be successful the bowl must be delivered with the correct weight, along the correct line.

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The object is to get one or more of your bowls closer to the jack than those of your opponents on each end - one point is scored for each counting bowl.

There are many different formats to the game, but the most common in England are singles or in teams of pairs, triples or fours. In singles, the winner is the first to score 21 points. In the other three formats, the winner is the team that scores the most points over a set number of ends.

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The sport of lawn bowls has a long and noble tradition. Sir Francis Drake was playing it on Plymouth Ho when the Spanish Armada was spotted approaching the English coast. Edward III banned it as it distracted his archers from practising their deadly skills. The oldest continuously-used bowling green in the world, Southampton Old Bowling Green, has been in use since 1299.

Francis Drake.jpg

A sport with such history has many rules. These are largely unwritten, are seen as a matter of etiquette, and every new or potential bowler should be aware of them.

Dress Code

Many younger bowlers are upset by the rigidness of the dress code, especially in competitive bowls. However, in recent years even this has been relaxed slightly in recognition of the younger players taking up the sport.


Footwear - Whether in competitive or casual play this is the one item of dress that has to be adhered to. Bowling shoes have to be flat-soled with no heel or ridges. The reason for this is so that the green (outdoor) or carpet (indoor) does not get ripped up or torn. These shoes can be brown, black, grey or white. Brown is the most traditional colour, but white is rapidly becoming the favourite of the younger generation.


Trousers and Skirts - Most bowlers will possess two of these for competitive play, the reason being that different competitions do have different regulations and sometimes these change at the latter stages of competition. These two pairs will be in grey and white. Most outdoor leagues insist on the wearing of whites at all times, but a lot of other competitions allow you to wear greys, although some, when you get to latter stages, insist on you wearing white. In recent years, the rules for women were relaxed from a strict skirt style to a modest skirt or trousers; the same colour rules apply.

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Shirts and Jumpers etc. - At all times in competitive play these used to be  white and in most competitions still are. However, Alexandra Bowls Club have introduced a club shirt in the team colours for most events, but occasionally a plain white shirt must still be worn. The white shirt can either be a formal shirt or a collared polo shirt. Jumpers can also be worn, especially on those cooler summer days and must also be plain white.


Wet Gear and Head Gear - These come in a variety of styles but must at all times be white.

Membership of our Club is open to all regardless of ages, gender, nationality, ethnicity, religion or other beliefs, or disability (subject to the requirements of the game of bowls).

If you would like to "have a go", just turn up on a Monday or Tuesday morning, during the Summer Season, just before 10 o'clock when our members are having a "roll-up".

Contact us for more information and we will help you in any way we can.