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    Bowls - Beginner's Guide

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    Beginner's Guide To Bowls


    Beginner's Guide To Bowls


    Aim of the Game

    The aim of the game is simple. Get your bowls as close as possible to the 'jack'. It sounds easy, but the fact the bowls do not travel in a straight line, seriously adds to the tactical challenge.

    Bowls can be played indoors or outdoors. But the rules are the same. And in the words of an experienced bowler ‘It’s an easy game to play, but a hard game to play well’.


    How the Match Unfolds

    The action takes place on a standard bowling green. The bowling green is a flat square, 34-40m long. The Green is divided into six playing areas called rinks.

    The Bowling Green is bordered at each end by a ditch. If your bowl ends up here it could go dead.

    After a coin toss, the first bowler or the lead, places the bowling mat and rolls the jack, a small 6.5cm diameter ball, to the other end of the Green as the target.

    The jack, normally white or yellow in colour, must travel at least 23m. And when it comes to rest, it is moved across to the centre of the rink.

    Players then take turns to bowl. First time bowlers are surprised by the distance their bowls must travel. It takes time to get your eye in.

    One of your feet must stay on the mat when releasing the bowl. And you try for a smooth release and to avoid the cardinal sin of a bouncing bowl.

    When all the bowls are played, a competitor or team gets one point for each of their bowls that is closer to the jack than the opponent's closest bowl.

    The direction of play is reversed. This is the end of an end.

    Bowls can be played in singles, pairs, triples and four player teams.

    Each player has four bowls per end in singles and pairs competitions, three in triples, and two in fours.

    The team captain, or 'skipper', always plays last and is instrumental in directing the team's shots and tactics.


    How The Scoring Works

    Scoring systems vary for different competitions.

    It is usually the first player or team to reach 21 points, or the highest scorer after 18 or 21 ends.

    Another system used is "set play". For example, the first to reach seven points is awarded a set, with the match played best-of-five sets. 


    Types Of Delivery

    Bowls are normally made of a hard plastic composite material. They weigh between 1.25 and 1.60 kgs. Bowls are 12 – 13 cms in diameter and are not quite round. They are shaved on one side which gives them their bias.

    As the bowl slows, it begins to roll in the direction of the bias. The bias is known to frustrate and mesmerize your average beginner in equal measure.

    Bowlers change the side of the bias, depending on the direction in which they want the bowl to curve – left or right.

    As any professional will tell you ‘Bowls is a game of correction. It's all about your touch and feel. You have to consider all the variables - speed, direction and the bowls set-up.’

    You then apply all the changes in your next shot.

    Bowl too fast and the bowl won't curve.

    Too slow and the bend can take you off course.

    The challenge of all shots is to be able to adjust line and length accordingly.

    The faster your delivery, the smaller the curve.

    A key feature to improve your bowling is your grip. "A firm but gentle cradling" is the required action.

    Make sure your feet are pointing in the direction of my bowl.

    Plus, place a hand on your thigh to help your balance and a steady step forward before a smooth delivery.

    The aim is to Just let the bowl do the work for you.

    It’s a mental game as well "It's important to stay calm in the heat of the competition."


    Draw shot: This allows the bowler to roll the bowl to a specific location without disturbing the other bowls too much.

    For a right-handed bowler, 'forehand draw' is initially aimed to the right of the jack, and curves in to the left.

    The same bowler can deliver a 'backhand draw' by turning the bowl over in the hand and curving it the opposite way, from left to right. In both cases, the bowl is usually rolled as close to the jack as possible.


    The drive: Involves bowling with considerable force with the aim of knocking either the jack or a specific bowl out of play. There is very little curve on this shot.


    Upshot or yard on: Involves delivering the bowl with enough power to move the jack or disturb other bowls, but without killing the end.


    Ditch Rules

    Bowls reaching the ditch at the back of the Green are removed from play.

    However, if the bowl touches the jack before landing in the ditch they remain 'alive' and in play.

    If the jack is knocked into the ditch it remains 'alive' unless it is out of bounds to the side of the rink.

    This is called a 'dead' end and is replayed.



    There can be a large number of bowls on the green towards the conclusion of an end - particularly in team games - and this gives rise to some complex tactics.

    For example, the team with the closest bowl will probably decide not to aim for being close to the jack. It is probably in their interest to opt for a more blocking shot by setting their bowls up to make it difficult for opponents to get their bowls in towards the jack.

    This area is called 'the head'.

    Or players try to get their bowls in places where the jack might be deflected to if the opponent attempts to disturb the head.


    Want to Get Involved?

    There are thousands of bowling clubs across the UK, where you can learn the basics or play in leagues on a more serious level.

    It's a game you can enjoy at any age, and with no experience - all clubs will encourage anyone wanting to learn or develop their skills.

    So, cast aside all thoughts of purple rinses, comfortable slip-on shoes and polite applause on village greens.

    You can also can play all year round - indoor bowls in the winter and out on the greens in the summer.

    And thanks to TV, the nation has regular access to major championships.

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