The Game

Like many games, the object of Bowls is essentially simple. It can be played by almost anyone, but to play consistently well demands determination, concentration and practice. The game of Bowls is played on a 34 to 40 metre square of closely cut grass called the green. The green is divided into playing areas called rinks.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.

Players deliver their bowls alternately from a mat at one end of the rink, towards a small white ball called the jack at the other end. The bowls are shaped so that they do not run in a straight line, but take a curved path towards the jack. To be successful the bowl must be delivered with the correct weight, along the correct line. The bowl can be delivered either forehand or backhand. The object is to get one or more bowls closer to the jack than those of the opposition – one point is scored for each counting bowl. After playing all the bowls in one direction, and agreeing the score, the direction of play is reversed – the next end is played back down the rink in the opposite direction.

Bowls can be played as singles, or in teams of pairs, triples, or fours (a team of four is also known as a ‘rink’). In fours or rinks games, each team member has a particular role to play:

The normal game formats are as follows:

Although these are the most common formats, variations are allowed by the controlling bodies. Matches may be mixed or single-sex.


The English Bowls Coaching Scheme website contains news for coaches and pupils. If you have a query, want to buy merchandise or communicate direct, it can all be achieved on this site.

Having said that, it doesn't matter whether you are new to bowls, or an experienced bowler, there is always room for improvement in both technique and knowledge of the game. Cobham Bowls Club has qualified County Coaches and Markers and any member who would like help or advice on their game, should contact one of them. For those of you that are new to bowls i.e. a beginner, you will find the following of interest. For the rest of us who claim to know it all and never deliver a bad bowl, read on. Listed below are a number of common problem areas with suggested actions that can be taken to try and resolve them.

Jack Delivery

It is surprising how many bowlers do not deliver the jack in a consistent and accurate manner. The jack is clearly much smaller than a bowl and requires a completely different technique to that of delivering a bowl. All too often the Lead will just stand on the mat and deliver the Jack without too much thought to accuracy. Remember, the player who is in control of the mat can quite often determine the outcome of the game. So when you cast the Jack, stand square on the mat facing directly up the Green, remain still and deliver it in a smooth manner. Remember, give it the same attention as you do when delivering your bowls - CONCENTRATE.

Too much Weight

If you are bowling through the head, you will need to slow down your delivery. Maybe you are swinging your arm back too far and bringing it forward too quickly. If the latter is true and you are bringing your arm forward too quickly, you will find that your bowl will travel up the Green faster than you want.   Another point to consider is that you should try and remain reasonably still on the mat when you start to release the bowl; any forward movement at this point will tend to make you deliver the bowl with too much pace - CONCENTRATE.

Insufficient Weight

The opposite of the above. Speeding up your arm while remaining still on the mat should give you that extra length. Keep practising until you have made the adjustment - CONCENTRATE.

Insufficient or too much Green

Well we all do it from time to time. What's that you hear 'Take the Green'.

In order to overcome this problem it is imperative that you ensure your body is well balanced and pointing along the line that you intend to bowl. It is ok to glance at the Jack, but make sure that at the instant of delivery you are looking at the break point on the Green i.e. the shoulder of the Green where the bias of the bowl starts to take effect.. When you deliver the bowl and follow through, your action should be smooth, relaxed  and controlled. Try and keep your arm straight and avoid pulling it across your body or out to the side at the last moment. These suggestions should help you increase your percentage of effective bowls - CONCENTRATE

What will I need?

If you decide to start playing bowls, you will need some clothing to begin with:

For friendly games, you will need white clothing – white trousers or skirt, white shirt or blouse, a Club tie, and other white clothing as required, depending on the weather! For certain other games, grey trousers or skirts may be required.

You will also need to wear special flat-soled bowling shoes. Although slipovers are available for beginner sessions, it would be wise to borrow or purchase a proper pair of bowls shoes.

It’s probably not a good idea to purchase your own set of bowls immediately. The Club has plenty of differently-sized bowls for beginners to use, and it is wise to experiment to find the most suitable size. When you’re ready to buy your own woods, you may find suitable sets for sale second hand, either privately or in some bowls shops; or you can buy a new set for around £130 to £180.

Bowls come in matched sets of four. Various sizes, weights (and colours) are available, within certain limits. Each wood is shaped (not weighted) to make it follow a curved path. This is called the bias – and again the amount of bias must be within certain limits. Most bowlers will be happy to advise you on choice of bowls, but as personal preference plays a large part, expect some conflicting recommendations!


The rules of the game are defined in full in the official ‘Laws of the Sport’ booklet. All bowlers should familiarise themselves with these rules as soon as possible.

In addition to the rules, a certain amount of ‘etiquette’ is normally followed, in order to make the game as enjoyable as possible for everyone. Some guidelines are offered here – they should be noted by beginners and experienced bowlers alike.

For Bowlers and Spectators

Before the Game

During the Game

After the Game

A knowledge of the above will make you a better respected bowler, and will contribute towards the enjoyment of the game for everyone involved, both on and off the green.