Lawn Bowling has a rich history that dates back to at least the 13th century. The oldest surviving bowling green is Southampton Old Bowling Green, located in Southampton, England. In use since 1299, it still houses a club that originated in the 17th century!
Lawn Bowling in America
It is believed that lawn bowling was introduced into the American colonies in the 1600s! There are recordings of bowling greens in Boston in 1615, and they have also been found in New Amsterdam (modern-day New York), Washington, and Virginia. It's also possible that a similar game was played by North American Indians centuries before this as evidenced by biased stone bowls that were discovered by archaeologists. These bowls can be viewed in a museum in Vancouver, B.C. So the next time you go camping, try your hand at the fun sport of Lawn Bowling or pull up a chair and enjoy being a spectator.
The Bowling Green
Lawn bowling is played on a Bowling Green, which is a flat, even surface generally made of grass. However in some of the hotter, drier countries, artificial surfaces are used. Lawn bowling is also played on indoor bowling greens made of artificial, carpet-like surfaces in places of the world where it's too cold to play outside most of the year, such as in the UK and Canada. The Scottish Bowling Association rules say that the Bowling Green should be at least 34 meters but no more than 40 meters in the direction of play. A bank surrounds the ditch, and needs to be at least 230 mm above the surface of the green. Yes, they really do get that specific.
The green is then divided into six parallel "rinks", which allows for up to six games to be played simultaneously. Each rink is between 5.5 and 5.8 meters wide. Rink perimeters are marked off by boundary markers, and the rink center is indicated by a "pin" which also signals a number for the rink (1 through 6). Players work to get your bowls from one end of the rink to the other during a round or "end", and when the end is complete, they turn around and play in the opposite direction.
Lawn Bowls come in a few different sizes. A medium-sized men's bowl is generally about the same diameter as a softball, and is made of a very hard plastic material for durability, as it takes some abuse during games. Today, bowls are made in any color imaginable, but they were only manufactured in black and brown until 2011.
Objective of the Game
Standing on a rubber mat, players deliver (or roll) their bowls up the green in turn trying get it closest to a smaller white ball called the jack. Players earn one point, or "shot," for each bowl closer to the jack than the nearest opponent bowl.
There are three game formats: Shots–A game point is predetermined. For Singles it's 21 points. As scoring bowls are called "shots," the first player to attain 21 shots is the winner. Ends–A game is comprised of a predetermined number of ends, ranging from 15 to 21. The team with the most points after playing the predetermined number of ends is the winner. Time–The game is played for a predetermined amount of time. The team with the most points at the end of the game is the winner.
Singles, Teams, and Sides
Lawn bowling can be played by Singles, Teams, or Sides. Singles–Two opposing players play two, three, or four bowls singly and alternately. The first player to earn 21 points is the winner. Teams–Teams can be made up of two, three, or four players. Pairs–There are two teams with two players each. A Pair wins when it reaches 21 ends, four bowls per player, played alternately. Triples–There are two teams with three players each. A Triples game is 18 ends, three bowls per player, played alternately. Fours–There are two teams comprised of four players each: Lead, Second, Third, and Skip. A Fours game is 21 ends, two bowls per player, played alternately. Sides–Any number of teams and/or singles players can play. Their combined scores determine the results of the match.
Lawn Bowls Tactics
Lawn bowling is a game of intense strategy and tactics. Rather than simply rushing to put the bowl near the jack, players need to be constantly anticipating their opponents' next move or shot. For example, when a team has a few bowls behind the head (behind the jack), the opposing team should probably try to get their bowl situated right in the middle of them to prevent the jack being moved.
Types of Shots in Bowling
There are basically four different types of shots in Lawn Bowling.
The Drawing Shot is the most common shot, yet requires the most skill. The player attempts to play with the exact weight required to finish closest to the jack or to a predetermined location on the green.
The Yard On
The Yard On shot is when the player plays his bowl with the weight that will carry it a yard or two beyond the target. The objective of this shot is usually to move the jack away from the opponent's bowls towards your own, or to push a bowl out of the "head" and take its place.
The Running Shot or Ditch Length Shot
The Running Shot uses more weight than the Yard On. The idea is to remove opponents' bowls from the head, to move the jack to the ditch, or various other tactics. This can be a difficult shot to play as the line required to get to the target changes with different weight.
The Drive is probably the most spectacular shot–the crowd pleaser. A Drive is when the player delivers the bowl and strikes the head or the target with full force. The object of this shot can be to completely remove opponents' bowls from the head or from the rink or to drive the jack into the ditch. It is also commonly used when a player has a few shots against him.
What do you think? Have you ever tried lawn bowling? Give it a "shot" (see what we did there?), and let us know how it went!