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A beginner’s guide to lawn bowls

By Helen Pentith  //  Wed 27th August 2014

If you were watching the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, no doubt your eye would have been drawn a number of the less glamorous sports that we never usually manage to see on the small screen. Athletics may have Usain Bolt and diving may have Tom Daley, but in a multi-sport event like the Commonwealth Games, half the fun is sitting down to watch sports that you’ve never seen before – certainly not at the highest level, anyway. One of the 18 sports at the Glasgow games was lawn bowls – not your usual Saturday afternoon viewing, we think you’d agree. Here at Escrick Park, we manage the Hollicarrs – a group of holiday lodges in Yorkshire. The five-star holiday park features many amenities and facilities including (you guessed it!) our very own bowling green.  Of course, our bowling green is available for use by experts and beginners alike, but it can’t hurt for you to brush up on some of the rules of lawn bowls before you visit…

The basics

The aim of the game is to get your bowls as close to the jack as possible. The jack is a small ball that is rolled across the bowling green prior to the start of the game and moved across to the centre of the surface.

How matches unfold

Players take it in turns to ‘deliver’ the bowls. Each of these deliveries may be called a shot. Once all the bowls have been played, the end ‘ends’ and the match resumes from the opposite end of the green. Typically, in singles and pairs, players receive four shots per end. This falls to three in triples, and two in fours. These numbers may vary depending on the competition.

At the conclusion of each end, points are added up. Usually, teams are awarded a point for each of their bowls that is closer to the jack than any of the opponents’ bowls. Only one team can score each end. That means that in most ends only 1 or 2 points will be awarded. In most cases matches are 21 ends long, and the team or individual with the highest number of points wins. Alternatively, the winner may be the first to a predetermined number of points (usually 21).

The lawn bowls glossary

Given that the sport is over 800 years old, it’s no surprise that there’s a fair amount of jargon associated with it. Here are a few of the terms that you might come across during a game of bowls... Bias. All bowls travel on a slightly curved path, meaning that great skill is required in order for a shot to reach the jack. The term ‘bias’ refers to the amount of curve that the bowl has.
Draw. A draw shot is where the player aims to deliver the bowl to a certain location, either close to the jack or at another tactical position without dislodging other bowls.
Drive. A forceful shot with the main aim of dislodging the jack or a bowl.
Guard. A bowl played that blocks the opponent from reaching the jack (or another bowl).
Toucher. A bowl that touches the jack and finishes within the boundaries of the playing area. It still counts towards points even if it falls into the ditch. Touchers are marked with chalk.
Yard on. A shot played with some force that is intended to carry it a yard or so past the target, to draw the jack away from the opponent’s bowls.

That’s all you need to get started – if you’re staying in one of our Hollicarrs Yorkshire holiday lodges, we’ll see you on the bowling green!

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