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Lawn Bowls Etiquette

Lawn bowls remains one of the few sports where common courtesy and etiquette is still prevalent. We should be proud of this and in order to make the game as enjoyable as possible bowling green etiquette should be promoted to members old and new. Much of this is common sense but here are some of the main rules of etiquette.

Dress appropriately and ensure that you know the dress code for each game or match in which you are participating.

Do not show disrespect for your opponent(s) by arriving late. Ensure that you leave sufficient time to change before the game.

If you are representing the club on another green you should remember that you are an ambassador for your club. Behave appropriately.

Do not walk across rinks that other people are using.

Introduce yourself and shake hands with your opponent(s) both before play commences and after the game is complete.

During the game do not move around the head when your opponent is about to deliver his bowl. Stand well back from the head, keep quiet and do not do anything that would distract your opponent. Wait until the bowl has been delivered before moving.

If you are at the same end as the player delivering a bowl you must stand behind the mat thus staying out of the player’s line of vision; 

"Players of each team not in the act of playing or controlling play shall stand behind the Jack and away from the head or 1m behind the mat."

Bear in mind that some people like to see the rink boundary markers and the centre pin while playing so make sure that you are not obscuring them. On sunny days you must also ensure that your shadow does not fall on the jack.

Spectators who are in the player’s line of vision should also keep still while bowls are being delivered and they should not distract players on the green. For example if you need to arrange a tie with another member don’t try to do this while he is playing someone else!

Look after the green! Don’t drop your bowls onto the green and ensure that your delivery is not causing scuff marks or otherwise damaging the green.

Observe the rules for possession of the rink

"Possession of the rink shall belong to the team whose bowl is being played. The players in possession of the rink for the time being shall not be interfered with, annoyed, or have their attention distracted in any way by their opponents.

As soon as each bowl shall have come to rest, possession of the rink shall be transferred to the other team, time being allowed for marking a ’toucher’.
After you have delivered a bowl and before it has come to rest you have two options. If you want to track your bowls progress you must be behind the head as it stops. In other words you must beat it to the head. If you don’t go to the head you must be behind the mat as your bowl stops. This ruling is quite clear but unfortunately many players, including many of those who should know better, show disrespect for their opponents by failing to observe it.

How many times have you been on the mat ready to play your bowl, when you have had to wait for your opponent to complete his stroll up the green or back to the mat? If your opponent is guilty of this you should ask them to stop. Remember that it is they who are in the wrong.

Hints for beginners

1. Players should use the steps where provided when going on or off the Green.

2. Bowls should not be dropped on the Green.

3. Do not stand on the verges.

4. Matches, cigarette ends, etc., should be placed in the litter-baskets and not in the Ditches. Smoking/Vaping on the green is not allowed in many clubs including our own.

5. Bowls should not be kicked in until the shot has been decided.

6. After delivering a bowl, a player should either retire behind the mat or advance to the head. The player should not take up a position in between.

7. Don’t delay the game.

8. Don’t wander around or move about the head when a player is about to deliver a bowl.

9. Bowling is a friendly game and all players should show courtesy and good sportsmanship.

10. All bowlers should know the rules as laid down by the World Bowls Board. A copy of this is held in the club house.

11. Mobile phones should not be used on or around the green.

After the game you should once again shake hands with your opponent(s) and congratulate/commiserate with them appropriately.

It is also customary to offer to buy them a drink if you have won the game. Where a marker has been involved in a singles game you should also offer them a drink.

In other club matches regardless of the result it is expected that, as the host club, you should offer to buy your opponent a drink after the game.

Knowledge of the above will make you a more respected bowler, keep things friendly and contribute towards the enjoyment of the game for everyone involved, both on and off the green.

Players’ roles in team games

In all team games it is the skip’s job to direct the play. Other players should play the shot directed by the skip even if they don’t agree with it. In fours’ games the ’three’ should direct the skip when required to do so. In Triples or Pairs the Second or Lead may do this. Other players should not interfere unless invited to do so.

The Skip

The Skip shall have sole charge of their team, and their instructions shall be observed by his/her players. With the opposing Skip he shall decide all disputed points, and when both agree, their decision shall be final. If both Skips cannot agree, the point in dispute shall be referred to, and considered by, an Umpire whose decision shall be final.

A Skip may at any time delegate any of their duties to other members of their team provided that such delegation is notified to the opposing Skip.

The Lead

The Lead shall place the mat ensuring that it is centred and straight. The Lead shall then deliver the Jack ensuring it is also properly centred before playing their first bowl. It is also the leads responsibility, once shot(s) have been declared and the jack has passed to their opposite number, to gather the woods and place them behind and to one side of the mat ready to go again.  

The Second

In a rinks match it is usual for the two to record the scores. It may be that the Skip decides to score themselves.

The Three

The number three may have deputed to them the duty of measuring any and all disputed shots.

In addition to the duties specified in the preceding clauses any player may undertake such duties as may be assigned to him by the skip. It is also worth emphasising that the head must not be disturbed by any player until the shots have been finally agreed. When the Thirds or Skips are deciding the shots the other player should stand well back from the head and give them the space to do so.

During the game encourage your team mates, do not criticize them. Commend good shots and learn to accept that flukes are a part of the game. Sometimes they go for you, sometimes against.

Etiquette for Markers of Bowling matches

Consider making yourself available as a marker whenever you can. We all know that there is nothing worse than playing an important tie without a marker.  It is not good etiquette to watch games from the side lines or from the clubhouse while there are people playing without markers. If you have the time, get out there and mark. A marker is serving two people. If we all marked one tie for every two we played there would not be a problem.

If you are marking a tie please refer to the Marker Code of Conduct on this website or on the Club noticeboard.