The object of the game is to get as many of your bowls (or your teams bowls) nearer the little white ball (called Jack) than your opponent. The game can be played singles (one against one), pairs (or doubles), triples, or rinks (four players on each team). In each game the number of bowls varies: Singles and pairs, four for each player, triples, three per player, and rinks, two per player. There are published rules and there is a tradition of gentlemanly etiquette. Skill, Technique, and Experience separate the average player from the excellent player, but the game can be played with enjoyment with all levels of experience at the same time. A game lasts about two hours and consists of a predetermined number of "ends," or delivery of all the bowls from one side of the green to the other by all players. The green or playing field is usually close-cut grass measuring 120 feet in each direction. Seven or eight games can be played on one green at the same time. This explanation is only rudimentary and books on Rules, Tactics, and Techniques exist for the asking.
If you join a bowling club after being exposed to the game and receiving training, you will discover that good greens are a most important factor. This is what your dues are for and why you must always wear flat soled shoes so as not to abuse them. After you are committed to the sport you will probably buy your own bowls. Every set of four has a different design and there are eight sizes from which to choose. Take your time. Use club bowls for training, and discuss your needs with an authorized representative. The club owns "jacks," "rakes," and lawn mowers.
Both men and women play lawn bowls. Both are welcome and in many cases husband and wife are players. It is also a great game for singles and those who are widowed. There is a social aspect that accommodates all situations. Both old and young can bowl, and poor health or physical handicap should not prevent one from trying. Of course one is never too young to start and the best tournament players are younger.
A team consists of a Skip (or captain), a Vice (or second), and a Lead (who delivers the bowl first). It is normal for new players to start as leads and advance to other positions as skills and experience are acquired. Never forget -- a good lead can be the difference between victory and defeat in the game of bowls.
Areas of Competition
You'll find that you are your own worst enemy and the first competition is to win over falling into bad habits. Let your coach help you overcome any deviation from the proper technique. Club games, usually formed by "blind draw," are the next level of competition. To accommodate everyone there usually is a combination of doubles and triples on a typical day. Visits by other clubs in the area is another step in competition. This is usually an exchange arrangement for six or seven teams. Many clubs belong to a league for a series of games. This competition utilizes the better players of the club on a sign-up basis. Division events are staged on weekends for players who wish to compete. Usually there is a small entry fee. Two U.S. championships are held every year for those who qualify. Every four years there is a World Bowls championship hosted by a different country.
Low Annual Costs
No two clubs are alike in their annual costs, but they are alike in that the amount required for membership is very low. In some communities the city participates in the upkeep of the greens.
When you compare lawn bowling with golf and its requirement for green fees, carts, caddies, and 19th hole celebration, or with alley bowling, it is very favorable. Our sport, which is played outdoors with mild exercise and much sociability, is the kind of sport that can be interspersed with other commitments as an alternative. Bowls are a one time expense and average less than $250 for a new set. Used bowls are available for much less - $35 to $80. A good carrying case, a measuring device, and a few pieces of chalk, in addition to your clothing are the only additional requirements.
For many months the center of your bowling activities will be concentrated around your home club. You'll find its members to be good friends and very helpful in your learning period. When you realize that in the United States there are 300 other clubs like yours, the need for a national organization becomes apparent. The American Lawn Bowls Association is that organization. The majority of clubs in the country belong and pay dues on the basis of individual membership. Commonly called A.L.B.A., this organization has national officers, a council representing the six divisions, and standing committees on such matters as Umpiring, U.S. Championships, Rules, Promotion, Greens Culture, Instruction, Constitution and By-Laws, National Team, Publicity, History, and Official Photography. Periodically the A.L.B.A. issues a magazine titled "A.L.B.A. BOWLS." It documents divisional, national, and international bowling events with many photographs and covers the news of local clubs. Membership in the A.L.B.A. entitles bowlers to an annual subscription. In addition to the magazine, the national organization publishes and maintains supplies of up-to-date rules books, tactics and techniques folders and handout pamphlets such as this.
Lawn bowling is very popular in most of the British Commonwealth countries. In England, Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand there are thousands of bowling green clubs and hundreds of thousands of players. Other countries where lawn bowling is popular are Israel, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Argentina, Malawi, Guernsey, Kenya, Hong Kong, Swaziland, Botswana, Fiji, Papua, Samoa and, of course, the United States.
Most lawn bowling countries are predominately English speaking and, therefore, very easy for travelers to engage in a game when desired. Every four years top bowlers from nations throughout the world gather in a host country for a series of games to decide the world championships. Most recent of these was in Aberdeen, Scotland. Lawn bowling is governed by the same rules wherever it is played, but some of the games terminologies in foreign lands are interesting to learn.
A Benefit to Retirees
When the average worker reaches his or her retirement age there can be a void in physical activity and a gap in mental stimulation. Lawn bowling is a challenging activity to fill this void and to inject new spirit into some very useful years. Retirees who take up bowling on the green will engage in mild exercise that is beneficial to good health. It is estimated that at least one mile is walked during a game. The challenge of competition, the learning of bowling techniques and the gaining of experience are much more beneficial that watching television in a sedentary manner. Lawn Bowling is a social game where there is opportunity for idea exchange and the making of new friends. It can be the antithesis for loneliness or self pity. Although there are no statistics to back it up, you'll find that lawn bowlers think they are a happier, more well-adjusted group than those who do not participate.