“Although these are the most common formats, variations are allowed by the controlling bodies.”

Free coaching is always available for individual or group sessions.

In addition, players might find something of use as they seek to improve their game, from the advice and guidance offered below:

Getting Started

The Basics

For Beginners: How Bowls is played
The following introduction covers the basic aspects of the game, as normally played in the UK. It is not intended to be a complete definition of the game or the rules.)

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.

Matches may be mixed or single-sex. Bowls is a game in which male and female of all ages can play on virtually equal terms

Players deliver their bowls (sometimes called “woods”) 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 (curving in towards the jack from the right) or backhand (curving in from the left).

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 first, or lead, places the mat, delivers the jack and centres it before attempting to bowl as close as possible to the jack.

The second or two keeps the score card and scoreboard up to date. The two will normally be required to improve or consolidate the position achieved by the lead.

The third or three may be called upon to play different types of shots in order to score more, or to place bowls tactically to protect an advantage. The three also advises the skip on choice of shots, and agrees the number of shots scored, measuring if required.

The skip is in overall charge of the rink, directs the other players on choice of shots, and tries to build the ‘head’ of bowls to his or her advantage.

The normal game formats are as follows:
In Fours or Rinks play, the leadtwothree and skip each deliver two bowls for 21 ends.
In Singles, the two opponents deliver four bowls alternately. The first to reach 21 shots is the winner.
For Pairs, the players deliver four bowls each. The team scoring the most shots after 21 ends is the winner.
In the Triples game, the leadsecond, and skip deliver three bowls each, for 18 ends.

Although these are the most common formats, variations are allowed by the controlling bodies.

For example, Aussie Pairs has an unusual format as follows:

On the first end the lead bowler deliveries two (2) of his/her four (4) bowls. This is then followed by the skip bowling all four (4) of his/her bowls. Finally the lead then bowls the remaining two (2) Bowls completing the end.
On the second end, the order of play is reversed. The skip now plays the lead position and bowls two (2) of his/her four (4) bowls. The lead player, who has now moved to being the Skip, bowls his/her four (4) bowls. Finally the skip, who is still playing as the LEAD on this end, bowls his/her remaining two (2) bowls.

The format of reversing the playing positions is then continued throughout the game for 21 ends.


Each end, after all woods have been delivered into the head (above), all woods belonging to one player or team that lie closest to the jack are counted as shots. In this illustration, two blue woods lie closet to the jack. A red wood lies a close third. The blue player/team therefore adds two shots to the cumulative score. Red scores nothing. In case of doubt, a measure can be used to determine the outcome.

Get In Touch

If you would be interested in finding out more about how your business can become a Club Patron, please contact Club Development Director, Colin Grimes, via email; systonbowling@btinternet.com or visit our contact page.