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Lawn Bowling - An Introduction

Lawn bowling is an easy to learn, low cost, and pleasantly social game that can be enjoyed by men and women of all ages, skill levels and physical abilities. While the basics can be learned (see below and related Learning Center pages) in a few hours, serious competitive bowlers spend years developing their skills and refining strategies.  Playing bowls can improve your physical and mental fitness through improved balance, coordination, and psychological well-being. So, if you are looking for some wonderful exercise in a friendly social setting in New York's beautiful Central Park, you should definitely give lawn bowling a try.  To learn more about the "Sport for a Lifetime" discover some of the basics below.


There are two teams in every game. Teams can be composed of from one to four players, depending on the game's format. The order in which the members of a team bowl is predetermined, and depends on the game's format and number of players on each team. For a singles game (one player per side) opposing players alternate turns. In Pairs (two players per side) Leads are the first to bowl and Skips the last. In Triples (three players per side), the second bowler is called the Vice and in Rinks (four players per side), the third bowler is called the Vice.  Skips are usually the most experienced players on a team. For more details, see Player Roles in Lawn Bowls.


In a singles match, the game ends when one of the players reaches an agreed upon point total.  In pairs, triples and rinks, the  game consists of a certain number of ends, usually between 10 and 14, but it can be as many as 21 or more.  An end starts with the rolling and setting of a small ball (the 'Jack') and finishes once all the players' bowls have been rolled toward the jack. The jack must travel 21 meters or more to be legal, The Skip then centers the jack so that it rests on the center line of the rink, still at the same distance as it was rolled. This is now the bowlers' target.  The end is over when all bowls have been delivered. The end can also be finished if the jack is pushed out of bounds into another rink or side ditch, in which case no points are scored. Ends are played from alternating ends of the rink so the bowls remain on the same end of the rink from the finish of one end to the start of the next.


Called "Delivering a Bowl", bowling proceeds in alternating turns, with the precise order determined by the format (e.g. singles, pairs, etc.) of game being played. When delivering a bowl, one foot must remain on or above the mat, and the bowl must travel at least 14 meters from the mat's front to remain alive (i.e. in the game).  


With the Skips delivering their final bowls in an end, the end is completed.  The team with the bowl closest to the jack receives as many points as they have bowls closer to the jack than any of the opposing team's bowls, with the opposing team receiving no points for that end.  The Skip or Vice (for triples or rinks) records the score, and the Lead of the losing team rakes the bowls to prepare them for the next end. If the relative distances to the jack of two or more bowls from opposing teams cannot be determined by sight, the distances must be measured.

Touchers and the Ditch

A bowl in its original course coming in contact with the jack is a live bowl and termed a "Toucher" and is usually marked with chalk in an "X".  Bowls not having come in contact with the jack and remaining in the rink are termed "Non-Touchers". 


A small ditch is positioned at the end of each rink or bowling lane.  Bowls entering the ditch are deemed out of bounds and are out of the end for scoring purposes unless they are Touchers in which case they remain alive and available for scoring for the end.

New York Lawn Bowling Club Waterford Pairs
Lawn Bowling Proper Form
New York Lawn Bowling Club Skip
Lawn Bowling Ditch and Touchers
Lawn Bowling Scoring
Lawn Bowling Scoring and Measuring
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