THE OBJECTIVE OF THE GAME The object of the game is to deliver bowls closer to the jack (the small white ball) than your opponent to earn the right to score points. The player or team with the closest bowl to the jack earns one point, or "shot," for each bowl closer to the jack than the nearest opponent bowl.
GAME FORMATS There are three game formats:
SHOTS – In this format, a game point is predetermined. For example, it might be 15 or 21 points. As scoring bowls are called "shots," the first player to attain 15 or 21 shots is the winner of the game.
ENDS – In this format, a game is comprised of a predetermined number of ends, ranging from 12 to 21. The team with the most points after playing the predetermined number of ends is the winner of the game.
TIME – In this format, a game is played for a predetermined period of time. The team with the most points at the end of this time period is the winner of the game.
SINGLES, TEAMS AND SIDES Bowls is played between opponents in various arrangements, including Singles, Teams and Sides.
SINGLES – This is a game between two players, each playing two, three or four bowls singly and alternately.
TEAMS – Teams may be comprised of two, three or four players.
Pairs – This is a game between two teams comprised of two players each playing four bowls, played alternately.
Triples – This is a game between two teams comprised of three players each with each player playing three bowls, played alternately.
Fours – This is a game between two teams comprised of four players each: Lead, Second, Third and Skip. Each player plays two bowls, played alternately.
SIDES – This is a match between any agreed number of teams and/or singles players, whose combined scores determine the results of the match.
THE PLAYING SURFACE
THE GREEN - The green is the rectangular playing surface bounded by a ditch and divided into playing areas called rinks.
THE RINK - A rink is comprised of several features.
THE DITCHES – A rink is terminated at each end by a ditch. Both ditches are within the boundaries of the rink. A bowl falling into the front ditch is considered "dead" unless it first touches the jack before falling into the ditch — in which case it's called a "toucher" and remains in play.
THE BANK – A defined area beyond the ditch is called the bank. The face of the bank rises higher than the level of the green and facilitates markers that indicate the centre and side lines of each rink.
THE SIDE LINES – Side lines are not marked on the rink, but are indicated by markers on the face of the bank. Bowls that travel beyond the sideline but curve back in are still in play.
THE MAT – The mat is placed on the center line of the rink by the lead bowler of each end. One foot of all bowlers must be on the mat when delivering the bowl or jack. A second mat is used at the other end of the rink for the return end.
The jack, the small white ball, is delivered first, to establish the target.
A coin is flipped to determine which player/team delivers the jack to start the game. The winner of the previous end delivers the jack to start the next end.
Once in play, the jack may be knocked by a bowl to a new position.
DELIVERING THE JACK
First the jack must be properly delivered.
Then it must be centred at that distance.
If it's a long delivery — within 2m of the front ditch — the jack must be spotted on the centre line at a point 2m from the ditch.
IMPROPER DELIVERY OF THE JACK If the jack is not properly delivered it must be returned and given to the opposing team to deliver. Following are examples of a jack improperly delivered:
When the jack is delivered less than 21m from the mat
When the jack is delivered too long and falls into the front ditch
When the jack is delivered outside the side boundary of the rink
If both teams fail to deliver the jack properly, it's spotted on the centre line at a point 2m from the front ditch. Regardless of who delivers the jack, the winner of the previous end remains the lead bowler.
THE BOWLS Bowls are available in a choice of sizes and weights. The interesting feature about bowls is that they are not exactly symmetrical — one side is more rounded than the other, causing the bowl to curve to one side as it slows down. This is referred to as the "bias" of the bowl and it varies from bowl to bowl
PLAYING THE GAME First of all, let's deliver the jack to give us a target and then the jack must be centred at that distance. Our object now is to deliver the bowl as close to the jack as possible. But if you aim directly at the jack the bowl will curve out to the side. To allow for the curve, the bowl must be delivered to the outside so it curves in and approaches the jack from either the left or the right. The bowler decides if a right or left approach is more desirable. The curving bowl affords endless possibilities and strategies.
SCORING At the completion of an end, only the player/team with the closest bowl to the jack is entitled to score points — one point for each bowl closer to the jack than the nearest opponent bowl. Sometimes it's difficult to eyeball which of two bowls is closer to the jack. For this reason, players usually carry a measuring device devised for this purpose, but bowls can't be measured until the end is completed.