Lawn Bowls for the Uninitiated

Tic Tac man? No, it's just the Skip communicating with his team. He or she will use various signals to let the team know the situation at his end of the rink and to give instructions on what needs to be done to win the shots. This can appear intriguing and incomprehensible to the outsider!

To win a game of bowls the team has to work as a unit and each player has a particular role. A team game can be pairs, triples or fours with the latter being a very common form where each player has 2 bowls to play with. The Skip is in charge and stands at the opposite end of the rink to the rest of the team. First to play is the Lead whose job it is to deliver the small white ball (called a jack) to the length indicated by the Skip. Everyone else now has to get near this jack or place their bowls in strategic positions in order to try and ensure their side wins the points. Hopefully, the Lead is able to get her bowls close to the jack and then can step back to allow the Number 2 to play. If the Lead has got the shot (i.e. her bowl is closer to the jack than the opposition's) then the Number 2 should try to protect this and add further bowls close to it. If the Lead has been unable to get shot then the Number 2 has to have a go. This all sounds quite simple and straightforward but you need to bear in mind that the bowls do not travel in a straight line! They have a 'bias' which means they take a curved route. Different bowls have different biases and routes and although players know what their bowls are supposed to do, it doesn't always work out that way for several reasons such as if the angle of delivery is not quite right; if a gust of wind blows up or if you find yourself playing on a rough ground which isn't quite as smooth as you'd hoped for and the bowl bounces merrily along in its own direction!

It is now the turn of the Number 3, who is usually quite an experienced player - she needs to be, as by now there are 8 bowls on the rink, in various places, and usually in the way. She has to be guided by the Skip as to the best line to the jack and as to whether she has to go for the shot; protect it; knock out an opponent's bowl or place a strategic bowl for defence. Distances and angles are distorted when viewed from the other end and this is more complicated than it first appears. The Number 3 will often play with a bowl which has a wider bias than those played with by the Lead and Number 2 because of the need to get around bowls in order to arrive at the point indicated by the Skip. Finally, it is down to the Skip to consolidate any shots held or save the day by pushing through all the bowls and gaining shot. Not an easy job and it can feel like a lot of pressure when you have to try and do all the things the rest of your team may have found impossible - it can't help when so often you hear players saying "Well, leave it up to the Skip" in the assumption that one person can rectify everyone else's mistakes! Like the Number 3, a Skip needs to play with a bowl which has a wider bias in order to get around any which are in the way. However, a Skip often also has to negotiate a route through these bowls instead and so needs skill to manipulate her bowl in order to achieve this task. A Number 3 and a Skip may also be called on to 'fire' i.e. send a bowl at speed down the middle of the rink in order to knock off any shots or just open it all up.

Far from being a boring 'old fogies' game, bowls can be very exciting - try watching a match played by the Under-25's and this is particularly evident. It is also a game where gender and age makes little difference. Ladies can give the Men a good run for their money and 80 year olds can defeat 25 year olds! Compared with many sports like golf and tennis it is also relatively cheap to take part in.

You can get all the Bowls equipment you need at Worthing Bowls Centre, as a player or a club. They stock scoreboards, short mats, and mens and ladies bowling clothing.

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