The sport of English lawn bowls has been around for centuries and is played in more than 40 countries today. Lawn bowling is an easy-to-learn, low cost, and pleasantly social game that can be enjoyed by men and women of all ages and all skill levels. While the basics can be learned in a couple of hours, serious competitive bowlers can spend years developing and refining their skills.
Health professionals often recommend playing bowls because it improves physical and mental fitness through improved balance, coordination, and psychological well-being. So if you are looking for a new recreational activity that will get you outdoors and give you some low-impact exercise in a friendly social setting, you should definitely give lawn bowling a chance.
The game is played outdoors on a carefully maintained grass bowling green that can be divided into 6-8 parallel lanes or “rinks,” so that multiple games can be played at the same time. In our mild climate, lawn bowling can be enjoyed as a year-round recreational activity, except when it is actively raining, since special drainage allows the green to be playable within a few hours of a typical rain.
The bowls are slightly asymmetrical (or “biased”), which allows them to follow a gently curved path when rolled across the green toward a smaller target ball called the “jack.” The bowls come in a variety of sizes and weights to accommodate different size hands, but are roughly 4.5 to 5 inches in diameter and weigh between 2.75 and 3.5 pounds apiece. The goal is to have your bowls finish as close as possible to the jack, and the team that places one or more of its bowls closer to the jack than the closest opposition bowl wins a corresponding number of points for that round or “end.” The teams then reverse directions and bowl back toward their original starting point, with the typical game consisting of 10-14 ends.
WARNING: Lawn bowling can become addictive to those who are exposed to it!
If you would like a good visual summary of the game and some of the specialized terminology used to describe it, download this one-page handout.