Lawn bowls rules, scoring system and all you need to know about this CWG 2022 sport

The aim of lawn bowls is to roll a bowl - the bigger, curved ball - as closest as possible to the jack - a smaller ball - to earn more points than your opponent.

By Rahul Venkat
Picture by 2022 Getty Images

A sport that relies on precision and the athlete’s judgement, lawn bowls is often a thrilling watch and can generate a sense of euphoria when a target is achieved - for both the athlete and the viewer.

India made history in lawn bowls when the women’s fours team won the first gold medal at the Commonwealth Games 2022 in Birmingham.

Here’s a brief look at the rules of lawn bowls - equipment used, where it is played and how the points are scored.

Lawn Bowls venue

Lawn bowls, as the name suggests, is generally played on a rectangular area of grass - called a bowling green - which is divided into vertical segments called rinks. Each match takes place within the boundaries of a rink.

Lawn Bowls equipment

There are primarily three pieces of equipment needed to play lawn bowls - a bowl, a jack and a mat.

The jack is the target for the lawn bowler. According to World Bowls - the sport’s official governing body - the jack is a solid spherical ball, with a diameter measuring between 63 and 67mm, coloured white or yellow.

The bowl is a bigger ball that a lawn bowler rolls towards the jack. World Bowls states that the bowl must be made of either wood, rubber or plastic resin with a diameter of 112mm-134mm and must have indentations designed to help the lawn bowler grip it.

The bowls are biased, which is to say that it will never roll in a straight line but rather in a curve.

The mat is a piece of cloth on which the lawn bowler stands and rolls the bowl towards the jack. World Bowls states that the mat must be 600mm long and 360mm wide.

The bowl used in lawn bowls is biased, which means one side is shaped differently than the other. 
Picture by 2022 Getty Images

Lawn bowls rules

Lawn bowls can be played in four categories - singles, pairs, triples and fours - depending on the number of players in each category. Pairs, triples and fours are team events.

In a team, the lawn bowler who rolls first is called the lead and the lawn bowler who rolls last is called the skip. The vertical ends of the rink are called the ends.

A lawn bowler or team has to roll all their bowls from one end with the aim of hitting, or getting close to, the jack. Points are awarded after all bowls are rolled by both lawn bowlers/teams at each end.

“The player has to take position and determine the line, the angle and the grasp to release the bowl, which arcs as it travels towards the jack (since the bowl is biased),” Rupa Tirkey, a member of the gold-winning team at the CWG, tells Olympics.com.

After a coin toss, the lead chooses the end from where to begin. They then place the mat and roll the jack towards the other end. The jack has to travel at least 23m to be considered in play and once it comes to rest, the jack is moved to the centre of the rink after which a lawn bowler/team can start rolling the bowls.

“The sport is both mentally and physically difficult,” Pinki says. “Physically because you have to stand for two hours and 15 minutes. You can always sit (between turns) but you can lose focus and momentum.

“And mentally because the bowl and the jack are at a distance of 23 metres, so you have to focus on every bowl and how to release it. It’s not easy, because one side is heavy and the other light (biased).

“So if you are aiming for the jack, and its position has changed, then you have to figure the right line and the weight balance of the bowl while releasing. So you have to concentrate on all this. If you get tired mentally, you are done,” Pinki points out.

At CWG 2022, in a singles match, each lawn bowler has to roll four bowls from one end. In pairs, triples and fours, each lawn bowler in a team is allowed to roll two bowls from one end.

A singles match is decided by whoever reaches 21 points first. Pairs and triples matches are decided after 18 ends while a fours match is decided after 15 ends.

At Birmingham 2022, if there is a tie in sectional play (group matches), both teams are awarded a point each. However, if a tie occurs in the knockouts, then extra ends are played until a winner emerges. There cannot be a tie in the singles format.

Lawn bowls scoring system

The points are calculated after each end is completed by both lawn bowlers/teams.

Each lawn bowler/team is awarded points for the number of bowls which are closer to the jack as compared to their opponents.

For example, if a fours team has two bowls closer to the jack than the opposing team, then they are awarded two points.

Format for Commonwealth Games 2022

The lawn bowls tournament format for Birmingham Games 2022 is relatively simple. Lawn bowlers (in singles) and teams (in other categories) are divided into four groups, known as sections, where they play each other in a round-robin format.

Three points are awarded for winning a match while one point is awarded to each lawn bowler/team for a tie in sectional play.

The top-two lawn bowlers/teams from each section move onto the quarter-finals, after which it follows a knockout format.

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