Bowls is usually played on a large, rectangular, precisely leveled and manicured grass or synthetic surface known as a bowling green which is divided into parallel playing strips called rinks. An indoor variation on carpet is also played. In the simplest competition, singles, one of the two opponents flips a coin to see who wins the "mat" and begins a segment of the competition (in bowling parlance, an "end"), by placing the mat and rolling the jack to the other end of the green to serve as a target. Once it has come to rest, the jack is aligned to the center of the rink and the players take turns to roll their bowls from the mat towards the jack and thereby build up the "head". A bowl is allowed to curve outside the rink boundary on its path, but must come to rest within the rink boundary to remain in play. Bowls reaching the ditch are dead and removed from play, except in the event when one has "touched" the jack on its way. "Touchers" are marked with chalk and remain alive in play even though they are in the ditch. Similarly if the jack is knocked into the ditch it is still alive unless it is out of bounds to the side resulting in a "dead" end which is replayed though according to international rules the jack is "respotted" to the center of the rink and the end is continued. After each competitor has delivered all of their bowls (four each in singles), the distance of the closest bowls to the jack is determined (the jack may have been displaced) and points, called "shots", are awarded for each bowl which a competitor has closer than the opponent's nearest to the jack. For instance, if a competitor has bowled two bowls closer to the jack than their competitor's nearest, they are awarded two shots. The exercise is then repeated for the next end, a game of bowls typically being of twenty one ends.
Scoring systems vary from competition to competition, with some being the first to a specified number of points, say 21, or the highest scorer after say, 21 ends. Some competitions use a "set" scoring system, with the first to seven points awarded a set in a best-of-five set match. As well as singles competition, there can be pairs, triples and four-player teams. In these, teams take turns to bowl, with each player within a team bowling all their bowls, then handing over to the next player. The team captain or "skip" always plays last and is instrumental in directing his team's shots and tactics.
The current way of scoring in the professional tour is again sets. Each set consists of 7 ends (9 ends in a final), the player with the most shots at the end of a set is awarded the set, if the score is tied the set would be halfed. 2 sets are played. If the score is 1 set each then 3 tie breaker ends are played to determine a winner.
Bias of bowls
Bowls are designed to travel a curved path, referred to as bias, and was originally produced by inserting weights to one side of the bowl. This is no longer permitted by the rules and bias is now produced entirely by the shape of the bowl. A bowler can recognize the bias direction of the bowl in his hand by a dimple or symbol on one side. Regulations determine the minimum bias allowed, and the range of diameters (11.6 to 13.1 cm), but within these rules bowlers can and do choose bowls to suit their own preference. They were originally made from lignum vitae, a dense wood giving rise to the term "woods" for bowls, but are now more typically made of a hard plastic composite material.
Bowls were once only available in black or brown but they are now available in a variety of colours including a range of fluorescent colours. They have unique symbol markings engraved on them for identification. Since many bowls look the same, coloured, adhesive stickers or labels are also used to mark the bowls of each team in bowls matches. Some local associations agree specific colours for stickers for each of the clubs in their area. Provincial or national colors are often assigned in national and international competitions. These stickers are used by officials to distinguish teams.
Bowls have symbols unique to the set of four for identification. The side of the bowl with a larger symbol within a circle indicates the side away from the bias. That side with a smaller symbol within a smaller circle is the bias side toward which the bowl will turn. It is not uncommon for players to deliver a "wrong bias" shot from time to time and see their carefully aimed bowl crossing neighbouring rinks rather than heading towards their jack.
When bowling there are several types of delivery. "Draw" shots are those where the bowl is rolled to a specific location without causing too much disturbance of bowls already in the head. For a right-handed bowler, "forehand draw" is initially aimed to the right of the jack, and curves in to the left. The same bowler can deliver a "backhand draw" by turning the bowl over in his hand and curving it the opposite way, from left to right. In both cases, the bowl is rolled as close to the jack as possible, unless tactics demand otherwise. A "drive" or "fire" involves bowling with force with the aim of knocking either the jack or a specific bowl out of play - and with the drive's speed, there is virtually no noticeable (or, at least, much less) curve on the shot. An "upshot" or "yard on" shot involves delivering the bowl with an extra degree of weight (often referred to as "controlled" weight), enough to displace the jack or disturb other bowls in the head without killing the end. The challenge in all these shots is to be able to adjust line and length accordingly, the faster the delivery, the narrower the line or "green".
Variations of play
Particularly in team competition there can be a large number of bowls on the green towards the conclusion of the end, and this gives rise to complex tactics. Teams "holding shot" with the closest bowl will often make their subsequent shots not with the goal of placing the bowl near the jack, but in positions to make it difficult for opponents to get their bowls into the head, or to places where the jack might be deflected to if the opponent attempts to disturb the head.
There are many different ways to set up the game. Crown Bowling utilises the entire green (usually 8 rinks across by 8 rinks wide). The "crown" is a very slight mound in the middle of the green. This is a slightly less organised form of play, because the jack may be thrown anywhere on the green.
Australian Pairs is another variation on Bowls. It allows both people on a team to play Skip and Lead. The lead throws two bowls, the skip throws four, then the lead throws the remaining two. Each end, the leads and skips switch positions. In Australia, this is called Canadian Pairs.
Blind or Unsighted Bowls was originally started as a way to level the playing field for blind bowlers. It is now used even by clubs without blind bowlers as a new and fun variation.
Another variation in play is Backwards Bowls. This can be played by Singles, or teams. The structure of the game is changed, because the bowls are thrown before the jack. This allows for a new kind of strategy in the game. Teams of singles try to get each bowl close to their opponent's to avoid clusters of opposing bowls.
That all about bowls...........Happy Bowls.
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