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Bowls Help Topics

This series of help topics are aimed to assist the new bowler

- but old bowlers are more than welcome to have a look too!

Printable versions of this series of help Sheets can be downloaded by clicking on the green buttons

Topics will be added to this page in tthe future and will include


  • Bowls Sign Language

  • Bowls Green Measurements

  • The right bowl


Many thanks to John Schools who has added his wit and wisdom to improve my initial drafts. John's additions are the red type. Thanks also to Stuart Logan who has provided the script for Competition and League Play

If you have ideas for other help topics or would like to comment on current topics please email

Alan Messer

Leads, Twos, Threes and Skips


In a team, each player has a specific role and it is important to understand how they fit together to become one cohesive unit.

The ‘Lead’ should

  • in a team game will place the mat at the direction of the skip

  • deliver the jack as close as possible to a length determined by the skip

  • play draw shots as close to the jack as possible to lay the foundation for a good head

  • practise and master the art of the draw shot

  • kick the bowls back and tidy them behind the mat if their team loses the end


The ‘Two’ should

  • consolidate the head.

  • as a general rule, always play up to or through the head, to strengthen existing positions or retrieve shot.

  • be open minded and prepared to play a range of shots at the direction of the skip. A 'two' may be asked to draw to the head or to play to a designated position. Sometimes a 'two' is asked to play a positional or back bowl even when the side is shots down to prevent trouble further along the line.

  • take responsibility for the scoreboard and also readily assist in kicking back the woods at the completion of an end.

The ‘Three’ should

  • be an experienced and versatile player

  • be competent to play all shots as requested – draw, yard on, resting shot, wresting shot, take out or drive.

  • direct at the head when the skip is bowling

  • act as measurer at the completion of an end, and agree the shot count with the opposing ‘three’

  • have a good knowledge of the rules

  • have the ability to relate to the skip – being able to take the pressure off as well as motivate and support.

  • be a good communicator – giving precise and clear instruction in the way in which the skip is most comfortable.

  • not advise as the skip leaves the head as his mind is already made up. But be sure to advise if the head changes and the skip needs to consider a different shot.

  • act as the link between the skip and the front end bowlers.

  • mark any touchers with chalk. Be sure to carry chalk, measure and wedges as a minimum and wedge woods that may fall at the appropriate time

The ‘Skip’ should

  • have complete charge of the rink.

  • have wide experience of all playing positions

  • be able to withstand pressure

  • be a good communicator and motivator

  • be adept at shot selection

  • demonstrate tactical skills, which utilise opponents’ weaknesses and strengths of their own players

  • Keep the scorecard or delegate the keeping of the scorecard if rules allow.

  • Avoid grumbling or demeaning a player on the mat. A skip needs to get a better wood from his player's next bowl, so encourage rather than belittle or exaggerate. No need to say if a wood is more than 2 yards short or heavy. Your teammate already knows!

The Bowls Marker


The duties of a competition marker may be listed as follows:

· Assisting to straighten the mat.


· Centring the jack.


· Marking a toucher, or removing a prior chalk mark.


· Removing a dead bowl.


· Replacing a disturbance caused by himself.


· Answering questions of fact.


· Recording the score.


· Advising the players of each progress score.


· Seeing that the score board is correct.


· Handing the completed and signed score card to the proper authority

In addition, the Marker must never forget that the main purpose for his presence is to assist the players to enjoy the game, as well as to facilitate the actual play, by only answering the questions asked by the player next entitled to bowl. This should be done quickly and accurately so as to avoid the necessity of the players having to make a personal inspection of the head.

Finally, please take time to think about some of the major "Don'ts" for Markers

Don't answer questions that are being asked in an adjacent rink. Concentration and attention to the man on the mat will prevent this happening.


Don't say the shot is doubtful if it is not really so. Experience at judging distances is something that can be acquired by anyone. It is most disconcerting to be told it is " up or down " and then find your Opponent is at least one or more without even a measure. It is not however a failure to say it is a measure, but I favour.


Don't forget to immediately advise the player if a bowl falls over and alters the position after a question has been answered or an inspection of the head has been made by the player.


Modern courses emphasise the need to give as much information as you think the plyers need in order to speed the game up. So an answer such as you hold one shot,  or this bowl is a foot short can be helpful. Don't give a misleading answer to a badly worded question. A marker is entitled to ask the player to restate or clarify his question to enable an intelligent answer to be given. This particularly applies to such a question as: "Am I one down?" when he may be three down and to answer "Yes" or "No" is equally correct and incorrect, such a question is definitely a badly worded one. The proper form is "Am I more than one down?" or "How many down am I?" or "What is the position? Don't supplement your answer with information not asked for. Remember, every answer is common to both players and the questioner may not wish to gratuitously give information to his opponent. For instance, if asked to indicate which bowl is third shot, do so, but do not say whose bowl it is, or if a sked whether the player is lying second shot, just say "Yes" or "No", but do not add that he is also third shot or some such similar information. The game provides ample scope for players to indulge in tactics to outwit each other, and the marker must be careful not to nullify their efforts. Arrange with the players before the match commences when they prefer touchers to be marked. The general practice is to mark a toucher immediately it has come to rest.


Don't forget HOW to measure, as distinct from what to measure with. If you suspect A's bowl to be the nearer one, measure that first and then transfer to B's bowl, but on no account give an immediate decision, even if the answer be obvious. It is essential that the distance be transferred back to A's bowl so as to be quite sure that no movement has occurred. In the case of a really close measure, or where the players have previously measured, and a tie is a possibility, it is wise to repeat, at least once, the foregoing procedure before giving a decision.


It is the players though who must agree shots NEVER remove a wood. Only a player or Umpire can remove a wood from the green without consent of BOTH players. The marker measures but the players decide whether to concede. They may wish to seek a 2nd opinion.


Using a bowls measure is a skill and measuring with callipers is a yet more advanced skill. Keep your hand steady and go down touching the wood, not the jack. Do not go up. Definitely worth practising before using this skill in a match situation


Players may come to visit the head but it is not your place to suggest or invite a player to inspect the head. To do so implies inability to give a satisfactory answer.


Above all else don't forget that as the marker you are there to allow the players to enjoy their competition.


Bowls shots

Although there are an infinite range of outcomes after the bowl leaves your hand, a good bowler will have a clear idea of what they want to achieve when they send the bowl on its merry way. A skip will also instruct a team member what he wants you to do using the type of description given in this help sheet. There are basically four different types of shot, or delivery in Lawn Bowling


A Drawing Shot is the most common and it is really what the game is all about. This shot is the one in which the player attempts to play with the exact weight required to finish closest to the jack or to a point on the green dictated by strategy or tactics. This shot is often considered to be the most skilful. If players in a match are constantly playing with too much weight, you will hear mutterings or sometimes louder renditions of “it’s a drawing game you know!”


The "Yard On" shot is when the player delivers a bowl with enough weight to carry it a yard or two past the target. The objective of this shot is usually to drag the jack away from the opponent's bowls towards your own or to push a bowl out of the "head" and take its place. This is also often referred to as a "hit and lie" shot.


The Running Shot is one which uses more weight than the yard on. The object of this shot is to remove opponents’ bowls from the head, to move the jack to the ditch or to seek some other result that requires the bowl to be played with weight. This can be a difficult shot to play as the line (bias) required to get to the target changes with different weight.


The Drive is probably the most spectacular shot on the bowling green. A drive is when the player delivers the bowl at high speed and with maximum weight so that he can strike the head or the target with full force. The object of this shot can be to completely remove opponent's bowls from the head or from the rink or to drive the jack into the ditch. It is also commonly used when a player has a few shots against him. In this case the object is to destroy the head or to "burn" or to “kill” the end by driving the jack out of the rink. This can be a very effective and intimidating shot to have in your armoury but many players have difficulty controlling their direction when concentrating their efforts on so much weight.

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