Aspects of the Ancient and the Modern Game of Lawn Bowls - Page 1 of 2

This page contains a number of short items relating to:-
  • the history of lawn bowls;

  • how the modern game is played, and

  • suggestions for further investigation of the modern game.
It is hoped that these paragraphs will be of help to the beginning bowler.

At the bottom of the page you will find a link to a second page of miscellaneous items related to the game.
These include links to a number of peripheral areas of lawn bowls and to some humorous videos on the subject.
. . . A somewhat cold and technical definition is given on the Wikipedia website . . .

"Bowls (also known as Lawn Bowls) is a precision sport in which the goal is to roll slightly radially asymmetrical balls (called bowls) closest to a smaller white ball (the "jack" or "kitty" or "sweetie"). It is played outdoors on grass or artificial surfaces and indoors on artificial surfaces."

The Wikipedia article however is extremely thorough and contains, in some detail, an outline of the game, its history and current practice, together with details of World Bowls Championship Titles and several related links.

Click on the Wikipedia Globe icon below right to visit - - - > > >


Although Lawn Bowls is essentially an English sport, it is likely that it was first brought to this country by the conquering Normans in 1066. Like Italy's bocce and Provencal's petanque, lawn bowling seems to have had its beginnings in a game played by Roman soldiers throughout the countries of their empire. Stones were tossed toward a target stone with the object of getting as close to the target as possible.
Balls that were rolled rather than thrown gradually replaced stones. In France, the sport became known as boules, from the Latin word for ball, the English world "bowl" coming from that same French root. In medieval times a feather stuck upright in the ground was at times used as a target. (As in the illustration above).
The oldest known bowling green is said to date back at least to 1299 and is in Southampton, England. In 1511 Henry VIII, himself a bowler, banned the sport among the lower classes and in order to ensure that only the wealthy could play he levied a fee of £100 on any private bowling green. All able-bodied men were required to spend their spare time practising archery rather than playing the frivolous game of bowls. The king's proclamation also noted that arrow-makers and bow-makers were not being sufficiently productive because of the time they wasted on bowling. With the lessening importance of archery which followed the increasing use of firearms in warfare, such bans passed. The dominance of Puritans in the 17th Century, however, menat that virtually all sports in England ceased. Lawn bowling was only gradually re-introduced after the Restoration in 1660. However, the sport did continue to flourish in Scotland, and during the 1840s the Scots developed a set of standardized rules that have been changed very little since that time.

Bowling in Medieval & Tudor Times

A good outline history of 'Playing At Bowls', can be found on the Greydragon Library website. The site contains a number of fascinating woodcut illustrations, reproduced from 14th Century manuscripts, of the earlier manifestations of the modern game of lawn bowls. You can visit there and read the article by clicking HERE.

The most famous game of bowls . . .

. . . you will recall from school history lessons, that this was played in 1588, in Devon, on Plymouth Hoe, by Sir Francis Drake, while the invading Spanish fleet sailed up the English Channel.

Drake is said to have scoffed at the imminent threat by saying that the Spanish could wait till he had finished playing. Unperturbed, he completed his game, then went off to play a major part in vanquishing the Spanish Armada.

The result of the game of bowls is not recorded.
Drake Bowling


The BBC Sports website contains a straightforward guide to the modern game of bowls. It includes sections on ... HOW COMPETITIONS UNFOLD;  HOW THE SCORING WORKS;  TYPES OF DELIVERY;  TACTICS;  WANT TO GET INVOLVED?
For this and further tips on how to play the game click on the 'BBC Sport Bowls' logo to the right -- >>>
BBC Sports


The BBC website gives a very basic definition of the game of Lawn Bowls . . .

"The object of bowls is fairly simple. Get your bowls closest to a smaller white ball called a jack that is at the other end of a piece of ground. Of course it's not that easy as the bowls do not travel in a straight line, so you have to judge how far they will curve when letting them go.

Players take it in turns to bowl four bowls each (in singles) at the jack. Each series of bowls is called an end.

Once all bowls are bowled the player with the bowl closest to the jack scores a point. If they have more than one bowl nearer to the jack than their opponent they score more than one point.

Once an end is completed the winning player rolls the jack to the other end of the green and they start again.

There are various ways of scoring. The first player to 21 wins, or the player with the most points after 18 or 21 ends wins.
In set play the first player to seven points wins a set. The first to win three sets wins the match. At the Commonwealth Games the player with the most points after nine ends wins a set. The first Player to win two sets takes the match."


Performance Bowls Logo
A considerable amount of help on playing the game is available on the internet.

One such website is provided by the Australian coach, Macka Jensen. His website is called 'Performance Lawn Bowls'.

The website provides a regularly up-dated feed on bowls matters.
Macka Jensen is a highly qualified Australian lawn bowls coach. He has developed many unique coaching and training methods and hopes that 'Performance Lawn Bowls' will give him the opportunity to share his ideas throughout the world-wide bowls community.

Click on the 'bowls' link below to go to his website ...

Performance Lawn Bowls

'An Introduction To Lawn Bowling'

Not for the experienced player, but a useful video for the beginning lawn bowler. American, from Newport Beach, California.

Use the start control in the centre and the pause button beneath the image on the left to operate.

For a larger picture click on the image itself to go directly to the YouTube website where you will also find other interesting bowls material in the  'Related Videos'  section.

Heard on the Green:

"A good scorer will beat
a good bowler any day."

William Tell


More Snippets, Bits & Pieces, Items and Issues, relating to the subject of bowls and bowling have been added in a Supplementary Web page.

Click on the 'Runner' image on the
right to be taken there --- >>>