Bowls Explained

Teen Bowlser, Boy playing bowls, BowlsWales

Are You New to Bowls?

Bowls is a unique sport.

It is fully inclusive and anyone can play it at any age, ability or fitness level - so why not start today?

Bowls Trophy

Rules of the Game

The Set Up

Bowls can be played both indoors and outdoors, on grass or artificial surfaces.

Bowls is played on a square, level manicured grass or synthetic surface known as a “green”, which is divided into playing areas called rinks. The green is surrounded by a small ditch to catch bowls which leave the green.

The rules of the game are pretty easy – players take it in turn to deliver their bowls from a mat at one end of the rink towards 'the jack' (a small white ball) at the other end. The aim of the game is to get one or more of your bowls closer to the jack than those of your opponents on each end.

Despite the rules being easy, the fact that bowls are slightly asymmetrical in shape makes them hard to control with accuracy. They do not travel in a straight line, so it can take years of practice to expertly master bowls.

Bowls can be played in singles, pairs, triples and four-player teams (known as a 'rink').


The Game

Games are divided into what are called 'ends'.

To begin a game a coin is flipped to decide which team/individual goes first. The first player (the lead) places the mat and rolls the jack to the other end of the green as a target.

The jack must travel at least 23m and when it stops, it is placed in the centre of the rink, and all players take turns to deliver their bowls.

When all the bowls have been played, a competitor (in singles matches) or team gets one point for each of their bowls that is closer to the jack than their opponent's closest bowl. For example, where a competitor has three bowls closer to the jack than their opponent’s, they are awarded three points.

Sometimes bowls roll and fall into the ditch. These are considered to be 'dead' and are removed from play. However there is one exception - when a bowl has made a connection with the jack (known as a 'toucher'). 'Touchers' are marked with chalk and remain alive in play even if they fall into the ditch.

After all the bowls have been played, the direction of play on the green is reversed. This is the end of that 'end' (section of that game). The exercise is then repeated for the next end, across a designated number of ends.

When playing as a team, the 'skip', always plays last, and is key in delivering the team's strategy during the game.

Within Wales there are 4 codes (types) of the game that are played. These include Lawn/Outdoor, Indoor, Crown Green and Short Mat bowls. All of which have different styles of play, rules and set ups. To find out more cliick on the icons below.


Welsh Short Mat Bowls Association

The Welsh Short Mat Bowls Association was formed in 1987 to introduce and develop the game throughout Wales.

WSMBA promote and encourage the game of Short Mat Bowls in Wales, provide coaching and additional assistance to both new and existing clubs and players, they also provide news of county, national and international competitions.

The WSMBA has over 150 affiliated clubs throughout Wales, and venues vary depending on where the space is available to play. You can find out more about short mat bowls in Wales by visiting

Outdoor Logos

Welsh Women’s Bowling Association (WWBA) & Welsh Bowling Association (WBA)

The men’s outdoor game, traditionally known as lawn bowls, is governed by the Welsh Bowling Association. The WBA has 10 affiliated counties and over 250 affiliated clubs across Wales, which welcome those who are both new to the game or experienced players looking to bowl either socially or competitively.

Like it’s male counterpart, the WWBA governs the women’s outdoor game of lawn bowls across Wales. Since its inception in 1932 the association has grown and now boasts 8 county associations and over 150 affiliated clubs.

The WWBA and WBA welcome enquiries from individuals who are interested in finding out more about the women’s and men's outdoor game in Wales, to find out more visit


Welsh Crown Green Bowling Association (WCGBA)

The WCGBA is the national governing body for crown green bowling in Wales.

The WCGBA organise competitions, including the Welsh Club Championship, and manage this area of the game's national side.

Having been in place for nearly a century, the organisation boasts well over 100 clubs in Wales which welcome enquiries from new and current members. To find out more about Crown Green Bowls please click

Welsh Indoor Bowls Logo New

Welsh Indoor Bowls (WIB)

The WIB is the newly unified body for Indoor Bowls in Wales. It is the official source of information and news for indoor bowls in Wales.

Prior to the WIB, the indoor Bowls Governing Bodies were the WIBA and WLIBA. The WIBA is the National Governing Body for the sport of men’s indoor bowls in Wales. Founded in 1934, all 25-member stadiums share the ambition, to promote the sport of bowls to all without exception. As with the male indoor game, the WLIBA was responsible for the governance of the Ladies Indoor Game across Wales. The WLIBA have 21-member clubs throughout Wales who welcome those keen to discover more about the indoor game both in a social and competitive capacity.

For more information about the indoor game and to find your nearest club, please visit


BowlsWales is committed to making Bowls a safe sport for all its members.

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