The Laws and Etiquette of Lawn Bowls

The full version of the Law of the Sport of Bowls (Crystal Mark Third

Edition) can be found at

The changes from the previous edition can be found at 


The guidance below is based upon Crystal Mark Second Edition.

‘should’ and ‘will’ mean the item is compulsory
‘can’ is optional

Date stamp

The World Bowls Stamp was introduced in 2002 and incorporates a date which is 10 years after the bowls are stamped. Finalists of County competitions and losing semi-finalists are required to have bowls carrying a current World Bowls Stamp.
For domestic games, that is, Club, District or County, Bowls must have a legible stamp dated 1985 or later.

Bowls should only carry one set of stickers.

Damaged bowls

If a bowl is damaged during a match it should be replaced by one from the same set. If this is not possible, then the whole set must be replaced by another set.

The Game
Start of the game

  • The first end and any extra end: a coin is tossed and the winner can either keep the mat or give it away. The opposition cannot refuse to accept the mat.

  • Every other end in the game: the winner of the previous end has the mat. You can’t ‘give the mat away’ See new LAW 18.4

  • Trial ends – agreed by captain. Usually one end in each direction; number of bowls agreed by captains. Trial ends allow you to explore the run of the green both for your own bowls and those of the rest of the team and the opposition.

  • Position of the mat: centrally placed with the front of the mat between 2m and 25m marks (from the front ditch)

Delivery of the jack; a faulty delivery occurs if:

  • The jack goes in the front ditch (the ditch the bowler is facing)

  • Bounces off the front bank back onto the green

  • Goes outside the rink boundaries to the side

  • Goes less than 23m.(That is why the side markers are at 25m (i.e. 2m + 23m)

If both players make faulty deliveries then the skip places the jack at the 2m mark and the first player places the mat anywhere between the 2m and 25m mark (LAW 23.3)
Position on the mat: Before delivery the player should have one foot fully on the mat. At the moment of delivery the player should have all or part of one foot on or over the mat. For actions on foot faulting see LAW 21.

During the game

  • When a bowl on its original course touches the jack; it stays ‘live’ even if it goes into the ditch either on its original course or subsequently being knocked into the ditch.

  • If the bowl falls on the jack after coming to rest, it is a toucher as long as the next bowl has not been delivered. If the last bowl of the end, you can wait 30 secs to see if it will fall before deciding the result of the end.

  • Touchers should be marked before the next bowl is delivered; if this is not possible, it should be marked before the next bowl enters the head or nominated.

  • A toucher or jack in the ditch should be marked. This not only shows their position to the bowlers but also enables them to be replaced accurately if they are disturbed by subsequent non-touchers

  • Dead end: when the jack goes out of play to the sides. The usual rule is for the end to be replayed. There are other incidences when dead ends occur. Please refer to the Law book.

  • Tied end: when it is agreed that there is no winning bowl; no score is given but the end is counted

If a bowl is delivered but does not go beyond 14m it is a dead bowl and should be removed. If a bowler drops a bowl when preparing to deliver then this can be picked up and delivered.

The role of the players

Will have sole charge of the team
The team should follow the skip’s instructions
The skip decides all disputed points with the opposing skip and there should be discussion before calling the umpire
Has responsibility for the score card(LAW 37.1.7) and this cannot be delegated LAW 31.1.9)
Can delegate all responsibilities except the responsibility for the score card.

To build the head:
The aim is to have the head mostly built before the skip bowls
The skips need to know the abilities of their team players and their bowls
To get the best from their team the skip should encourage and guide in a positive manner

To place the mat, deliver the jack as instructed by the skip, and get bowls as close as possible to the jack so that the building of the head is started effectively
A lead should be able to bowl on both hands as there are occasions when a change of hands is required

To draw to any position asked by the skip

To be able to deliver all types of shots: draw, running, firing
To decide on the score of the head, by measuring if necessary
To clearly inform the skip of the number of shots for/against
To call the skip if there is a dispute before calling the umpire


Possession of the Rink:

  • Belongs to the player/ team whose bowl is being played and until it comes to rest. Then possession is transferred to the opponent

  • Players who follow their bowl up the rink must be beyond the head before their bowl comes to rest

  • The player in possession of the mat should not be interfered with, annoyed or distracted in any way.

Position of the players

  • Mat end: players not delivering the bowl should stand at least 1 metre behind the mat

  • Head end: the team in possession of the rink should be behind the head; the team not in possession should stand behind and away from the head

Movement off the green

  • Anyone moving around the green should stop when in the line of players about to deliver their bowl.

  • Spectators should not give any advice to players or disturb the play


Get In Touch

Writtle Bowling Club
Romans Place, Writtle
Chelmsford, Essex CM1 3JD
Tel: 01245 420343

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