Glossary of Bowling Terms
Like many sports Lawn Bowls has several terms and phrases specific to the game.
This glossary has been compiled primarily for newcomers to the game and lists most terms of those you will come across:
BACK BOWL: Generally regarded as the bowl that finishes well behind the jack. May be played deliberately in anticipation of the jack moving close to it.
BACKHAND: For right handed players a backhand delivery will curve from left to right towards its objective. The word is also applied to the left hand side of the rink as seen by a right handed player standing on the mat and facing up the green. For left handed players, the opposite of both these meanings will apply.
BANK: The raised outer wall of the ditch.
BEST BACK: A bowl at rest beyond the jack nearer to the ditch than any opposition bowl and is particularly valuable if the jack is moved towards the back of the rink or into the ditch.
BE UP: An instruction normally from the skip, to reach the head with your bowl. An alternative would be 'Don't be short'.
BIAS: The diversion of the bowl from a straight line caused by the convex shape on one side of the bowl. Formed at the shaping stage of manufacture, the bias side is indicated by the smaller of the two rings found on opposite sides of the bowl.
BLOCKER: A drawing shot usually played to stop some way short of the head, either to prevent an opponent from playing a certain shot of to protect an advantageous position. The bowl itself is then called a 'Blocker'.
BOWL: One of a set of four matching bowls from the same manufacturer and identical in all characteristics – size, weight, colour, bias, serial number etc.
COUNT: An expression used such as 'It's in the count' which means that your bowl has come to rest among those that are closer to the jack than any of your opponents' bowls.
DEAD BOWL: A bowl that comes to rest either directly or indirectly outside the confines of the rink, or in the ditch provided it isn't a toucher.
DEAD END: A dead end occurs when the jack is moved outside the confines of the rink during play. No score is recorded and the end is replayed.
DELIVERY: The act of releasing the bowl onto the bowling surface. (A bowler with a good delivery is often compared to a golfer with a good swing.)
DITCH: The channel that surrounds the green.
DRAW: The draw is a shot which the player attempts to play with the exact line and length to finish closest to the jack or to a point on the green dictated by strategy or tactics. It is also an instruction from the skip to a player such as, “just a draw to the jack” or “just draw in to this position”
DRIVE: A drive is a shot where the player delivers the bowl with enough force to force an opponent’s wood out of position and leave their own in the winning or leading position.
END: Sequence of play from the placing of the mat in a rink, delivery of all bowls by all the players in one direction and agreement of the number of shots scored.
FIRING: A bowl that is delivered at a very fast pace with the objective of displacing the jack and/or one or more bowls.
FOOT FAULT: A transgression of the law that dictates the position of the bowlers feet on the mat before and at the point of delivery.
FOREHAND: For right handed players a forehand delivery will curve from right to left towards its objective. The term is also applied to the right hand side of the rink as seen by a right handed player standing on the mat facing up the green. For left handed players, the opposite of both these meanings will apply.
FOUR/RINKS: A team of four players.
GREEN: The whole playing surface. Also a term used as 'Take more green' meaning bowl with a wider line.
HEAD: The head refers to the jack and bowls that have been delivered and come to rest within the boundaries of the rink.
HEAVY– a heavy shot is where a player unintentionally delivers a bowl beyond the jack or the intended target.
JACK: The jack is the white/yellow ball towards which the play is directed.
JACK HIGH: Is a term used to a bowl that has come to rest equidistant from the mat as the jack.
LEAD: The player in a team game (pairs, triples or fours) that places the mat delivers the jack and plays first wood.
LINE: Usually refers to the direction of the bowl, as in 'Take a wider line'.
LIVE BOWL: A bowl that is delivered legally, that is in play by coming to rest within the confines of the rink. Also a toucher in the ditch.
LONG JACK: A jack delivered to the far end of the rink without it going into the ditch.
MARKER: Someone who officiates in a singles game.
MAT: The rectangular piece of rubber placed on the rink at the beginning of each end.
MEASURE: The device used to ascertain which bowl is closest to the jack.
NARROW: A 'Narrow bowl' is one played inside the intended line which often finishes running away from the jack.
OPEN THE HEAD: An instruction sometimes given by skips to their thirds to play with weight in an unfavourable head has developed such as a group of opposition bowls blocking a natural draw.
PAIRS: A team of two players.
RINK: The rectangular divisions of the green upon which play is confined. Each rink is marked with two boundary markers and a central number.
ROLL-UP: Informal social bowls, ideal for beginners to meet club members.
SECOND: The second player in a team of triples or fours who plays after the lead.
SHORT BOWL: A bowl delivered with insufficient weight to reach its objective.
SHORT JACK: A jack delivered to the minimum legal distance (23m) or a few metres beyond.
SHOT: The shot or shots are the number of points scored in an end and during play the bowl that is currently nearest the jack is called the 'shot'.
SINGLES: A contest between two players, usually with four bowls each.
SKIP: The skip is short for 'skipper' who is the captain of the team and is the last to bowl. He/she is responsible for deciding the teams tactics and maintaining the score card.
THIRD: The third player in a team of four who plays after the lead and second and takes charge at the head while the skip is on the mat. He/she is usually responsible for measuring disputed shots and notifying the skip after each end of the shots scored.
TIED END: A tied end occurs when the nearest bowls of the opposing players are equidistant from the jack or both touching it. The end is completed and therefore recorded on the score card with no score to either side.
TOUCHER: A bowl that touches the jack in its original course. Even if it touches the jack and then enters the ditch within the mark boundaries it remains a toucher and is still live. All touchers are marked with chalk as soon as they come to rest.
TRIAL ENDS: Before the start of most games one trial (practise) end is allowed in each direction.
TRIPLES: A team of three players.
WEIGHT: The term used to refer to the power applied to a delivery.
WICK: A glancing deflection of the delivered bowl off another bowl.
WOODS: A term used for bowls derived from their manufacture from wood (usually lignum vitae) before the advent of composition bowls.
© 2023 Gordon Meredith