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Bowls Etiquette – Some Basics

Bowls is, perhaps, one of the most sociable games that you can play – its very pace allows for friendships to be quickly established giving the game a special charm.

The present generation of bowlers can thank the pioneers of the game for the unwritten code of conduct that ensures no bowler ever seeks to have an unfair advantage over another. On the green, as indeed in national competitions, all players are regarded as equals. Proceedings always start with friendly handshakes all round and introductions that quickly put players on first name terms.

The guiding principle to all bowlers, and particularly to beginners, is that they should never do anything on or off the green that does not uphold the tradition or dignity of the game.

There will be bowlers who will show impatience if you take too much time on the mat. There will be talkers, whistlers, those who hum indistinguishable melodies and all manner of those who find it impossible to keep still. There will be those who are “experts” on greenkeeping and on bowls in general. That’s because bowls, like all walks of life, is made up of every variety of the human species and you will have to deal with them all!

The best you can do is to observe certain principles to ensure that you at least are as near as possible to being a perfect player. Above all enjoy the game for the pleasure it gives and the lasting friendships it provides.


  • Always be on time for matches and in the correct attire.
  • Stand still and remain quiet when other players are about to deliver and always remember that only the player on the mat can ask for instructions from their skip.
  • Remain behind the mat or head when it isn’t your turn to play.
  • Always try to keep to the rink you are playing on – don’t wander. In particular do not leave the green by walking across another rink without first checking that it is clear to do so.
  • On sunny days ensure your shadow does not fall on the jack.
  • Avoid obscuring rink markers or boundary pegs and do not walk across a player’s line of vision if they are about to bowl.
  • Pay attention to what is going on during the game and always pay your skip the respect of waiting for their decision. Don’t step on to the mat and indicate which way you intend playing – wait for instructions.
  • Never deliver your bowl before the previous bowl has come to rest.
  • Always be prepared to admit to a lucky shot and never pretend that it was intended. Accept your opponent’s lucky bowls gracefully – they tend to cancel out over a season.
  • If you follow a bowl after delivery, keep within the laws and try not to obscure your opponent’s view of the bowl.
  • Always inform your opponent and skip if you wish to leave the green.
  • When a skip decides on a firing shot, it is as well to stand back and make sure that all players know, so that they can avoid any bowls that fly about the head.
  • Never openly criticise your players and always try to appear to be enjoying the game – despite your misfortunes.
  • When the final bowl of an end is played only the Second (Triples) or Third (Fours) player from each team should be at the head. All other players should stand well clear of the head.
  • Avoid wasting time arguing which is shot bowl. If there is any doubt, get down and measure.
  • Do not move any bowls until the shots have been decided and do not touch any bowls until the end is completed.
  • Win or lose, always shake hands with your opponents and thank them for the game. If you have won remember your opponents will be feeling down so respect their feelings.
  • Be conversant with and observe the Laws of the Sport – especially regarding possession of the mat.