The History of Lawn Bowling
Bowls historians believe that the game developed from the Egyptians. One of their pastimes was to play skittles with round stones. This has been determined based on artifacts found in tombs dating circa 5,000 B.C. The sport spread across the world and took a variety of forms, Bocce (Italian), Bolla (Saxon), Bolle (Danish), Boules (French) and Ula Miaka (Polynesian). The sport of lawn bowls is the forerunner of curling, a tremendously popular winter version played in northern countries (including Canada) on ice.
The oldest lawn bowls site still played on is in Southampton, England. Records show that the green has been in operation since 1299 A.D. There are other claims of greens being in use before that time, but these are unsubstantiated by proper or sufficient documentation. During the reign of Richard II bowls were referred to as “gettre de pere” or “jetter de pierre,” and describes throwing a stone, probably as round as possible. In the early 15th century bowls were made of hardwoods and, after the 16th century discovery of Santo Domingo, of lignum vitae, a very dense wood.
It’s believed that the “bias” was introduced inadvertently in 1522 by the Duke of Suffolk. Apparently his bowl split in two after striking other bowls and he took a knob off of a stairway banister post for a replacement. The flat side of the knob caused it to roll with a bias and he experimented by curving his bowl around others. The word spread and bias bowls gradually came into use.
Certainly the most famous story in lawn bowls is about Sir Francis Drake and the Spanish Armada. On July 19, 1588, Drake was involved in a game at Plymouth when he was notified that the Spanish Armada had been sighted. The tale says his response was, “There is plenty of time to win the game and thrash the Spaniards too.” He then proceeded to finish his match and the British Navy soundly defeated the Armada. There is a lot of controversy as to whether this event actually took place.
Henry VIII was also a lawn bowler. However, he banned the game for those who were not wealthy or “well to do” because “Bowyes, Fletchers, Stringers and Arrowhead makers” were spending more time at recreational events such as bowls instead of practicing their trade. Henry requested that anybody who wished to keep a green pay a fee of 100 pounds. However, the green could only be used for private play and he forbade anyone to “play at any bowle or bowles in open space out of his own garden or orchard.” King James I issued a publication called “The Book of Sports” and, although he condemned football (soccer) and golf, encouraged the play of bowls.
English and Scottish colonists brought the game to America. There was a bowling green in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1632 and many states have towns named “Bowling Green” due to the early settlers abiding interest in the sport. Even George Washington laid out a green at Mount Vernon in 1732.
Interest lapsed for years until the wave of Scottish immigration to the US revived it in the latter part of the 19th century. The American Lawn Bowls Association (now the USLBA) was established in 1915, more than a decade after the founding of the SFLBC.
Playing the Game of Lawn Bowls
It is said that Lawn Bowls is a game that can be played by anyone aged from nine to ninety and in my time in the game I have come across several nonagenarian players.
It does tend to have a crusty, “old people’s game” image due largely to the use of sponsors like Saga and over 55’s insurance companies. The reality is somewhat different and at county level in Scotland the average player’s age is probably somewhere in the thirties. Competitive bowling can be an exhausting game and in matches players are expected to perform for three to four hours without a break. During these games they can walk two or three miles and bend up and down about 100 times. It’s no wonder that bowlers traditionally suffer from both back and knee injuries. Add to that the concentration and effort required and you can see why we need a seat and a few beers after the match!
The Game is played on a Bowling Green. The surface is generally grass but in some of the hotter, drier countries artificial surfaces are increasingly being used. In countries with long winters, like the UK and Canada, many indoor bowling centres have sprung up where the game is played on a carpet like surface. While the weight required to deliver the bowl changes on these surfaces the rules and objectives of the game are essentially the same.
Lawn Bowls are available in different sizes with a mid sized men’s bowl being between 116mm and 131mm in diameter. They are made of a hard plastic material which is able to withstand the constant contact between bowls during play. Their weight should not exceed 1.59kg.
Until 2001 all lawn bowls were either black or brown in colour. The rules have now been changed to allow bowls in virtually any colour and the manufacturers have taken up the challenge by producing bowls in just about every colour imaginable, even pink!
Rink extremities are marked off by boundary markers with the center of each being indicated by a “pin” which also carries a number for the rink. The rinks are numbered 1 through 6. Players deliver their bowls from one end to another during an “end” then, when the end is complete, they turn around and play back again.
During an end the bowl nearest to the Jack is referred to as “the shot”. You may hear players on the mat asking, “who is lying the shot?”.The player who first delivers the jack must ensure that it is properly centered. If it comes to rest within two metres from the front edge of the green it must be moved out to a mark at that distance. The player delivering the jack can choose the length to play it, but it must finish at least 23m in a straight line of play from the front edge of the mat.
The players then take turns to deliver their bowls. When all the bowls have been delivered the number of “shots” is counted. A shot is a bowl which is nearer the jack than any of your opponents bowls. For example, if you have three shots nearer the jack than any of your opponents bowls you score three shots at that end.
Types of Lawn Bowls Games and Matches
Games of bowls can involve singles play or teams of two in pairs, three in triples or four in “rinks” games. Matches generally involve a number of teams from one club playing another club. For example a match could involve six rinks or 24 players (6×4) per team.
The jack can be moved by the bowls during play. When a bowl moves the jack it is left in the new position provided it remains within the rink boundary markers. It can also be pushed into the ditch by a bowl. In this case it remains in the ditch and the players must try to play their bowls as close as possible to the jack, at the edge of the green, without falling into the ditch.
A bowl which moves the jack is marked with chalk and classed as a “Toucher”. If it touches the jack before falling into the ditch it stays there, remains “live” and may feature in the final shot count. A toucher that remains on the rink and is later driven into the ditch by another bowl is also a live bowl. A bowl that goes into the ditch and that has not touched the jack is classed as being “dead” and it is removed. All bowls which finish outside the side boundaries of the rink are dead.
Lawn Bowls Tactics
Bowls is a highly tactical game. This is one of its attractions. It is not always about “drawing” closest the jack. Players must constantly anticipate what shot their opponents may play. For example when a team has a few bowls behind the head, (behind the jack), the opposing team may see the need to place a bowl amongst these to cover the possibility of the jack being moved.
Similarly, if one side is already lying the shot, they may elect to play a guarding shot short of the target area to prevent their opponents from moving anything. These are only two examples and there are many other situations, too many to discuss here, where tactics come into play.
Types of Shots in Bowling
There are basically four different types of shot, or delivery in Lawn Bowling. These are …
A Drawing Shot is the most common and it is really what the game is all about. This shot is the one in which the player attempts to play with the exact weight required to finish closest to the jack or to a point on the green dictated by strategy or tactics. This shot is often considered to be the most skillful.
The Yard On
The “Yard On” shot is when the player plays his bowl with the weight that will carry it a yard or two past the target. The objective of this shot is usually to drag the jack away from the opponent’s bowls towards your own or to push a bowl out of the “head” and take its place. This is often referred to as a “chap and lie” shot in Scotland.
The Running Shot or Ditch Length Shot
The Running Shot is one which uses more weight than the yard on. The object of this shot is to remove opponents bowls from the head, to move the jack to the ditch or to seek some other result that requires the bowl to be played with weight. This can be a difficult shot to play as the line (bias) required to get to the target changes with different weight.
The Drive is probably the most spectacular shot on the bowling green. A drive is when the player delivers the bowl at high speed and with maximum weight so that he can strike the head or the target with full force. The object of this shot can be to completely remove opponent’s bowls from the head or from the rink or to drive the jack into the ditch. It is also commonly used when a player has a few shots against him. In this case the object is to destroy the head or to “burn” the end by driving the jack out of the rink. This can be a very effective and intimidating shot to have in your armoury but many players have difficulty controlling their direction when concentrating their efforts on so much weight.
sources : Google Image, Wikipedia