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Bowls
Lawn Bowling - Tim Mason1.jpg
Lawn bowler Tim Mason
First played 13th century
Characteristics
Categorization Bowling
Equipment Bowl or "Wood" & Jack

Bowls is a sport in which the goal is to roll slightly asymmetric balls, called bowls, closest to a smaller—normally white—bowl called the "jack" or "kitty". Bowls, either flat- or crown-green, is usually played outdoors, on grass and synthetic surfaces. Flat-green bowls can also be played indoors on synthetic surfaces. Both variants are collectively known as "lawn bowls".

Bowls belongs to the boules sport family, and so is related to bocce and pétanque. It is most popular in Australia, New Zealand (where the natural playing surface is cotula), the United Kingdom, and in other Commonwealth nations.

Contents

History

Bowls match in progress at Wookey Hole

It has been traced certainly to the 13th century, and conjecturally to the 12th. William Fitzstephen (d. about 1190), in his biography of Thomas Becket, gives a graphic sketch of the London of his day and, writing of the summer amusements of the young men, says that on holidays they were "exercised in Leaping, Shooting, Wrestling, Casting of Stones [in jactu lapidum], and Throwing of Javelins fitted with Loops for the Purpose, which they strive to fling before the Mark; they also use Bucklers, like fighting Men." It is commonly supposed that by jactus lapidum, Fitzstephen meant the game of bowls, but though it is possible that round stones may sometimes have been employed in an early variety of the game - and there is a record of iron bowls being used, though at a much later date, on festive occasions at Nairn, - nevertheless the inference seems unwarranted. The jactus lapidum of which he speaks was probably more akin to the modern "putting the weight," once even called "putting the stone." It is beyond dispute, however, that the game, at any rate in a rudimentary form, was played in the 13th century. A manuscript of that period in the royal library, Windsor (No. 20, E iv.), contains a drawing representing two players aiming at a small cone instead of an earthenware ball or jack. The world's oldest surviving bowling green is the Southampton Old Bowling Green, which was first used in 1299.[1]

Another manuscript of the same century has a crude but spirited picture which brings us into close touch with the existing game.[citation needed] Three figures are introduced and a jack. The first player's bowl has come to rest just in front of the jack; the second has delivered his bowl and is following after it with one of those eccentric contortions still not unusual on modern greens, the first player meanwhile making a repressive gesture with his hand, as if to urge the bowl to stop short of his own; the third player is depicted as in the act of delivering his bowl. A 14th century manuscript, Book of Prayers, in the Francis Douce collection in the Bodleian Library at Oxford contains a drawing in which two persons are shown, but they bowl to no mark. Strutt (Sports and Pastimes) suggests that the first player's bowl may have been regarded by the second player as a species of jack; but in that case it is not clear what was the first player's target. In these three earliest illustrations of the pastime it is worth noting that each player has one bowl only, and that the attitude in delivering it was as various five or six hundred years ago as it is to-day. In the third he stands almost upright; in the first he kneels; in the second he stoops, halfway between the upright and the kneeling position.

As the game grew in popularity, it came under the ban of king and parliament, both fearing it might jeopardise the practice of archery, then so important in battle. Statutes forbidding it and other sports were enacted in the reigns of Edward III, Richard II and other monarchs. Even when, on the invention of gunpowder and firearms, the bow had fallen into disuse as a weapon of war, the prohibition was continued. The discredit attaching to bowling alleys, first established in London in 1455, probably encouraged subsequent repressive legislation, for many of the alleys were connected with taverns frequented by the dissolute and gamesters. The word "bowls" occurs for the first time in the statute of 1511 in which Henry VIII confirmed previous enactments against unlawful games. By a further act of 1541 - which was not repealed until 1845 - artificers, labourers, apprentices, servants and the like were forbidden to play bowls at any time except Christmas, and then only in their master's house and presence. It was further enjoined that any one playing bowls outside his own garden or orchard was liable to a penalty of 6s. 8d., while those possessed of lands of the yearly value of £100 might obtain licenses to play on their own private greens.

In 1864 William Wallace Mitchell (1803-1884), a Glasgow Cotton Merchant, published his "Manual of Bowls Playing" following his work as the secretary formed in 1849 by Scottish bowling clubs which became the basis of the rules of the modern game. Young Mitchell was only 11 when he played on Kilmarnock Bowling green, the oldest club in Scotland, instituted in 1740.

National Bowling Associations were established in the late 1800"s. In the then Victorian Colony (now State of Victoria in Australia), the (Royal) Victorian Bowling Association was formed in 1880 and the The Scottish Bowling Association was established in 1892, although there had been a failed attempt in 1848 by 200 Scottish clubs.

Today the sport is played in over 40 countries with more than 50 member national authorities. The home of the modern game is still Scotland with the World Bowls centre in Edinburgh at Caledonia House,1 Redheughs Rigg, South Gyle, Edinburgh, EH12 9DQ.

Game

A bowls tournament in Berrigan, New South Wales, Australia.

Lawn bowls is usually played on a large, rectangular, precisely leveled and manicured grass or synthetic surface known as a bowling green which is divided into parallel playing strips called rinks. An indoor variation on carpet is also played. In the simplest competition, singles, one of the two opponents flips a coin to see who wins the "mat" and begins a segment of the competition (in bowling parlance, an "end"), by placing the mat and rolling the jack to the other end of the green to serve as a target. Once it has come to rest, the jack is aligned to the centre of the rink and the players take turns to roll their bowls from the mat towards the jack and thereby build up the "head".

A bowl may curve outside the rink boundary on its path, but must come to rest within the rink boundary to remain in play. Bowls falling into the ditch are dead and removed from play, except in the event when one has "touched" the jack on its way. "Touchers" are marked with chalk and remain alive in play even though they are in the ditch. Similarly if the jack is knocked into the ditch it is still alive unless it is out of bounds to the side resulting in a "dead" end which is replayed though according to international rules the jack is "respotted" to the center of the rink and the end is continued. After each competitor has delivered all of their bowls (four each in singles and pairs, three each in triples, and two bowls each in fours), the distance of the closest bowls to the jack is determined (the jack may have been displaced) and points, called "shots", are awarded for each bowl which a competitor has closer than the opponent's nearest to the jack. For instance, if a competitor has bowled two bowls closer to the jack than their opponent's nearest, they are awarded two shots. The exercise is then repeated for the next end, a game of bowls typically being of twenty one ends.

Lawn bowls is played on grass and variations from green to green are common. Greens come in all shapes and sizes, fast, slow, big crown, small crown etc.

Scoring

Scoring systems vary from competition to competition. Games can be decided when:

  • a player in a singles game reaches a specified target number of shots (usually 21 or 25).
  • a team (pair, triple or four) has the higher score after a specified number of ends.

Games to a specified number of ends may also be drawn. The draw may stand, or the opponents may be required to play an extra end to decide the winner. These provisions are always published beforehand in the event's Conditions of Play.

In the Laws of the Sport of Bowls the winner in a singles game is the first player to score 21 shots. In all other disciplines (pairs, triples, fours) the winner is the team who has scored the most shots after 18 ends of play. Often local tournaments will play shorter games (often 10 or 12 ends). Some competitions use a "set" scoring system, with the first to seven points awarded a set in a best-or-three or best-of-five set match. As well as singles competition, there can be two (pairs), three (triples) and four-player (fours) teams. In these, teams bowl alternately, with each player within a team bowling all their bowls, then handing over to the next player. The team captain or "skip" always plays last and is instrumental in directing his team's shots and tactics. The current method of scoring in the professional tour (World Bowls Tour) is sets. Each set consists of nine ends and the player with the most shots at the end of a set wins the set. If the score is tied the set is halved. If a player wins two sets, or gets a win and a tie, that player wins the game. If each player wins a set, or both sets end tied, there is a 3-end tiebreaker to determine a winner.

Swifts Creek Bowls Club

Bias of bowls

Two bowls with club stickers. The kitty is sitting in front of the bowls.

Bowls are designed to travel a curved path because of a weight bias which was originally produced by inserting weights in one side of the bowl. This is no longer permitted by the rules and bias is now produced entirely by the shape of the bowl. A bowler determines the bias direction of the bowl in his hand by a dimple or symbol on one side. Regulations determine the minimum bias allowed, and the range of diameters (11.6 to 13.1 cm), but within these rules bowlers can and do choose bowls to suit their own preference. They were originally made from lignum vitae, a dense wood giving rise to the term "woods" for bowls, but are now more typically made of a hard plastic composite material.

Bowls were once only available coloured black or brown but they are now available in a variety of colours. They have unique symbol markings engraved on them for identification. Since many bowls look the same, coloured, adhesive stickers or labels are also used to mark the bowls of each team in bowls matches. Some local associations agree specific colours for stickers for each of the clubs in their area. Provincial or national colors are often assigned in national and international competitions. These stickers are used by officials to distinguish teams.

Bowls have symbols unique to the set of four for identification. The side of the bowl with a larger symbol within a circle indicates the side away from the bias. That side with a smaller symbol within a smaller circle is the bias side toward which the bowl will turn. It is not uncommon for players to deliver a "wrong bias" shot from time to time and see their carefully aimed bowl crossing neighbouring rinks rather than heading towards their jack.

When bowling there are several types of delivery. "Draw" shots are those where the bowl is rolled to a specific location without causing too much disturbance of bowls already in the head. For a right-handed bowler, "forehand draw" or "finger peg" is initially aimed to the right of the jack, and curves in to the left. The same bowler can deliver a "backhand draw" or "thumb peg" by turning the bowl over in his hand and curving it the opposite way, from left to right. In both cases, the bowl is rolled as close to the jack as possible, unless tactics demand otherwise. A "drive" or "fire" or "strike" involves bowling with force with the aim of knocking either the jack or a specific bowl out of play - and with the drive's speed, there is virtually no noticeable (or, at least, much less) curve on the shot. An "upshot" or "yard on" shot involves delivering the bowl with an extra degree of weight (often referred to as "controlled" weight or "rambler"), enough to displace the jack or disturb other bowls in the head without killing the end. A "block" shot is one that is intentionally placed short to defend from a drive or to stop an oppositions draw shot. The challenge in all these shots is to be able to adjust line and length accordingly, the faster the delivery, the narrower the line or "green".

Variations of play

Particularly in team competition there can be a large number of bowls on the green towards the conclusion of the end, and this gives rise to complex tactics. Teams "holding shot" with the closest bowl will often make their subsequent shots not with the goal of placing the bowl near the jack, but in positions to make it difficult for opponents to get their bowls into the head, or to places where the jack might be deflected to if the opponent attempts to disturb the head.

A crown green at Edgworth, Lancashire.

There are many different ways to set up the game. Crown Green Bowling utilises the entire green. A player can send the jack anywhere on the green in this game and the green itself is more akin to a golf green, with lots of undulation. Crown Green Bowls is very popular mostly in the North of England but also in Wales, West Midlands and Shropshire. The game is played usually to 21-up in Singles and Doubles format with some competitions playing to 31-up. The Panel (Professional Crown Green Bowls) is played at the Red Lion, Westhoughton daily and is played to 41-up with greenside betting throughout play. The game of Crown Green Bowls is looking to grow with the introduction of the Portugese Masters in October and recent interest from Sky TV to re-televise the sport.

Singles, triples and fours and Australian pairs are some ways the game can be played. In singles, two people play against each other and the first to win to either 21, 25 or 31 shots (how many bowls of ones are closest to the white jack or kitty are shots). The controlling body sets the game to either 21, 25 or 31. An additional scoring method is set play. This comprises two sets over nine ends, an end being the completion of both players delivering all their bowls. Should a player win a set each, they then play a further 3 ends that will decide the winner.

Pairs allows both people on a team to play Skip and Lead. The lead throws two bowls, the skip delivers two, then the lead delivers his remaining two, the skip then delivers his remaining two bowls. Each end, the leads and skips switch positions. This is played over 21 ends or sets play. Triples is with three players while Fours is with four players in each team and is played over 21 ends.

Short Mat Bowls is an all-year sport unaffected by weather conditions and it does not require a permanent location as the rink mats can be rolled up and stowed away. This makes it particularly appropriate for small communities as it can be played in village halls, schools, sports and social clubs, hotels etc. where space is restricted and is also required for other purposes: it is even played on North Sea oil rigs where space is really at a premium.

Bowls are played by the blind and Paraplegic. Blind bowlers are extremely skilful due to their extreme sense of hearing and feel[citation needed]. The world's best are a match for the best club level sighted bowlers[citation needed].

Popularity

Merewether Bowling Club, Newcastle, New South Wales
The Alberta Male Junior Champion for 2007. Taken at Royal Lawn Bowling Club in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Bowls is popular in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, Hong Kong and parts of the United States. It is also gaining momentum in Japan. Because of its competitiveness, skill and the fact that it is a non-contact sport, the game suits people from teen years through to their nineties. However, there is a considerable professional competition with many younger men and women playing. Since the early 2000s, the sport has developed in Denmark as well[citation needed]. The World Championships held in the UK annually is a £100,000 competition and is watched by 3 million viewers via BBC TV[citation needed].

Another phenomenon is barefoot or corporate bowls, where established clubs in Australia open their greens to paying customers who are organised into teams for a social few hours on the green.

Bowls is played at the Commonwealth Games; the last being held in Melbourne Australia, where Kelvin Kerkow (Australia) and Siti Zalina Ahmad (Malaysia) won the singles Gold Medals. 2010 sees the Games in Delhi, India.

World Indoor Singles Champions

1979 David Bryant England
1980 David Bryant (2) England
1981 David Bryant (3) England
1982 John Watson Scotland
1983 Bob Sutherland Scotland
1984 Jim Baker Ireland
1985 Terry Sullivan Wales
1986 Tony Allcock England
1987 Tony Allcock (2) England
1988 Hugh Duff Scotland
1989 Richard Corsie Scotland
1990 John Price Wales
1991 Richard Corsie (2) Scotland
1992 Ian Schuback Australia
1993 Richard Corsie (3) Scotland
1994 Andy Thomson England
1995 Andy Thomson (2) England
1996 David Gourlay Scotland
1997 Hugh Duff (2) Scotland
1998 Paul Foster Scotland
1999 Alex Marshall Scotland
2000 Robert Weale Wales
2001 Paul Foster (2) Scotland
2002 Tony Allcock (3) England
2003 Alex Marshall (2) Scotland
2004 Alex Marshall (3) Scotland
2005 Paul Foster (3) Scotland
2006 Mervyn King England
2007 Alex Marshall (4) Scotland
2008 Alex Marshall (5) Scotland
2009 Billy Jackson England
2010 Greg Harlow England

Wins by country: Scotland (16), England (11), Wales (3), Ireland (1), Australia (1)

World Bowls Events

These are the premier events between national bowls organisations affiliated to World Bowls Ltd.

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World Championship

First held in Australia in 1966, the World Championships for men and women are held every 4 years. From 2008 the men's and women's events are held together. Qualifying national bowls organisations (usually countries) are represented by sides of 5 players, who play once as a single and a four, then again as a pair and a triple. Gold, silver, and bronze medals are awarded in each of the 4 disciplines, and there is also a trophy for the best overall 5-player side — the Leonard Trophy for men and the Taylor Trophy for women.

The next World Bowls Championships will be held in Adelaide, Australia from 24 November – 9 December 2012.

Men's Titles

Year Venue Singles Champion Fours Champions *
1966 Sydney, Australia  David Bryant (ENG)  Bill O'Neill, Gordon Jolly, Ron Buchan, Norm Lash (NZL)
1972 Worthing, England  Malwyn Evans (WAL)  Peter Line, E H Hayward, C Stroud, Norman King (ENG)
1976 Johannesburg, South Africa  Doug Watson (RSA)  Kevin Campbell, Bill Moseley, Nando Gatti, Kelvin Lightfoot (RSA)
1980 Melbourne, Australia  David Bryant (ENG)  Omar Dallah, Eric Liddell, George Souza, Philip Chok (HKG)
1984 Aberdeen, Scotland  Peter Bellis (NZL)  Tony Allcock, John Bell, Julian Haines, George Turley (ENG)
1988 Auckland, New Zealand  David Bryant (ENG)  Jim Baker, Sammy Allen, John McCloughlin, Rodney McCutcheon (IRE)
1992 Worthing, England  Tony Allcock (ENG)  Angus Blair, Willie Wood, Alex Marshall, Graham Robertson (SCO)
1996 Adelaide, South Australia  Tony Allcock (ENG)  John Bell, Andy Thomson, D Cutler, B Morley (ENG)
2000 Johannesburg, South Africa  Jeremy Henry (IRL)  William Thomas, Robert Weale, Steven Rees, M Williams (WAL)
2004 Ayr, Scotland  Steve Glasson (AUS)  Jim Baker, Neil Booth, Noel Graham, Jonny Ross (IRE)
2008 Christchurch, New Zealand  Safuan Said (MYS)  Gary Lawson, Russell Meyer, Richard Girvan, Andrew Todd (NZL)
Year Pairs Champions * Triples Champions * Leonard Trophy
1966  G. Kelly, A. Palm (AUS)  J M Dobbie, A Johnston, D Collins (AUS)  Australia
1972  Eric Liddell, Saco Delgado (HKG)  Dick Folkins, Clive Forrester, Bill Miller (USA)  Scotland
1976  Bill Moseley, Doug Watson (RSA)  Kevin Campbell, Nando Gatti, Kelvin Lightfoot (RSA)  South Africa
1980  Peter Rheuben, Alf Sandercock (AUS)  David Bryant, Tony Allcock, Jimmy Hobday (ENG)  England
1984  Skip Arculli, George Adrain (USA)**  Jim Baker, Sammy Allen, Stan Espie (IRE)  Scotland
1988  Peter Belliss, Rowan Brassey (NZL)  Phil Skoglund, Morgan Moffat, Ian Dickison (NZL)  England
1992  Alex Marshall, Richard Corsie (SCO)  Cecil Bransky, Lawrence Mendelsohn, Leon Blum (ISR)  Scotland
1996  Sammy Allen, Jeremy Henry (IRE)  George Adrain, Willie Wood, Raymond Logan (SCO)  Scotland
2000  Alex Marshall, George Sneddon (SCO)  Peter Belliss, Rowan Brassey, Andrew Curtain (NZL)  Australia
2004  Ryan Bester, Keith Roney (CAN)  David Peacock, Willie Wood, Jim McIntyre (SCO)  Scotland
2008  Gary Lawson, Russell Meyer (NZL)  David Peacock, Willie Wood, Wayne Hogg (SCO)  New Zealand

* Team order is Skip to Lead **  George Adrain (SCO) replaced  Jim Candelet (USA) for the 1984 pairs final

Women's Titles

Year Venue Singles Champion Fours Champions *
1969 Sydney, Australia  Gladys Doyle (PNG)  M Gridlan, C Bidwell, Y Emanuel, S Sundelowitz (RSA)
1973 Wellington, New Zealand  Elsie Wilkie (NZL)  Cis Winstanley, Verna Devlin, Noeline Scott, Irene Foote (NZL)
1977 Worthing, England  Elsie Wilkie (NZL)  Merle Richardson, Lorna Lucas, Connie Hicks, Dot Jenkinson (AUS)
1981 Toronto, Canada  Norma Shaw (ENG)  Mavis Steele, Betty Stubbings, Gloria Thomas, Eileen Fletcher (ENG)**
1985 Melbourne, Australia  Merle Richardson (AUS)  Frances Whyte, Annette Evans, Elizabeth Christie, Sarah Gourlay (SCO)
1988 Auckland, New Zealand  Janet Ackland (WAL)  Dorothy Roche, Norma Wainwright, Marion Stevens, Greeta Fahey (AUS)
1992 Ayr, Scotland  Margaret Johnston (IRE)  Senga McCrone, Frances Whyte, Janet Maxwell, Joyce Lindores (SCO)
1996 Leamington Spa, England  Carmen Anderson (NFK)  Daphne Shaw, Margaret Sumner, Marilyn Peddell, Gordana Baric (AUS)
2000 Moama, Australia  Margaret Johnston (IRE)  Anne Lomas, Patsy Jorgensen, Jan Khan, Sharon Sims (NZL)
2004 Leamington Spa, England  Margaret Johnston (IRE)  Amy Monkhouse, Jean Baker, Ellen Falkner, Jayne Christie (ENG)
2008 Christchurch, New Zealand  Val Smith (NZL)  Karen Murphy, Claire Duke, Julie Keegan, Lynsey Armitage (AUS)
Year Pairs Champions * Triples Champions * Taylor Trophy
1969  M. Gridlan, E. McDonald (RSA)  C Bidwell, Y Emanuel, S Sundelowitz (RSA)  South Africa
1973  Dot Jenkinson, Lorna Lucas (AUS)  Cis Winstanley, Irene Foote, Noeline Scott (NZL)  New Zealand
1977  Helen Wong, Elvie Chok (HKG)  Enid Morgan, Margaret Pomeroy, Joan Osborne (WAL)  Australia
1981  Nan Allely, Eileen Bell (IRE)  Lena Sadick, Rae O'Donnell, Linda King (HKG)  England
1985  Merle Richardson, Fay Craig (AUS)  Mavis Meadowcroft, Norma Massey, Dorothy Roche (AUS)  Australia
1988  Margaret Johnston, Phillis Nolan (IRE)  Dorothy Roche, Marion Stevens, Greeta Fahey (AUS)  England
1992  Margaret Johnston, Phillis Nolan (IRE)  Frances Whyte, Janet Maxwell, Joyce Lindores (SCO)  Scotland
1996  Margaret Johnston, Phillis Nolan (IRE)  Hester Bekker, Barbara Redshaw, Jannie de Beer (RSA)  South Africa
2000  Joyce Lindores, Margaret Letham (SCO)  Anne Lomas, Sharon Sims, Patsy Jorgensen (NZL)  England
2004  Jo Edwards, Sharon Sims (NZL)  Loraine Victor, Jill Hackland, Trish Steyn (RSA)  England
2008  Jo Edwards, Val Smith (NZL)  Lorna Trigwell, Loraine Victor, Sylvia Burns (RSA)  Australia

* Team order is Skip to Lead.

**  Irene Molyneux (ENG) may have played as a replacement in the 1981 Fours final.

Summary

Country Men
Women
Total
 New Zealand 7 9 16
 Australia 4 9 13
 England 9 3 12
 Ireland 5 7 12
 Scotland 6 4 10
 South Africa 4 6 10
 Hong Kong China 2 2 4
 Wales 2 2 4
 United States 2 0 2
 Canada 1 0 1
 Israel 1 0 1
 Malaysia 1 0 1
 Norfolk Island 0 1 1
 Papua New Guinea 0 1 1

World Champion of Champions Singles

Contested annually between bowlers who have won their respective national singles title.

Year Venue Women Men
2003 Moama, Australia  Liz James (SWZ)  Douw Calitz (NAM)
2004 Warilla, Australia  Margaret Johnston (IRE)  Ali Forsyth (NZL)
2005 Christchurch, New Zealand  Nor Iryani Azmi (MYS)  Mark Walton (ENG)
2006 Christchurch, New Zealand  Julie Saunders (ENG)  Darren Burnett (SCO)
2007 Warilla, Australia  Alison Merrien (GGY)  Tony Grantham (NZL)
2008 Aberdeen, Scotland  Kathy Pearce (WAL)  Leif Selby (AUS)
2009 Ayr, Scotland  Kelsey Cottrell (AUS)  Brett Wilkie (AUS)

World Cup Singles

Contested annually between bowlers from national bowls organisations. The senior event is played indoors, while in recent years the junior event (for under–25 players) has been played outdoors.

Year Venue World Cup World Junior Cup
Women Men Women Men
2005 Hong Kong  Grace Chu (HKG)  Mark Casey (AUS)  Lynsey Armitage (AUS)  Safuan Said (MYS)
2006 Warilla, Australia  Shirley Choy (CAN)  Neil Speirs (SCO)  Lynsey Armitage (AUS)  Wayne Hogg (SCO)
2007 Warilla, Australia  Judy Nardella (AUS)  Kelvin Kerkow (AUS)  Melanie Macaulay (AUS)  Barry Kane (IRE)
2008 Warilla, Australia  Alison Merrien (GGY)  Safuan Said (MYS)  Melanie Macaulay (AUS)  Aron Sherriff (AUS)
2009 Warilla, Australia  Jo Edwards (NZL)  Leif Selby (AUS)  Genevieve Baildon (NZL)  Craig England (SCO)

References in popular culture

  • Blackball – a 2003 comedy film about a young bowls player, based upon Griff Sanders.[2]
  • Crackerjack - a 2002 Australian comedy film about a wisecracking layabout who joins a lawn bowls club in order to be allowed to use a free parking spot but is forced to play lawn bowls with the much older crowd when the club enters financial difficulty.
  • Bowling was popularised in St Kilda, Victoria due to the success of the television show The Secret Life of Us.
  • In the Borat Segment of the Ali G show, where the fictional Kazakhstani reporter repeatedly asks the bowls coach he's interviewing 'and when will Jack come?'

See also

References

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

External links


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

BOWLS, the oldest British outdoor pastime, next to archery, still in vogue. It has been traced certainly to the 13th, and conjecturally to the 12th century. William Fitzstephen (d. about 1190), in his biography of Thomas Becket, gives a graphic sketch of the London of his day and, writing of the summer amusements of the young men, says that on holidays they were "exercised in Leaping, Shooting, Wrestling, Casting of Stones [in jactu lapidum], and Throwing of Javelins fitted with Loops for the Purpose, which they strive to fling before the Mark; they also use Bucklers, like fighting Men." It is commonly supposed that by jactus lapidum Fitzstephen meant the game of bowls, but though it is possible that round stones may sometimes have been employed in an early variety of the game - and there is a record of iron bowls being used, though at a much later date, on festive occasions at Nairn, - nevertheless the inference seems unwarranted. The jactus lapidum of which he speaks was probably more akin to the modern "putting the weight," once even called "putting the stone." It is beyond dispute, however, that the game, at any rate in a rudimentary form, was played in the 13th century. A MS. of that period in the royal library, Windsor (No. 20, E iv.), contains a drawing representing two players aiming at a small cone instead of an earthenware ball or jack. Another MS. of the same century has a picture - crude, but spirited - which brings us into close touch with the existing game. Three figures are introduced and a jack. The first player's bowl has come to rest just in front of the jack; the second has delivered his bowl and is following after it with one of those eccentric contortions still not unusual on modern greens, the first player meanwhile making a repressive gesture with his hand, as if to urge the bowl to stop short of his own; the third player is depicted as in the act of delivering his bowl. A 14th-century MS. Book of Prayers in the Francis Douce collection in the Bodleian library at Oxford contains a drawing in which two persons are shown, but they bowl to no mark. Strutt (Sports and Pastimes) suggests that the first player's bowl may have been regarded by the second player as a species of jack; but in that case it is not clear what was the first player's target. In these three earliest illustrations of the pastime it is worth noting that each player has one bowl only, and that the attitude in delivering it was as various five or six hundred years ago as it is to-day. In the third he stands almost upright; in the first he kneels; in the second he stoops, halfway between the upright and the kneeling position.

As the game grew in popularity it came under the ban of king and parliament, both fearing it might jeopardize the practice of archery, then so important in battle; and statutes forbidding it and other sports were enacted in the reigns of Edward III., Richard II. and other monarchs. Even when, on the invention of gunpowder and firearms, the bow had fallen into disuse as a weapon of war, the prohibition was continued. The discredit attaching to bowling alleys, first established in London in 1455, probably encouraged subsequent repressive legislation, for many of the alleys were connected with taverns frequented by the dissolute and gamesters. The word "bowls" occurs for the first time in the statute of 1511 in which Henry VIII. confirmed previous enactments against unlawful games. By a further act of 1541 - which was not repealed until 1845 - artificers, labourers, apprentices, servants and the like were forbidden to play bowls at any time save Christmas, and then only in their master's house and presence. It was further enjoined that any one playing bowls outside of his own garden or orchard was liable to a penalty of 6s. 8d., while those possessed of lands of the yearly value of £ioo might obtain licences to play on their own private greens. But though the same statute absolutely prohibited bowling alleys, Henry VIII. had them constructed for his own pleasure at Whitehall Palace, and was wont to back himself when he played. In Mary's reign (1555) the licences were withdrawn, the queen or her advisers deeming the game an excuse for "unlawful assemblies, conventicles, seditions and conspiracies." The scandals of the bowling alleys grew rampant in Elizabethan London, and Stephen Gosson in his School of Abuse (1579) says, "Common bowling alleys are privy moths that eat up the credit of many idle citizens; whose gains at home are not able to weigh down their losses abroad; whose shops are so far from maintaining their play, that their wives and children cry out for bread, and go to bed supperless often in the year." Biased bowls were introduced in the 16th century. "A little altering of the one side," says Robert Recorde, the mathematician, in his Castle of Knowledge (1556), "maketh the bowl to run biasse waies." And Shakespeare (Richard II., Act. III. Sc. 4) causes the queen to remonstrate, in reply to her lady's suggestion of a game at bowls to relieve her ennui, "'Twill make me think the world is full of rubs, and that my fortune runs against the bias." This passage is interesting also as showing that women were accustomed to play the game in those days. It is pleasant to think that there is foundation for the familiar story of Sir Francis Drake playing bowls on Plymouth Hoe as the Armada was beating up Channel, and finishing his game before tackling the Spaniards. Bowls, at that date, was looked upon as a legitimate amusement for Sundays, - as, indeed, were many other sports. When John Knox visited Calvin at Geneva one Sunday, it is said that he discovered him engaged in a game; and John Aylmer (1521-1594), though bishop of London, enjoyed a game of a Sunday afternoon, but used such language "as justly exposed his character to reproach." The pastime found favour with the Stuarts. In the Book of Sports (1618), James I. recommended a moderate indulgence to his son, Prince Henry, and Charles I. was an enthusiastic bowler, unfortunately encouraging by example wagering and playing for high stakes, habits that ultimately brought the green into as general disrepute as the alley. It is recorded that the king occasionally visited Richard Shute, a Turkey merchant who owned a beautiful green at Barking Hall, and that after one bout his losses were £1000. He was permitted to play his favourite game to beguile the tedium of his captivity. The signboard of a wayside inn near Goring Heath in Oxfordshire long bore a portrait of the king with couplets reciting how his majesty "drank from the bowl, and bowl'd for what he drank." During his stay at the Northamptonshire village of Holdenby or Holmby - where Sir Thomas Herbert complains the green was not well kept - Charles frequently rode over to Lord Vaux's place at Harrowden, or to Lord Spencer's at Althorp, for a game, and, according to one account, was actually playing on the latter green when Cornet Joyce came to Holmby to remove him to other quarters. During this period gambling had become a mania. John Aubrey, the antiquary, chronicles that the sisters of Sir John Suckling, the courtier-poet, once went to the bowling-green in Piccadilly, crying, "for fear he should lose all their portions." If the Puritans regarded bowls with no friendly eye, as Lord Macaulay asserts, one can hardly wonder at it. But even the Puritans could not suppress betting. So eminently respectable a person as John Evelyn thought no harm in bowling for stakes, and once played at the Durdans, near Epsom, for £io, winning match and money, as he triumphantly notes in his Diary for the 14th of August 1657. Samuel Pepys repeatedly mentions finding great people "at bowles." But in time the excesses attending the game rendered it unfashionable, and after the Revolution it became practically a pothouse recreation, nearly all the greens, like the alleys, having been constructed in the grounds and gardens attached to taverns.

After a long interval salvation came from Scotland, somewhat unexpectedly, because although, along with its winter analogue of curling, bowls may now be considered, much more than golf, the Scottish national game, it was not until well into the 19th century that the pastime acquired popularity in that country. It had been known in Scotland since the close of the 16th century (the Glasgow kirk session fulminated an edict against Sunday bowls in 1595), but greens were few and far between. There is record of a club in Haddington in 1709, of Tom Bicket's green in Kilmarnock in 1740, of greens in Candleriggs and Gallowgate, Glasgow, and of one in Lanark in 1750, of greens in the grounds of Heriot's hospital, Edinburgh, prior to 1768, and of one in Peebles in 1775. These are, of course, mere infants compared with the Southampton Town Bowling Club, founded in 1299, which still uses the green on which it has played for centuries and possesses the quaint custom of describing its master, or president, as "sir," and are younger even than the Newcastle-onTyne club established in 1657. But the earlier clubs did nothing towards organizing the game. In 1848 and 1849, however, when many clubs had come into existence in the west and south of Scotland (the Willowbank, dating from 1816, is the oldest club in Glasgow), meetings were held in Glasgow for the purpose of promoting a national association. This was regarded, by many, as impracticable, but a decision of final importance was reached when a consultative committee was appointed to draft a uniform code of laws to govern the game. This body delegated its functions to its secretary, W. W. Mitchell (1803-1884), who prepared a code that was immediately adopted in Scotland as the standard laws. It was in this sense that Scottish bowlers saved the game. They were, besides, pioneers in laying down level greens of superlative excellence. Not satisfied with seed-sown grass or meadow turf, they experimented with seaside turf and found it answer admirably. The 13th earl of Eglinton also set an example of active interest which many magnates emulated. Himself a keen bowler, he offered for competition, in 1854, a silver bowl and, in 1857, a gold bowl and the Eglinton Cup, all to be played for annually. These trophies excited healthy rivalry in Ayrshire and Lanarkshire, and the enthusiasm as well as the skill with which the game was conducted in Scotland at length proved contagious. Clubs in England began to consider the question of legislation, and to improve their greens. Moreover, Scottish emigrants introduced the game wherever they went, and colonists in Australia and New Zealand established many clubs which, in the main, adopted Mitchell's laws; while clubs were also started in Canada and in the United States, in South Africa, India (Calcutta, Karachi), Japan (Kobe, Yokohama, Kumamoto) and Hong-Kong. In Ireland the game took root very gradually, but in Ulster, owing doubtless to constant intercourse with Scotland, such clubs as have been founded are strong in numbers and play.

On the European continent the game can scarcely be said to be played on scientific principles. It has existed in France since the 17th century. When John Evelyn was in Paris in 1644 he saw it played in the gardens of the Luxembourg Palace. In the south of France it is rather popular with artisans, who, however, are content to pursue it on any flat surface and use round instead of biased bowls, the bowler, moreover, indulging in a preliminary run before delivering the bowl, after the fashion of a bowler in cricket. A rude variety of the game occurs in Italy, and, as we have seen, John Calvin played it in Geneva, where John Evelyn also noticed it in 1646. There is evidence of its vogue in Holland in the 17th century, for the painting by David Teniers (1610-1690), in the Scottish National Gallery at Edinburgh, is wrongly described as "Peasants playing at Skittles." In this picture three men are represented as having played a bowl, while the fourth is in the act of delivering his bowl. The game is obviously bowls, the sole difference being that an upright peg, about 4 in. high, is employed instead of a jack, - recalling, in this respect, the old English form of the game already mentioned.

Serious efforts to organize the game were made in the last quarter of the 19th century, but this time the lead came from Australia. The Bowling Associations of Victoria and New South Wales were established in 1880, and it was not until 1892 that the Scottish Bowling Association was founded. Then in rapid succession came several independent bodies - the Midland Counties (1895), the London and Southern Counties (1896), the Imperial (1899), the English (1903) and the Irish and Welsh (1904). These institutions were concerned with the task of regularizing the game within the territories indicated by their titles, but it soon appeared that the multiplicity of associations was likely to prove a hindrance rather than a help, and with a view, therefore, to reducing the number of clashing jurisdictions and bringing about the establishment of a single legislative authority, the Imperial amalgamated with the English B.A. in 1905. The visits to the United Kingdom of properly organized teams of bowlers from Australia and New Zealand in 1901 and from Canada in 1904 demonstrated that the game had gained enormously in popularity. The former visit was commemorated by the institution of the Australia Cup, presented to the Imperial Bowling Association (and now the property of the English B.A.) by Mr Charles Wood, president of the Victorian Bowling Association. An accredited team of bowlers from the mother country visited Canada in 1906, and was accorded a royal welcome. Perhaps the most interesting proof that bowls is a true Volksspiel is to be found in the fact that it has become municipalized. In Edinburgh, Glasgow, and elsewhere in Scotland, and in London (through the county council), Newcastle and other English towns, the corporations have laid down greens in public parks and open spaces. In Scotland the public greens are selfsupporting, from a charge, which includes the use of bowls, of one penny an hour for each player; in London the upkeep of the greens falls on the rates, but players must provide their own bowls.

There are two kinds of bowling green, the level and the crown. The crown has a fall which may amount to as much as 18 in.

all round from the centre to the sides. This type of .

green is confined almost wholly to certain of the northern and midland counties of England, where it is popular for singlehanded, gate-money contests. But although the crown-green game is of a sporting character, it necessitates the use of bowls of narrow bias and affords but limited scope for the display of skill and science. It is the game on the perfectly level green that constitutes the historical game of bowls. Subject to the rule as to the shortest distance to which the jack must be thrown (25 yds.), there is no prescribed size for the lawn; but 42 yds. square forms an ideal green. The Queen's Park and Titwood clubs in Glasgow have each three greens, and as they can quite comfortably play six rinks on each, it is not uncommon to see 144 players making their game simultaneously. An undersized lawn is really a poor pitch, because it involves playing from corner to corner instead of up and down - the orthodox direction. For the scientific construction of a green, the whole ground must be excavated to a depth of 18 in. or so, and thoroughly drained, and layers of different materials (gravel, cinders, moulds, silver-sand) laid down before the final covering of turf, 21 or 3 in. thick. Seaside turf is the best. It wears longest and keeps its "spring" to the last. Surrounding the green is a space called a ditch, which is nearly but not quite on a level with the green and slopes gently away from it, the side next the turf being lined with boarding, the ditch itself bottomed with wooden spars resting on the foundation. Beyond the ditch are banks generally laid with turf. A green is divided into spaces usually from 18 to 21 ft. in width, commonly styled "rinks" - a word which also designates each set of players - and these are numbered in sequence on a plate fixed in the bank at each end opposite the centre of the space. The end ditch within the limits of the space is, according to Scottish laws, regarded as part of the green, a regulation which prejudices the general acceptance of those laws. In match play each space is further marked off from its neighbour by thin string securely fastened flush with the turf.

Every player uses four lignum vitae bowls in single-handed games and (as a rule) in friendly games, but only two in matches. Every bowl must have a certain amount of bias, which was formerly obtained by loading one side with lead, but is now imparted by the turner making one side more convex than the other, the bulge showing the side of the bias. No bowl must have less than No. 3 bias - that is, it should draw about 6 ft. to a 30 yd. jack on a first-rate green: it follows that on an inferior green the bowler, though using the same bowl, would have to allow for a narrower draw. It is also a rule that the diameter of the bowl shall not be less than 411n. nor more than 54 in., and that its weight must not exceed 31 T. The jack or kitty, as the white earthenware ball to which the bowler bowls is called, is round and 21 to 21 in. in diameter. On crown-greens it is customary to use a small biased wooden jack to give the bowler some clue to the run of the green. The bowler delivers his bowl with one foot on a mat or footer, made of india-rubber or cocoanut fibre, the size of which is also prescribed by rule as 24 by 16 in., though, with a view to protecting the green, Australasian clubs employ a much larger size, and require the bowler to keep both feet on the mat in the act of delivery.

In theory the game of bowls is very simple, the aim of the player being to roll his bowl so as to cause it to rest nearer to the jack than his opponent's, or to protect a well-placed bowl, or to dislodge a better bowl than his own. But in practice there is every opportunity for skill. On all good greens the game is played in rinks of four a side, there being, however, on the part of many English clubs still an adherence to the old-fashioned method of two and three a side rinks. Ordinarily a match team consists of four rinks of four players each, or sixteen men in all. The four players in a rink are known as the leader, second player, third player and skip (or driver, captain or director), and their positions, at least in matches, are unchangeable. Great responsibility is thus thrown on the skip in the choice of his players, who are selected for well-defined reasons. The leader has to place the mat, to throw the jack, to count the game, and to call the result of each end or head to the skip who is at the other end of the green. He is picked for his skill in playing to the jack. It is, therefore, his business to "be up." There is no excuse for short play on his part, and his bowls would be better off the green than obstructing the path of subsequent bowls. So he will endeavour to be "on the jack," the ideal position being a bowl at rest immediately in front of or behind it. The skip plays last, and directs his men from the end that is being played to. The weakest player in the four is invariably played in the second place (the "soft second"). Most frequently he will be required either to protect a good bowl or to rectify a possible error of the leader. His official duty is to mark the game on the scoring card when the leader announces the result. He keeps a record of the play of both sides. The third player, who does any measuring that may be necessary to determine which bowl or bowls may be nearest the jack, holds almost as responsible a position as the captain, whose place, in fact, he takes whenever the skip is temporarily absent. The duties of the skip will already be understood by inference. Before he leaves the jack to play, he must observe the situation of the bowls of both sides. It may be that he has to draw a shot with the utmost nicety to save the end, or even the match, or to lay a cunningly contrived block, or to "fire" - that is, to deliver his bowl almost dead straight at the object, with enough force to kill the bias for the moment. The score having been counted, the leader then places the mat, usually within a yard of the spot where the jack lay at the conclusion of the head, and throws the jack in the opposite direction for a fresh end. On small greens play, for obvious reasons, generally takes place from each ditch. The players play in couples - the first on both sides, then the second and so on. The leader having played his first bowl, the opposing leader will play his first and so on. As a rule, a match consists of 21 points, or 21 ends (or a few more, by agreement) .

a

B

?

Feet

B

=!

B

' J :? ? ,151

q

J

J

i

FIG. I. - Drawing.

FIG. 2 - Guarding. FIG. 3. - Trailing.

(In every case F is the Footer, B the Bowl, J the Jack.)

FIG. 4. - Driving.

Certain points in the play call for notice. In throwing the jack, the leader is bound to throw (i.e. roll) a legal jack. A legal jack must travel at least 25 yds. from the footer and not come to rest within 2 yds. of either side boundary; but it may be thrown as far beyond this as the leader chooses, provided that it does not run within 2 yds. of the end ditch or either side boundary. In English practice the leader is entitled to a second throw if he fail to roll a On Scottish greens the game of points is frequently played, but it is rarely seen on English greens. Its main object is to perfect the proficiency of players in certain departments of bowls proper. There are four sections in the game, namely, drawing, guarding, trailing and driving. In drawing (fig. I), the object is to draw as near as possible to the jack, the player's bowl passing outside of two other bowls placed 5 ft. apart in a horizontal line 15 ft. from the jack, without touching either of them. Three points are scored if the bowl come to rest within I ft. of the jack, two points if within 2 ft., and one point if within 3 ft. Circles of these radii are usually marked around the jack for convenience' sake. In guarding (fig. 2), two jacks are laid at the far end of the green 12 ft. apart in a vertical line. A thread is then pinned down between them, and on each side of this thread three others are pinned down parallel with it and 6 in. apart from each other. A bowl that comes to rest on the central line, or within 6 in. of it, counts three points, a bowl 12 in. away two points, and a bowl 18 in. off one point. In trailing (fig. 3), two bowls are laid on the turf 3 ft. apart, and straight lines are chalked from bowl to bowl across their back and front faces, and a jack is then deposited equidistant from each bowl and immediately before the front line. A semicircle is then drawn behind the bowls with a radius of 9 ft. from the jack. Three points are given to the bowl that trails the jack over both lines into the semicircle and goes over them itself. If a bowl trail the jack over both lines, but only itself cross the first; or if it pass both lines, but the jack cross only the first, two points are awarded. A bowl passing between the jack and either of the stationary bowls, and passing over the back line; or touching the jack, yet not trailing it past the first line, but itself crossing the back line; B I) 'B B ' S Feet---? legal jack at his first attempt; should he fail again, the right to throw passes to his opponent, but not the right of playing first. On Scottish greens the leader has only a single throw. A legal jack should not be interfered with except by the course of play. Should the jack be driven towards the side boundary, it is legitimate for a player to cause his bowl to draw outside of the dividing string, provided that when it has ceased running it shall have come to rest entirely within his own space. If it stop on the string, or outside of it, the bowl is "dead" and must be removed to the bank. A "toucher" bowl is a characteristic of the Scottish game to which great exception is taken by many English clubs. Should a bowl running jackwards touch the jack, however slightly, it is called a toucher and must be marked by the skip with a chalk cross as soon as it is at rest. Such a bowl is alive until the end is finished wherever it may lie, within the limits of the space. Even if it run into the ditch or be driven in by another bowl, it will yet count as alive. A bowl, however, that is forced on to the jack by another is not a toucher. The feat of hitting the jack is so common that it really calls for no special reward. Difference of opinion prevails as to the condition of the jack after it has been driven into the ditch. According to Scottish rules, unless it has been forced clean out of bounds, such a jack is still alive. On most English greens it is a "dead" jack and the end void. Every bowler should learn both forehand and backhand play. In forehand play the bowl as it courses to the jack describes its segment of a circle on the right, in backhand play on the left. In both styles the biased side must always be the inner.

In the United Kingdom the regular bowling season extends from May day till the end of September or the middle of October. At its close the green must be carefully examined, weeds uprooted, worn patches re-turfed, and the whole laid under a winter blanket of silver-sand.

or trailing the jack over the front line without crossing it itself, receives one point. In no case must the stationary bowls be touched, or the semicircle crossed by the trailed jack or played bowls. In driving (fig. 4), two bowls are laid down 2 ft. apart, and then a jack is placed in front of them, 15 in. apart from each, and occupying the position of the apex of an inverted pyramid. The player who drives the jack into the ditch between the two bowls scores three. If he moves the jack, but does not carry it through to the ditch, he scores two. If he pass between the jack and either bowl he scores one, although it is not easy to see what driving he has done. The played bowl must itself run into the ditch without touching either of the stationary bowls. It is obvious that the points game demands an ideally perfect green.

See W. W. Mitchell, Manual of Bowl-playing (Glasgow, 1880); Laws of the Game issued by the Scottish B.A. (1893, et sqq.); H. J. Dingley, Touchers and Rubs (Glasgow, 1893); Sam Aylwin, The Gentle Art of Bowling, with 26 diagrams (London, 1904); James A. Manson, The Bowler's Handbook (London, 1906). (J. A. M.)


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