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Lawn Bowls - a quick guide for beginners
Bowling just has to be the greatest sport ever for non-sporty people - like me! I've been playing for nearly 20 years, and am definitely hooked. It is a game of skill, inifinite variety, gentle exercise, and great camaraderie. It is sometimes regarded as a game for old people, but a quick look at these pictures will show you that it is suitable for all ages - the club I belong to ranges in age from 8 to 83.
These shots were taken during a recent match when my own club (Barlestone Bowls Club, Leicestershire) was playing away on a green that was far from perfect - those brown patches simply should NOT be there! When I get a chance to wield the camera during a home game you'll definitely spot the difference!
The object of the exercise is to get the bowl as close as possible to the white ball, which is known as the jack. The bowls have a bias, which means that they run in a curving path rather than a straight line. However, the faster you send the bowl (or "wood"), the less curved will be its course, and the further it will go.
In the top picture you can see four rinks in action or, if you like, four separate games. Near the camera is a player who is placing the mat, from which all the bowlers will send their woods. In the background, young David is sending a wood down the green, and you will see that his back foot is still on the mat as he releases the bowl - as long as a foot is on or above the mat at the point of release, the delivery is legal. You can also see a player writing down the score from the previous "end".
In the second picture, a "head" has been formed by the bowls of the players who are now standing and watching as the last bowls of the end are sent. Somebody is applauding as a bowl looks as though it might win the end. In the background you can see a head where many of the woods were bowled too short to be much use - the later bowlers will find these difficult to negotiate.
The third picture gives a better perspective of what the bowlers have to do. At the far end, the player with a bowl is his hand is being told how the land lies. There is a bowl very close to the jack - if it is his team's bowl, he will be hoping to get another one very close to it and so score another point, but he might hit the bowl and send the jack back to one of the woods waiting behind, which might belong to the opposition. Decisions, decisions!
In the fourth picture, the jack has come quite close to the ditch, and the red/green bowl is clearly holding shot. If a blue bowl takes the jack and moves it closer to the blue bowl behind the jack, it could win two shots, but if it misses and goes in the ditch, it will count for nothing. Or, it if trails the jack into the ditch, that's another story!
You can also see the scoreboard behind the player (Colin!) with the white cap. This is clearly end number 20, and there is only one more end to play after this. This is a tight game that could go either way.
The picture below shows the camaraderie of bowling. After the match there's time for a drink and something to eat before we all go home.