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Lawn Bowling

Updated on February 19, 2011

The History of Lawn Bowling

It's that time of year again. The long summer evenings, warm hazy sunshine and old folk shouting "Go on, Go on". What am I talking about? The new bowling season of course. No, not ten pin bowling but one of the most popular outside games in the world. In fact it is played all over the world especially in commonwealth countries.

From New Zealand to Canada, you will find clubs and associations for the sport of Lawn Bowling. Bowling goes way back in time. From early drawings it seems that a game similar to the modern game was played in the thirteenth century and indeed maybe the twelfth century. The oldest surviving bowling green is the Southampton Old Bowling Green that was first played on in 1299. The game was banned in England for many years because it had become more popular than archery and good archers were needed in the various king’s armies.

Probably the most famous bowler in history is Sir Francis Drake, when in 1588 at Plymouth Hoe a messenger interrupted his game announcing that the Spanish Armada was about to invade England. He is reputedly quoted as saying " There is plenty of time to win the game and thrash the Spaniards too" He continued his game then sorted out the Spaniards.

British Colonists took the game to America and in 1632 a bowling green was formed in Williamsberg, Virginia. In 1732 George Washington laid out a lawn in Mount Vernon.

The modern game came about when W.W. Mitchell from Glasgow had a meeting with members from Bowling Clubs to draw up a book of rules for the game. Using these fundamental rules the Scottish Bowling Association was formed in 1892 followed by the English Bowling Association in 1903 and in 1905 the International Bowling Board was formed consisting of Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales. Australia, Canada, South Africa and the United States of America later joined these.

Two Bowls and a Jack
Two Bowls and a Jack | Source

The Game

The game is played on a large area of grass called the green. The green is usually square measuring between 31 and 40 metres. The green is usually immaculately cut and rolled, looked after by obsessed green keepers. Around the outside there is a ditch with a bank at the back.

There are lots of variations but in its simplest form two competitors flip a coin to decide who goes first. Then a mat is placed on the green and the first man rolls the Jack. The Jack is a small bowl usually white and is used as the target.

Then the first man will bowl his first bowl and try to get as near the Jack as possible, preferably touching it. If it goes into the ditch then it is dead unless it touched the Jack on its way. Then the second player has his turn. The sequence is repeated with a second bowl. At the end of the round the player whose bowl or bowls are closest to the Jack wins the end. A score of one point is given to each bowls that is closest to the Jack so that will either be 1-0 or 2-0. The first one to 21 wins the game.

Crown Green Bowling

I live in the North of England and the most popular version of the game here is definitely Crown Green Bowls. In southern England the preferred game is flat green bowling. That is to say that the green is flat and level, a crown green is slightly raised in the middle, thus leading to many more undulations.

Did I forget to mention that the Bowls are not round like a ball? They are asymmetric with a built in bias. That is to say that the bowl will turn to one side depending on where the bias is. A dimple in one side usually indicates this. They were originally made from wood and many people still refer to them as woods but nowadays they are made from a plastic composite material.

In Crown Green Bowling you tend to use the length of the green but can choose to go in any direction. As more than one game is being played at a time (usually there will be at least four games being played on the green at any one time ) consideration to other players will decide where you bowl the jack. You don't want to keep passing other players paths but sometimes it is inevitable and bowls do collide.

In our town, we have at least six different clubs, each with their own greens and five public greens to be used by anyone. There are several leagues in the area and I believe in Westhoughton, (a few miles from here) they play professionally daily with lots of betting on the sidelines.

Caution Do Not Watch This Video If You Are Of A Nervous Disposition

The game is strangley compulsive and the players are very competative. You wouldn't believe the number of arguments that go on.

I myself, just play for pleasure and I am not in any team. It is a great way of relaxing after a hot days work, a gentle walk to the club, a quiet pint sat outside watching the bowls and a chuckle to myself when the competitors start arguing.

By the way at the beginning of this Hub, I wrote "old folk" but many of the players are younger than me now. They say "You are as young as you feel" so after watching that video I feel about ninety now.


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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Helpful information. Fortunate me I found your website unintentionally, and I am surprised why this twist of fate didn’t took place earlier! I bookmarked it.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      My spouse and i employed to obtain on top of lifestyle but these days I have piled up a new weight.

    • attemptedhumour profile image


      7 years ago from Australia

      Hi pe555, i discovered yesterday that instead of playing soccer again, as the doctor told me i'd be doing, four weeks after my knee surgery, i am in permanent retirement with ten percent of my cartilage still intact. I suppose it's not really the doctor's fault though. I can bend it Ok and there is a swanky new bowls club just up the road. I love watching the bowls when the commonwealth games is on, pity it's not an olympic sport. We used to play a bit when we were kids back in sunny Stourbridge, so i know how skillful and enjoyable the game is. Bowls is very popular over here in Oz, one of my soccer mates on the Gold Coast in Queensland is a green-keeper too. It was very interesting reading about it. I love History so when you add sport to the equation it's a win win. When your ball collides with one from another set of bowlers do you have another go, miss a shot, or have a great big massive all in brawl? Cheers mate throughly enjoyed your hub.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      what a great idea lawn bowling....


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