Rules of Bowls | How it is Played?

The game is called Bowl because it involves bowls of spherical shapes with flattened sides. This game is believed to be a variant of the Boules games (Italian Boccia), which is one of the ancient games played by Greeks in ancient times. It doesn’t matter where it originated, it is a popular game all across the globe now.

Rules of Bowls

It is a versatile game because it can be played indoor and outdoor and which is why it’s a common source of entertainment and competition alongside. The current game of bowl had its first set of rules published in 1864 by a Glasgow cotton merchant named William Wallace Mitchell and formed the basic rules of the game – the game we play today.

Object of Playing Bowls

Since we haven’t discussed the rules yet, it may be difficult for you to understand the object of the game. The object is to roll your bowls as close to the jack as possible. Another important thing to ensure is more of your bowls are closer to the jack – closer than your opponent’s bowls.

How to Play?

As the name suggests, the game of Bowls is played with the balls and players are supposed to send their balls closest to the jack, thus, by doing so, they earn points. The more balls they send near to the jack, the more points they earn and that’s how games are won.

But, that’s not at all. There are rules which dictate how many balls players are supposed to use and scoring is not as simple as it sounds to be. To make it easy to grasp, I have broken down all the rules and scoring in a separate section below.

General Rules of Bowls

  • For a jack to remain in play, it must travel at least 23 meters and then it is moved to the center of the rink once it comes to rest.
  • The players then take turns to bowl. Everytime you send the bowl closer to the jack than the opponent’s bow, you get a point.
  • If you already had a ball near to the jack, and you send another, you get two points. And if you send another ball closer to it, then you’ll get three points. This is how points keep increasing with every shot.
  • If the game is played in rounds/sets, at the end of one play, the game starts from the opposite direction (i.e. from the end at which the jack previously rested).
  • If it’s a round game, every round ends when a player scores 18 or decides the number of points. In the end, upon reaching a decided number of rounds, the player with most round wins is declared winner of the game.
  • After 4 balls each are used by the players, the play recommences from the other side with the same number of balls.
  • You can strike other player’s bowls with your bowls to gain strategic advantage.
  • The game can be played in rounds or at one go.
  • In the end, the player with most points wins the game.
  • The game of Bowls is played with different rules all over the globe, so it is possible the one you may come across have slightly different rules than the ones mentioned above.


Which player will bowl first is decided on coin toss.

Time duration of Bowls

There is no time-limit. The game goes on until a winner is found.

Playing Equipment in Bowls

All you need to get started is bowls. These bowls come in a variety of sizes and are generally 1.5 kg in weight. The game can be played on grass and mats as well.

Jack: Jack is a yellow or white ball with which the game starts.

Wood: Players get four woods each and with these woods they score points by sending them near to the jack.

Bowls Playing Field

The game of bowls is played on mats and can also be played on grass. Usually, there are no such specifications. There is a ditch at both the ends of the field which must be wide enough for the ball to get into it if it reaches it.

Umpire in Bowls

A competitive ball game is supervised by an umpire who maintains order in the game.

Governing Body

The game is played with little change of rules in England and nearby countries but there is no governing body yet who would bring every Bowl playing nation under one banner.