Go for a walk around virtually any British park and you’ll see a section of the place dedicated to the sport of lawn bowling. Whilst not even close to being one of the world’s most energetic and fast-paced sports, it is nevertheless something that can offer high drama and remains remarkably popular. Whilst it’s typically associated with an older crowd, it does attract younger players.
There are different variations of the sport, such as flat-green bowls and crown green bowls. Usually it is played outdoors but it is possible to play inside, as long as the venue has a suitable surface. As the name suggests, it tends to be played on grass but artificial turf can be used.
In New Zealand it is played on a surface called cotula, which is from the sunflower family. There are references to lawn bowls being played in the 12th century, making it one of the oldest sports still in existence.
Best Betting Site For Bowls
When it comes to the traditional British sports you have to bet with a traditional British bookie if you want to find Bowls markets.
William Hill are stand out when it comes to lawn bowls with the option displaced prominently on site, not hidden in an 'extra sports menu'. They deliver more depth of market than their competitors and have ante-post tournament lines well in advance of any other operators.
Being a fairy mammoth company too Hill's are able to offer multiple banking options, live streaming, cash out and in-play betting for the sport.
How To Bet On Bowls
The vast majority of bookmakers will let you bet on two different things when it comes to the bowls: outright tournament winner and match winners. These bets are reasonably self-explanatory, with the former being a bet on the player that you think is going to win a given tournament when it’s all over.
The latter bet is on specific matches, when 2 or more players go head-to-head and you need to decide who will emerge victorious.
When it come to tournament winner bets, you’ll usually find that bookies offer their odds a few days before the event is due to get underway. If you find the right bookmaker then you’ll see that they sometimes offer each-way bets, which will be for the top 2 or 3 players.
Match winner bets are just like you’d place on the likes of football or tennis, choosing the player (or players if it’s a doubles match) who will win the individual match that they’re playing in.
Other bets that you can place with some bookmakers include First End Winner, Next End Winner and Match-Ups. A First End Winner bet is, as the title suggests, a bet on which player will win the First End. If they then go on to win or lose the match is of no consequence to you.
The same is true of the Next End Winner bet. A Match-Up bet might be offered by some bookies and you simply need to choose which of 2 players you think will go further than the other in the competition.
Factors To Consider When Placing A Wager
In terms of what you’ll want to think about before you place your bets, the most important thing is to do research into a player’s ability. Have they played their opponent before? Do they have a good head-to-head record? What about the venue or competition?
Knowing how good a player is on a particular surface or within the stresses of a competition will let you know how likely they are to get to the latter stages of the tournament.
Another thing to bear in mind is the draw. The majority of the big tournaments see players split into two halves of a draw, so you should be able to work out who it is that they’re likely to face over the course of the competition.
If the favourite is on one side of the draw and the player you were thinking of betting on is on the other, for example, then they’re likely to go further than if they were in the same side of the draw. The number of sets that need to be played will also be an influencing factor on your betting.
The Origins Of Bowls
When William Fitzstephens wrote his biography of Thomas Becket he described a game played by the young men of England that involved the casting of stones ‘in jactu lapidum’. Many believe that this was a description of any early form of crown green bowls in which stones were used instead of the bowls of the modern game.
One thing that can’t be argued is that is that a 13th century manuscript shows players aiming balls at a small cone. Indeed, the Southampton Old Bowling Green can be dated back to 1299, so there’s no question that the game of bowls was being played as long ago as then.
Even so, it’s difficult to trace the exact origins of the modern game, even if evidence from centuries ago seems to suggest that players were engaged in the act of trying to get a ball to land close to something that looks similar to a jack.
The Game Is Banned
What we do know for certain is that the game of bowls was actively banned by both the king and his parliament. There was a fear that it would interfere with the practice of archers who were a crucial part of the country’s battle plans.
Both Edward III and Richard II enacted statues that forbade the playing of the sport, with other monarchs following suit. In fact, even when archery became less important because of the invention and proliferation of gunpowder and the associated firearms, the ban remained in place.
The word ‘bowls’ was mentioned for the first time in 1511 but it was the Act in 1541 that went further, banning apprentices, labourers, servants, artificers and others from playing the game at any time other than at Christmas. Even when they did play it they needed to do so in the presence of their masters. If someone was found to be playing bowls then they would be issued with a fine of 6 shillings and 8 pence.
Rules Are Established And The Game Begins To Spread
William Wallace Mitchell published a book entitled ‘Manual of Bowls Playing’ in 1864. It came on the back of him having been the secretary of the Scottish bowling clubs, having been just 11 when he played the game on the turf of the Kilmarnock Bowling Green in 1740.
It was a treatise that became the basis of the rules for the modern game, but something far more important had already occurred in terms of the proliferation of the sport around the world.
In 1830 the lawn mower was patented, acting as the catalyst for numerous different sports to codify their rules. This was because grassy areas could suddenly be styled ready for games such as cricket, football and tennis to be played on them.
Bowls was within that group and by the end of the 19th century National Bowling Associations had been formed in places as diverse as Australia and Scotland. Indeed, the latter remains the home of the game of bowling, with the World Bowls Centre being located in Edinburgh.
How To Play Lawn Bowls
Flat Bowls vs Crown Green Bowls
The important thing to note at this stage is that there’s a difference between flat bowls and crown green bowling. For starters, flat bowling is played, as the name suggests, on a flat and even surface.
Crown green bowls, on the other hand, is typically played on a surface that is convex in nature and is usually very uneven. Flat bowls are usually much heavier than crown green bowls, weighing in at between 3 and 4 pounds in comparison to 2 to 3 pounds.
Given that most of the major tournaments are played with flat bowls, that’s the game we’ll describe here. If you’re keen to learn more about crown green bowls then it’s definitely worth investigating. The important thing to remember is that the sports are not too dissimilar, so if it’s just a rough idea of how they work that you’re interested in then this will stand you in good stead.
The game is played on a bowling green that is divided into playing strips that run parallel to each other and are known as ‘rinks’. The first bowler to go is usually decided by the flip of a coin and they will roll out the jack, which is the target that the players are going to be aiming at.
Once the jack is in place the competitors take it in turns to roll their bowls at it, hoping to get as close to it as possible. The bowl can actually leave the boundary of the rink on its journey towards the jack, as long as it is inside the rink’s playing area when it comes to a stop. If the bowl drops into the ditch that surrounds the rink then it is dead, unless it has touched the jack on its journey. A bowl that touches the jack gets marked with some chalk and are actually still in play, even though they’re sitting in the ditch.
The jack can sometimes end up in the ditch, which is fine unless it has gone out of bounds. If that happens then it becomes a ‘dead’ end and needs to be replayed. An end, incidentally, is what one phase of play is called in bowls and matches are usually best of 21 ends. Sometimes, in international matches particularly, the jack is simply re-spotted into the centre of the rink and the end carries on.
Winning An End
In both singles and pairs games each player gets 4 bowls, whilst it drops to 3 in triples and 2 bowls per person in fours. Once they’ve all been bowled, the players need to determine which bowl is closest to the jack. Competitors are then awarded a point every time they have a bowl closer to the jack than the nearest bowl of their opponent.
The scoring system used in a competition isn’t necessarily locked down, with different events opting to use different ways of scoring. Usually, though, games are decided when a player in singles reaches a given number of shots, normally 21 or 25. If it’s a team, however, then a team need to have the highest number of shots after a specific number of ends have been played.
In competition, a game can end in a draw but players may also be asked play one more end in order to decide upon a winner. It is alway announced before the competition gets underway whether this will be the case.
There are several words that you might heard used in relation to the sport of bowls. We’ve already mentioned ‘jacks’ several times and they’re also sometimes referred to as a ‘kitty’. This is a small, usually white, ball that is spherical and gets thrown at the start of the game to decide what players will be aiming at.
There’s also a mat, which is often placed down to allow players to roll the bowls without getting themselves covered in grass.
The most important piece of equipment is obviously the bowls themselves. These are designed to travel with a path that is curved, originally because of weights placed inside the bowls but now simply because of their shape. The bowls tend to have a symbol or dimple on their side that will determined the way the curve will travel. Originally made from a dense wood called lignum vitae, which is where the phrase ‘woods’ for bowls comes from, they are now many of a hard plastic.
As you might imagine for a sport that has been running since the 13th century, there are a number of big tournaments associated with the world of bowls. Here’s a look at each of the biggest ones:
The Commonwealth Games
This multi-sport event that involves competitors from nations across the commonwealth has been taking place since 1930.
Most importantly as far as we’re concerned here is that bowls has been a ‘core sport’ of the event since its inception, meaning that it must be included every time the Commonwealth Games takes place.
World Indoor Bowls Championships
Founded in 1979 in Scotland and aimed at the men’s game only, this is one of the most important competitions in the sport. It moved locations in its more formative years, often changing depending on the sponsors. The most important change occurred in 1999 when Potters Holidays took over the sponsorship duties and moved the Championships to their resort in Hopton-on-Sea, where it has remained ever since.
The competition expanded several times during the 1980s, seeing the men’s pairs competition added to the men’s singles in 1986. Women’s singles began to be played in 1988, whilst mixed pairs were added in 2004. The most successful male player of all time is Scotland’s Alex Marshall, who has won it a record 6 times. In the women’s game each of Carol Ashby, Ellen Falkner and Katherine Rednall have won it 3 times.
World Champion of Champions Singles
This event takes place every single year and sees the bowlers that have won their own national singles titles go head-to-head. It first took place in 2003 and has lad more antipodean winners from Australia and New Zealand than anywhere else.