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Info for new members

Bowls terms

Bowl or Wood

Each bowl has a bias which allows the bowl to travel in an arc rather than a straight line towards the jack (white ball). The bias is indicated by a smaller circle on one side of the bowls.


Small white or yellow ball. The object of the game of bowls is to get your wood or bowl as near to the Jack as possible.



This is the term used to denote the area of the green that is to be played on. The green is divided by side markers. Most greens can be divided into 6 or 7 rinks so allowing 6 or 7 games to be taking place at the same time.



The name given to the grassy bowling area. The people who tend the bowling green are known as the Greenkeepers.


Skip, Lead, 2 or 3

Within a team on each rink there will be 1, 2, 3 or 4 players. Each one has a role to play within the team and will be given different names. Lead is the first person to bowl their wood. Two or Three are the bowlers in the middle. Skip is the leader of the team and the last one to bowl. They will advise the other players on where to bowl.



After all the players from both teams have bowled all their woods, the number 2 (when there is 3 players) or 3 (when there are 4 players) will judge which is the nearest wood/bowl to the jack. If there is more than 1 bowl nearest to the Jack from the same team; each of these woods will score 1 point.


End of game

If there are 2 or 4 players in the team, the game finishes after 21 ends have been played. If 3 players in the team, it finishes after 18 ends. There are exceptions to this rule.



A rubber mat is placed on the grass in line with the middle of the rink - shown by the rink numbers at each end. A player must keep at least 1 foot on or over this mat as they step forward to bowl.



Bowling shoes have a flat surface so that the playing area of grass does not get damaged or indented with heels or patterned rubber soles.



Players traditionally wore white clothes - trousers, skirts and tops. Nowadays some clubs have adopted more colourful tops and trousers. Newton Abbot play in either grey or white trousers and a mainly white top with a blue trim. For a roll-up you can wear any comfortable clothes.


The term used to describe how a bowl is rolled towards the jack. The ideal delivery involves a swing of the arm back and forth, letting go of the bowl in a smooth motion as your arm comes level with the grass. You will need to step forward and down in order to lower your arm length to the grass.

Bowls Etiquette

Shaking hands

At the beginning and at the end of the match you will shake hands with your team and the opponents and say, "have a good game", "thanks for the game" or something similar.

End of the game

It is good etiquette to offer to buy your opponent a drink if you have played a home game.

Stand still…

When at the head behind the bowls, it is good manners to stand still to enable the next bowler to focus on their shot.

Be aware of where you’re walking

Bowls clubs usually arrange their rinks in parallel, which means there may well be people playing an entirely separate game next to you. Be aware of where the neighbouring rinks are and avoid walking on them when you make your way to the jack, the clubhouse, or when walking from one side of the green to the other.

Acknowledge skilful bowling

Make a point of congratulating opposing players on exceptional shots or game-winners with a respectful clap - this goes a long way to maintaining the congenial spirit of the game. If your team member gains a good shot in a lucky way e.g. a 'wick' off another bowl, it is better to not clap as this is considered to be luck rather than skill.

Bowl - don't drop!

Bowling greens are delicate arenas, and it’s easy to cause damage by throwing or dropping a bowl. Different players have different delivery styles, but it’s polite to make sure your technique isn’t damaging the green or causing scuff marks. If it is, try and bowl more gently - there are online videos to help with this. And it goes without saying that you should never pick up and drop bowls out of laziness - pick up and put down or kick them along with your feet.

The mat

When you have bowled your wood, stay on the mat to watch it - this will help you assess if you need to alter the path or the speed of your bowl next time. When it's not your turn, stand behind and to the side of the mat so you are not in the eyeline of your opponent.


Scoring & measuring

One member on each team will have the role of assessing how many shots have been scored. If it is your role in the team to assess how many shots, it is a good idea to place all the scored shots together whilst you measure for any others; it is easy to forget how many total shots have been scored. If it is not your role to assess how many shots, stay away from the head and do not move any woods until all measuring has finished and the score has been agreed.


It is helpful to arrive at least 20 minutes before the start of the game. This allows your team captain to be assured all the team have arrived.

Setting up and putting away a rink

It is helpful to your Captain to arrive early to help set up the rinks ready for a match. E.g. scoreboard, mats, jack, measures, jack and wood ditch markers and rink numbers. At the end of the match, please help by putting all the equipment away.


Bar or tea duties

All members are required to help the club by doing a duty behind the bar or doing a tea duty during a friendly or tourist match. These duties are shown on the red noticeboard. If you are unable to do a duty, it is your responsibility to get a replacement.


What to wear

Roll-ups and club nights, please wear bowls shoes and anything comfortable. Competitions, league, and friendly matches, please wear your club shirt with either grey or white bowling trousers, shorts or skirt - the team sheet will say either white or grey.

Playing a game

When can you play?

A diary is kept in the clubhouse (on the table to the right as you come in) to record the booking of rinks and, subject to previously arranged fixtures, the green is available to play on at any time after 10am. The greenkeeper may have to close a rink, and this will be marked accordingly. The green can accommodate 6 rinks, occasionally 7. The lane markers are set by the green keepers. They are moved around to protect the green from excessive use in one area.

Tourist & friendly matches

These will be advertised on the notice board. If you are able to play, add your name to the availability sheet and make a note of the date in your diary. The selectors will post the agreed team on the noticeboard, and you will be required to tick your name to agree to play. Any problems contact your Captain asap.

League games

On joining the club, you will be asked if you would be willing to play in our league games. The men have 3 teams in the Mid Devon League and 2 Over 55 triples team. The respective team Captain will inform you via the noticeboard if you have been picked for a particular match. Contact your Captain asap if you are unable to play. The ladies have 1 team that play in a triples league. Both men and ladies enter other knock-out competitions throughout the season.

Club competitions

Please fill in the necessary form within the club. The competition secretary will draw the various competitions on a set date. The relevant spreadsheets are posted on the noticeboard. Take note of who you are playing in each competition and when it must be played. If you are the challenger (i.e. your name is first) it is your responsibility to contact your opponent and arrange a suitable date for the match to be played (check and enter it into the diary). If it is a singles match, it is also your responsibility to ask someone to mark the match for you.

County competitions

When you feel confident you may want to enter more competitions against people from other clubs. There are a variety of different County competitions you can enter in September ready for the next season. Newton Abbot is in Section 5 and all the details of competitions etc can be found on the Bowls Devon website.

What else?

Who's in charge?

The club is run by a committee - namely the President, Vice-President, Treasurer, Secretary, Club Captain, Ladies Captain, Ladies Chairman, Ladies Secretary, Fixtures Secretary and Greenkeeper. The details are on the various notice boards in the clubhouse. Their contact numbers can be found in a folder near the telephone.


We have a safeguarding officer in the club. If you need to contact them, please do. It is better to speak directly to them rather than gossiping with other members.

Fixtures Book & Diary

When you become a member, you will be given a book with all the planned fixtures in. There is also a diary in the clubhouse on the table on the right as you go in the door. Before organising to play a game please check the diary to see if there is a spare rink as other games will take precedence. County games and planned fixtures come before roll-ups.

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