Bookham Bowling Club - Bowling Etiquette

The Game of Bowls - Etiquette Overview

                        Bowling Etiquette (or Good Manners)


Bowls remains one of the few sports where common courtesy and etiquette is still prevalent. We should be proud of this and in order to make the game as enjoyable as possible, bowling green etiquette should be promoted to members old and new. Much of this is common sense but here are some of the main rules of etiquette.

Dress appropriately and ensure that you know the dress code for each game or match in which you are participating.

Do not show disrespect for your opponent(s) by arriving late, ensure that you leave sufficient time to change before the game.

Do not walk across rinks that other people are using and do not stand or sit on the banks while waiting to play. People sitting on the banks tend to place their feet on the edge of the green causing serious damage.

Introduce yourself and shake hands with your opponent(s) both before play commences and after the game is complete.  During the game do not move around the head when your opponent is about to deliver his/her bowl. Stand well back from the head, keep quiet and do not do anything that would distract your opponent. Wait until the bowl has been delivered before moving.  If you are at the same end as the player delivering a bowl you must stand behind the mat thus staying out of the player’s line of vision. Here is what the Laws of the Sport of Bowls say about this. Players at the mat-end of the rink who are not delivering a bowl should stand at least 1 metre behind the mat.  Bear in mind that some people like to see the rink boundary markers and the centre pin while playing so make sure that you are not obscuring them. On sunny days you must also ensure that your shadow does not fall on the jack. Spectators who are in the player’s line of vision should also keep still while bowls are being delivered and they should not distract payers on the green.

At Bookham we are privileged to have one of the best greens in the area. Look after it!  Don’t drop your bowls onto the green and ensure that your delivery is not causing scuff marks or otherwise damaging the green.

Observe the rules for possession of the rink! Here are the Laws of the Sport of Bowls rules on this.

·      Possession of the rink will belong to the player or team whose bowl is being played.

·      As soon as each bowl comes to rest, possession of the rink will transfer to the opposing player or team after allowing time for marking a toucher as soon as it comes to rest.

After you have delivered a bowl and before it has come to rest you have two options.  If you want to track your bowl’s progress you must be behind the head as it stops.  In other words you must beat it to the head.  If you don’t go to the head you must be behind the mat as your bowl stops. This ruling is quite clear but unfortunately many players, including many of those who should know better, show disrespect for their opponents by failing to observe it.

After the Game you should once again shake hands with your opponent(s) and congratulate/ commiserate with them appropriately.  It is also customary to offer to buy them a drink if you have won the game. Where a marker has been involved in a singles game you should also offer him a drink.

Knowledge of the above will make you a more respected bowler, keep things friendly and contribute towards the enjoyment of the game for everyone involved, both on and off the green.

The Players Roles in Team Games

In all team games it is the skip’s job to direct the play. Other players should play the shot directed by the skip even if they don’t agree with it.

In fours games the ’third’ should direct the skip when required to do so. In Triples or Pairs the Second or Lead may do this.  Other players should not interfere unless invited to do so.

Here is what Law 40 in the Laws of the Sport of Bowls says about players roles:

Players’ duties

The skip

·         The skip will have sole charge of the team and all players in the team should follow the skip’s instructions.

·      The skip should decide all disputed points with the opposing skip, making sure that any decision reached is in line with the Laws of the Sport of Bowls.

·      If the skips need to check any part of the Laws of the Sport of Bowls before reaching a decision, they should ask the umpire for an explanation.

·         If the umpire considers that a decision reached by the skips is not in line with the Laws of the Sport of Bowls, the umpire should overrule that decision so that it is in line with the laws.

·         If the skips cannot reach agreement on any disputed point, they should ask the umpire to make a decision. The umpire’s decision is final.

·       If the Controlling Body has not appointed an umpire, the skips should choose a competent neutral person to act as the umpire.

·         The skip should:

Ø  be responsible for the score card supplied by the Controlling Body while play is in progress;

Ø  enter the names of all players of both teams on the score card;

Ø  record, on the score card, all shots scored for and against the team as each end is completed;

Ø  compare the score card with that of the opposing skip as each end is completed; and

Ø  at the end of the game, record on the score card the time that the game finished and then sign it.

·       If a scoreboard being used instead of one of the score cards, the skip of the team which won the toss for opening play should update the scoreboard and the opposing skip should deal with the scorecard.

·       Skips can, at any time, delegate their own powers and any of their own duties to any other member of the team as long as they tell the opposing skip immediately.

The third

·         The third can measure any and all disputed shots.

·         The third can tell the skip the number of shots scored for or against their team as each end is completed.

The lead

The lead of the team to play first in an end should:

> place the mat ; and
> deliver the jack and make sure that it is centred before delivering the first bowl of the end.


In addition to the duties specified in the preceding clauses any player may undertake such duties as may be assigned to him by the skip.  It is also worth emphasising that the head must not be disturbed by any player until the shots have been finally agreed. When the Thirds or Skips are deciding the shots the other players should stand well back from the head and give them the space to do so.

During the game encourage your team mates, do not criticize them. Commend good shots and learn to accept that flukes are a part of the game. Sometimes they go for you, sometimes against.

Revised July 2019