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The terms and vocabulary associated with lawn bowling can be confusing to novices. The following set of terms is by no means exhaustive, but is provided as clarification to new bowlers who wish to understand and take part in the conversations of the more experienced. Terms, discussions, and photographs are offered as guides. Please submit additional vocabulary, definitions and pictures, which you believe would be helpful.

Terms & Vocabulary A & B

Advanced Mat:

If there have been two unsuccessful deliveries of the jack then the jack is centred two metres from the ditch.  The team that will deliver the first bowl at that point has the option of moving the mat forward as far as but not passed the hog line. This is termed an advanced mat.  In the illustration the bowls have been moved to a new starting position to the right rear of the advanced mat.

Advanced Mat
Afternoon Games Board:

In a full day draw tournament a draw is made to make up teams and to allocate rinks upon which games will be played.  While teams remain the same for the full day tournament, opposing teams change in the afternoon.  Teams are matched up in the afternoon based upon the morning performances.  A separate board is used to display the teams and the rinks to be used.

"Afternoon Games Bowrd
Aiming Line:

An imaginary line along which you aim and deliver a bowl is called an aiming line.  The aiming line will include sufficient “grass” to permit the natural bias of a bowl to bring it to rest close to the target.  In the illustration the yellow line at the end of the broken red line of arrows is the aiming line.  When delivering bowls players should keep everything parallel to the aiming including feet and arm follow through.

Aiming Line
Anchor Foot:

The foot that remains on or over the mat during the delivery of a bowl is known as the anchor foot. If the anchor foot is ahead of the mat when a bowl is released, a foot fault may be called. For right-handed bowlers the anchor foot is the right foot and for left-handed bowlers it is the left.

Anchor Foot
Backest Bowl:

One approach that is used during the development of the head is positioning of the bowls strategically to anticipate the possible outcomes of the opposition’s deliveries.  The bowl that is closest to the ditch is known as the backest bowl. Having the backest bowl will ensure that the skip with the last bowl does not attempt to knock the jack away from the opponent’s shot bowls and into the ditch with a big score coming from several of the team's bowls close to the ditch. In the illustration the red bowl is the "backest bowl".

Backest Bowl

A bowl delivered off the left side of the mat if you are right handed and off the right side of the mat if you are left handed.  The larger symbol on the bowl will be towards the player’s body and the smaller symbol will be towards the jack in a backhand delivery.  This is true for both right and left-handed players.


The bank is the raised surface behind the ditch where players stand or sit when not on the playing surface.

Bank Shot:

A bank shot is a bowl that leaves the playing surface with such force that after leaving the playing surface it bounces off the bank and rebounds onto the playing surface.  Bank shots are no longer in play and are removed from the playing surface.  The exception is a delivered bowl that has touched the jack.  In this case the bowl is placed in ditch where it entered and remains a live bowl.

Bank Shot

Bowls have distinctive designs – no two sets are exactly alike.  A curve inherent in a bowl due to its shape and/or off centre weight is called the bias.  Each bowl has the same distinctive design symbol (one larger and one smaller) on opposite sides.  The side with the smaller of these symbols is the side with the greater mass to which the bowl will curve as it slows.


A bowl on the green, which obstructs the intended path of a delivered bowl is known as a block.  In the picture the red bowl is set up to block an easy path to the blue bowl.


On occasion bowls bounce following release.  When bowls are released higher than the proper release point they may bounce.  Bouncing bowls often develop a wobble before running more smoothly.  Bouncing bowls may damage the surface of the green and cause pits, ridges, and valleys to form over time.


Bowls come in a matched set of four and range in size from 00 to 7.  Bowls come in weights of medium, heavy, and extra heavy.

Bowl in Course:

From the time of release until a bowl comes to rest it is described as a bowl in course.  In the illustration the player has just released the blue bowl and it is presently in course.

Bowl in Course
Bowl in Ditch:

When a bowl is delivered with excess weight and does not come to rest on the playing surface it becomes a bowl in ditch.  If a bowl has not touched the jack before entering the ditch it is declared dead, is removed from the ditch and is placed upon the bank.   Bowls that have touched the jack before entering the ditch are marked with chalk and remain alive.

Bowl in Ditch
Bowl on Mat:

When the two skips move from the head of the rink to the mat end, they can be reminded of which of them is to deliver the first bowl by the placement of a bowl on the mat. The skip who delivers second will find their bowls in the starting position.

Bowl on Mat
Bowl Roll:

One way of deciding which of the two teams playing a match will throw the initial jack is to roll a bowl. A bowl is rolled by kicking it backward a significant distance. The skip not rolling the bowl calls out “Small” or “Large”, referring to the symbol on the side of the bowl.  The winning skip of the bowl roll decides whether they want their lead to throw the jack or to have the opposing team’s lead throw the jack.  (The team that throws the jack also delivers the first bowl, thus their opponent’s skip will deliver the final bowl of the end.) 

Bowl Roll
Burned End:

When the jack has been knocked out of bounds (passed the rink edges to either the left or right side of the rink) the end is halted and considered a burned end.  The end is not counted and is usually played again unless the rules in force at the time dictate otherwise.  Sometimes called a dead end. The consequences of causing a burned end should be established prior to a match.

Burned End

In a tournament with an uneven number of team entrants, each game (round) one team will receive a bye and advance without actually playing an opponent. In the example to the right, in the first round team 5 was chosen by lot to have the bye. In subsequent rounds the losing team with the lowest score was given the bye. A team only receives a single bye during regular play in a tournament.

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