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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 D & E

Dead Bowl:

A bowl, which comes to rest out of bounds beyond the side boundaries of the rink is considered dead bowls. Bowls, which enters the ditch without first striking the jack, are also considered to be dead bowls.  Dead bowls are placed on the mat on the bank to the behind the rink number.

Dead Bowls
Dead End:

If the jack has been knocked out of bounds the end is declared dead.  The end is not counted and is usually played again unless the rules in force at the time dictate otherwise.  Sometimes this is called a burned end. The consequences of causing a dead end should be established prior to a match. In more modern competitive matches dead ends are avoided by placing the jack at the two metre mark if it is knocked beyond the rink boundaries.

Dead End

When a team has the hammer (last shot) and is assured of gaining one or more points in an end it may decide to forgo the delivery of the final bowl and declare the end to be over. In the illustration the final bowl to be delivered will be the last red bowl and the skip believes that its delivery may disrupt the head and either move the jack or the counting brown bowl. The team has chosen to receive one point this end.


The act of standing on the mat, lining up to an aiming line, executing a pendulum swing, and releasing a bowl is known as delivery.


The lowered pit surrounding the edges of the green is called the ditch.  Bowls which enter the ditch without first striking the jack are out of play and are thus placed upon the mat on the bank behind the rink number.

Ditch Length:

A bowl delivered with enough force to bring it to a stop just before the ditch is known as having “ditch length”.  This shot is also said to have “ditch weight”.

Ditch Length
Ditch Markers:

When a bowl knocks the jack and follows it into the ditch it is considered to remain alive for counting purposes.  It is difficult for bowlers to see the bowl and jack from the mat.  A white marker is placed behind the jack on the bank and a blue marker is used to show the position of the live bowl in the ditch.

Ditch Markers
Ditch Measure:

If the jack or a live bowl comes to rest in the ditch there may be a measure required to determine which bowls are to count.  When making a ditch measure the tape or string is stretched from the playing surface to the inhabitant of the ditch.  In the illustration the measure is reversed from the norm because the end of the measure is the jack rather than the bowl.  The tape is stretched over the plinth and down to the closest part of the jack.

Ditch Measure
Ditch Weight:

A bowl delivered with enough force to bring it to a stop just before the ditch is said to have been delivered with ditch weight.  This shot is also known as a ditch length shot.

Ditch Weight

A spontaneous game of lawn bowls can be organized by pulling names together into teams.  Nametags are placed in separate containers for leads, seconds, vice-skips, and skips.  Tags are drawn by chance from these containers to make up teams.

Draw Containers
Draw Board:

A draw board is used to display the nametags of team members. These name tags placed in order from skip to lead under rink number headers.  Notice that the name tags of opposing teams will both be displayed under the same rink number.

Draw Board
Draw Line:

The curved path that a bowl takes on its way to the target is known as the draw line. The draw line will be to the left or right of the aiming line depending upon whether a forehand or backhand is used. In the illustration the red draw line curves away from the black aiming line.

Draw Line
Draw Shot:

Delivery of a bowl with sufficient speed  (often called weight) so the natural bias of the bowl will bring it to the target (perhaps the jack) is said to be a draw shot. Draw shots other than to the jack could include placing a wing bowl, a blocker and/or the backest bowl.

Draw Shot
Drawn End:

When bowls from opposing teams are both touching the jack or are equidistant from the jack the end is said to be a draw or a tie.  Usually in Canada in club and tournament play each team scores one point.

Drawn End
Drive Shot:

A bowl delivered with extra force with the intent of moving the jack and/or bowls in the head is called a drive shot.  The delivered bowl will likely not stay on the rink.   The red bowl in the example is a drive shot intended to remove the blue bowl from its position beside the jack.

Drive Bowl
Dropped Bowl:

Occasionally bowls are dropped accidentally either before or after the proper release point.  Dropped bowls often bounce.  Deliveries with dropped bowls tend to be less accurate.  When many bowls are dropped from sufficient height damage can be caused to the playing surface as miniature pits or valleys can form.

Dropped Bowl

An end consists of the jack and all bowls of each team being rolled to the opposite end of the rink.

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