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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 I through L

It's a Measure:

If the bowlers in charge of the head are unsure as to which bowl is shot they will declare "It’s a measure."  In the illustration the blue bowl is clearly the shot bowl, however it would require a measure to determine whether the black or the red bowl is next closest to the jack.

Its a Measure

The jack is a small white (or sometimes yellow) ball, slightly smaller than a cue ball in billiards.  The jack is the target towards which players aim their bowls.  The team with bowl(s) closest to the jack scores points in a given end.  The lead from one team rolls the jack to start play in an end.  The jack must be rolled at least twenty-one metres from the mat, between the side edges of the rink and not closer than two metres to the ditch.  If the jack is rolled short, out of side boundaries, or into the ditch then the lead from the other team rolls the jack and may reposition the mat.  If neither lead rolls the jack successfully, then the jack is placed two metres from the ditch and the original lead may reposition the mat.  The lead rolling the jack gives hand signals to the skip to help centre the jack.

Jack High Bowl:

When a bowl lies with its nearest position in line with the jack and at the same distance from the mat line as the nearest portion of the jack it is said to be a jack high bowl.  The team member managing the head can signal to the player who delivered the bowl that it is jack high by making a motion from side to side with their arms.

Jack High Bowl
Jack Placement Pole:

If the jack fails to stop within the boundaries when tossed by both leads or enters the ditch then it is centred on the rink 2 metres from the ditch.  A jack placement pole is sometimes used to aid in this process.  This pole, which is exactly 2 metres in length, is aligned perpendicularly to the ditch in front of the rink number and the jack is placed at the end of the pole. The jack placement pole can also be used when a dead or burned end is avoided and the jack is placed at the two metre mark.

Jack Placement Pole
Jack to Mat Measure:

An end begins with the tossing of the jack from the mat to the skip at the opposite end of the rink.  While remaining on the rink the jack must travel a minimum of twenty-one metres from the front of the mat.  The player delivering the jack places the mat at least 2 metres from the ditch.  When there is a question as to how far the centred jack has actually travelled a jack to mat measure may be required.  In the illustration a tape is being used to ensure that the jack is greater than 21 metres from the mat.  If the jack is short then it will be delivered by the lead on the opposing team.

Jack to Mat Measure

An alternate name for the jack is the "kitty".


A ladder is one method of constructing a ranking system for players. The group of players participates in a series of games over a given period of time. Players mostly participate in pairs games, however at times play in singles or triples. Three points are achieved for a win, one point for a loss, and zero points for failing to turn up. Examining the accumulated plus/minus of players breaks ties. Once a ranking is established after a couple of weeks top players are paired with lower ranking players making the games more competitive. The ranking of the top six players in a ladder are shown to the right.

Large Symbol:

The side of the bowl that will be on the outside of the bias curve will have a larger symbol than the side, which will be on the inside of the bias curve.

Large Symbol

For bowlers with some sort of physical limitation such as grip, hip, or knee problems, a lightweight and easy to use bowls delivery aid is available. This type of device can be used to both lift and deliver either jacks or bowls.


The bowler who bowls first on a team is called the lead. The lead from the team which scored on the previous end will deliver the jack while the lead on the team which did not score, gathers the bowls in a position behind and to the right of the mat ready to be delivered.  In the photograph to the right the lead is preparing to deliver the jack.


The distance that a bowl must travel during delivery to reach the intended target is known as the length of the shot.  A larger amount of speed or weight must be employed for shots involving greater lengths.  In the illustration the vice skip in the brown sweater is standing behind all of the bowls in play to indicate to the skip the length that would be required to have a bowl come to rest as the backest bowl.


Some players choose to use a specially designed device to assist them in picking up a bowl.  Players who suffer from back pain or arthritis may continue to enjoy bowling by employing such a lifter.

Light Bowl:

This bowl, which is light, will not have sufficient weight to reach the target.  It is also called a short bowl.  In the example displayed the delivered red bowl has come to rest short of the other bowls in the head and is called a light bowl.

Light Bowl

The direction in which a bowl must be propelled during delivery to cause the bowl to reach an intended target allowing for the curve associated with the natural bias of the bowl is described as the line. The line can be thought of in two distinct ways; the aiming line and the draw line.  Players become familiar with the necessary line required for their own bowls.  Variations in playing surfaces must also be taken into account when a player selects the line for delivery.  In the illustration the bowl is following the line in which the player has delivered it.

Live Bowl:

A bowl, which comes to rest within the rink boundaries or enters the ditch after touching the jack, is a live bowl.  Bowls that come to rest outside the rink boundaries or in the ditch without first touching the jack are “dead bowls” and are moved to the bank.  Live bowls, which are subsequently knocked out of bounds or into the ditch become dead bowls.  In the illustration the yellow bowl is a live bowl while the blue bowl is a dead bowl because it is beyond the rink boundary.

Live Bowl

The club provides rental lockers in which members can keep their bowls and accessories when away from the facilities.  Lockers can also be used to keep personal belongings during games and tournaments.

Long Bowl:

A bowl that has come to rest behind the jack is said to be a long bowl.  In the illustration the red bowl is long.  The team member who is managing the head can signal how long the bowl is by raising one hand that approximate distance above the ground.

Long Jack:

When the jack is delivered so that it comes to rest close to the ditch and yet is more than two metres from the ditch it is said to be a long jack.  (A jack that is delivered closer than two metres to the ditch or into the ditch is centred two metres from the ditch and also becomes a long jack.) The delivery of bowls will require greater speed when there is a long jack.  There is also a greater likelihood that a bowl will come to rest in the ditch if there is a long jack.

Long Jack
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