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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 S


The score of a match is kept on a chalkboard at the starting end of the rink upon which a match is being played.  The skip or vice skip of the team which loses an end is responsible for marking the score for that end on the scoreboard.  Note that the names of the skips are placed at the tops of the two columns where the scores are recorded.


During a match each skip keeps score on a scorecard.  Both signed and attested scorecards are turned in to tournament officials at the end of the match.


In a game of fours (rinks), the person who bowls after the lead is called the second.  The second person to bowl on a team of three is called the vice skip.  In the illustration the second is helping the lead to move the bowls to the starting position by retrieving dead bowls from the bank.

Second Shot:

The bowl, which is next closest to the jack to the shot bowl, is called second shot.  If the second shot is one from the same team as shot bowl then the team will score more than one point; if is from the opposition then the team with the “shot bowl” scores only one point.  In the photograph the blue bowl lies second shot.

Second Shot
Set of Bowls:

Bowls come in a set of four, which are matched for diameter, weight, colour, and markings.

Set of Bowls
Shaded Bowls:

On days when it is particularly hot and sunny some players choose to place a towel or cloth over their bowls where they sit in the starting position.  These shaded bowls are cooled somewhat and are more easily handled when picked up for delivery.

Shaded Bowls

Shadows on the playing surface can cause distractions. Be aware of your shadow in both the mat area and the head of the rink.


Flat-soled shoes must be worn while players are on the playing surface.  General-purpose athletic shoes are acceptable substitutes for special purpose bowling foot ware.  Shoes with heels or heavy trends are not allowed on the green.

Short Bowl:

A bowl, which does not have sufficient speed to reach the target is said to be a short bowl.  It is also called a light bowl.

Short Bowl
Short Jack:

When the jack is delivered so that it is just past the hog line and yet more than twenty-one metres from the front of the mat it is said to be a short jack.  Players will require less speed when there is a short jack.

Short Jack
Shot Bowl:

The bowl, which lies closest to the jack is said to be shot bowl.

Shot Bowl
Shoulder High:

On its course to the head a bowl will gradually start to curve towards the middle of the rink as the bias takes effect. The point where the bowl starts to break its straight path is known as Shoulder High.

Shoulder High

A side is the agreed number of players whose combined scores determine the results of a match.  Sides usually consist of singles, pairs, triples, or fours. In the illustration the team with white tops is playing the team with blue tops in a match of pairs, two players per side.


Various signals are employed to send messages to and from the head.  This silent type of communication prevents the distraction of other bowlers by loud oral interactions.  In the photograph the lead is signaling to the skip the amount of movement required to centre the jack in the rink.  Skips and other team members should agree on the precise meaning of a set of signals prior to a game.


A game with teams of one against one.  Each person uses four bowls for a total of four bowls per team, eight bowls per end.  A game of singles is played to a predetermined number of points, usually twenty-one, instead of a number of ends as in a team game.  The first player to reach the required number of points wins the match.


The skip is the captain of a bowling team and will help to guide the bowls of other team members, keep score, determine which team will bowl first on the initial end via coin toss or bowl roll, and throw the final set of bowls for the team in each end.  In the photograph the skip is centring a newly delivered jack with guidance from the lead.

Small Symbol:

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

Small Symbol
Bowls can be kept in woolen socks during transport and while in storage.  Socks help to protect bowls from unnecessary knocking against one another.  
Spray Chalk:

A modern substitute for a traditional chalk stick is small spray container, which is used to mark delivered bowls that have come in contact with the jack is spray chalk. Spray chalk is used to mark two opposite sides of the delivered bowl without actually touching the bowl, which may accidentally move it.

Spray Chalk

The delivery of a bowl begins with the stance, the placement of each body part to facilitate an optimum result.  While different bowlers begin with differing stances, in the illustration, the feet are together on the mat and aligned with the aiming line.  The knees are slightly bent and relaxed. The arm is straight with the bowl supported with one hand. The eyes and mind are concentrating on the aiming line and length required to reach the target.

Starting Position:

At the beginning of each end, all of the bowls are grouped to the right of and at least 30 centimetres behind the mat and in front of the ditch.  After the score of an end is determined the lead of the team that did not score uses a pusher to gather bowls and place them roughly in the starting area. 

Starting Position
Storage Bag:

Bowls can be kept in a storage bag when not in use.  Many storage bags come complete with wheels and a trolley handle.  Some players use smaller storage bags, which can fit more easily into club lockers.

Storage Bag
Swing Lead:

When a game is played with an odd number of players often one player acts as lead for both teams.  Two of this lead player’s bowls are marked with tape to distinguish which bowls are to count for one team while the bowls without the tape count for the other team.  The rotating lead alternates deliveries for the two teams.

Swing Lead
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