What is bowls?

People have been throwing things in an effort to get those things closer to other things for thousands of years. If you would like to do that on a very well-kept piece of grass, here is how to get started:

Important terms

  1. Bowl - the thing you throw.
  2. Jack - the thing you are trying to get close to.
  3. Mat - the thing you stand on when throwing the first thing at the second thing.
  4. Green - the fancy grassy place where you play.
  5. Rink - the part of the fancy grassy place where your game takes place (does not apply in Northern England).
  6. Skip - team leader.  A skip's most important skill is the ability to come up with excuses for missed shots.
  7. Vice - a player who thinks they should be the skip.
  8. Lead - a player whose sole goal in life is to not leave their bowls in front of the jack.
  9. Hog line - proof that Canadians think of all sports in terms of curling or hockey (see "vice").

How to play

  1. Game preliminaries:
    1. A game of bowls is played between individuals or teams of 2, 3, or 4 players. If you find yourself with an odd number of players, simply eliminate the person you like the least to get to an acceptable number.
    2. Prior to starting, the skips flip a coin. The winner of the coin toss decides whether to throw first or take "hammer" (see also "vice" and "hog line").
    3. At the beginning of the game, it is customary to shake hands with your opponents and wish them "good bowling", no matter how much they cheated the last time you played them.
  2. The lead:
    1. The lead of the first team to throw places the mat and delivers the jack. The position of the mat relative to the front ditch and the distance to the jack have a significant impact on how an end is played. Because this task is left to the lead, who is often the least experienced player on a team, an experienced skip will adroitly direct the lead to "throw it wherever you want."
    2. After delivering the jack, the lead must assist the skip in placing the jack on the centre line of the rink. The level of precision required of the lead ranges from "you will need surveying tools" to "as long as it's not more than two rinks away" depending on the skip.
    3. The leads then proceed to deliver their bowls one at a time in turn, making sure to not leave any bowls in front of the jack. Throwing bowls overhand into the parking lot is preferable to short bowls. The consistent delivery of short bowls by a lead is considered by many to warrant war crimes charges and a trial at The Hague.
    4. If playing threes or fours, leads are expected to immediately vanish after delivering their bowls. Under no circumstances should the leads draw attention to the horrible shots thrown by their teammates.
    5. If playing pairs, the lead will walk to the other end of the rink to take up the position previously occupied by the skip. The skip will proceed to ignore any information provided by the lead regarding the state of the head or shot selection despite the lead being at least 20 metres closer.
  3. The vice (and the second the one time a year you actually play fours):
    1. Nobody likes to only have two bowls an end, so nobody plays fours anymore.
      1. In a fours game, the role of the second is mysterious and poorly understood.
      2. The lead is expected to play the right jack and get first shot, the vice is expected to drive away opposing bowls, and the skip is expected to skilfully draw. No one is really sure what the second is supposed to do in all of this.
      3. In some countries, seconds are expected to keep the team's scorecard. This is done so they feel like they are contributing in some way.
    2. Important skills for a vice include:
      1. Not screwing things up, and
      2. Being confident that you would be a much better skip than the current skip.
  4. The skip:
    1. Experienced skips' shot making skills are exceeded only by their ability to make excuses for missing shots.
    2. Typical skips will express themselves with the confidence typical of one who communicates primarily in the form of a burning bush.
  5. Scoring:
    1. After the skips have made a mess of everything, the vices (or the leads in pairs) decide the score. 
    2. In bowls, a team text receives a point for each of their bowls bowl that is closer to the jack than the other team's closest bowl.
    3. When deciding a close shot, each vice should:
      1. Take no less than three minutes to step side to side visually comparing the bowls in question.
      2. Spend an additional 60 seconds discussing why they should make the lengthy voyage from a standing position to the ground to conduct a measure.
      3. Spend an additional three minutes measuring each bowl.
      4. After spending sufficient time measuring, call the umpire.
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