We use essential cookies to make our site work. We'd also like to set analytics cookies that help us make improvements by measuring how you use the site. These will be set only if you accept.

For more detailed information about the cookies we use, see our cookies page.

Essential Cookies

Essential cookies enable core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility. For example, the selections you make here about which cookies to accept are stored in a cookie.

You may disable these by changing your browser settings, but this may affect how the website functions.

Analytics Cookies

We'd like to set Google Analytics cookies to help us improve our website by collecting and reporting information on how you use it. The cookies collect information in a way that does not directly identify you.

Third Party Cookies

Third party cookies are ones planted by other websites while using this site. This may occur (for example) where a Twitter or Facebook feed is embedded with a page. Selecting to turn these off will hide such content.

Skip to main content

Bowls Etiquette


Generally, etiquette can be defined as formal manners that are followed in a social or professional sport and is said to be unwritten rules or customs to uphold respect and fairness. In the game of bowls, etiquette is the simple common sense rules which, when correctly applied, ensure that the game can be played in a sporting and friendly manner.                                                                                                  

TIMEKEEPING:  The oldest courtesy, plus you don’t have to rush.

STAND STILL:  Avoid moving around unnecessarily, stand a meter away from a player playing, beware of your shadow, do not obscure rink markers.

ADJACENT RINKS:  Be aware of other matches in play.  Walking through a player’s eye line is disturbing.

RULES OF POSSESSION:  You are in charge of your rink when you are on the mat; you lose control once you leave it.

THE GREEN:  Dropping bowls onto the green can damage the surface, avoid sitting on the rink banks and do not kick the bowls, it hurts.

THE MAT:  When it’s your turn begin by entering from the left and leaving from the right, avoiding congestion.

SIGNALS:  Communication between players is often by signals or spoken words, there are many, so take time to learn, and deliver spoken words in a manner which does not lead to shouting.

THE END:  Be magnanimous in victory and defeat, shake hands and when victorious, buy the beer!

This guide is complementary to the code of conduct included in this website and printed in your fixture handbook. 


 Section: 1 Before the Game begins:

Prepare the Rink for play, the required Green equipment consists of:

An umpire’s box, including the measuring tape. A Mat, Jack, Stick/pole, Bank Indicators, and Scoreboard.

Personal equipment: Gauges, Measuring Box, Wedges, Cloth, Chalk, Scorecard and pen, Coin for toss.

Section 2: Trial Ends:

Agree match conditions, agree marking procedure of bowls (touchers), Agree Scoreboard updating/home and away player position , and agree trial ends(2/4 woods).  Remember to centre Jack and replace to original spot if moved. Declare distance from Jack and then remove bowl.

Section 3: The Game:

Agree Mat position watch Jack delivery and react as required.  Minimum Jack length 23mtrs.  Jack in Ditch returned to 2nd player, Jack within 2 metre of ditch, reset with 2mtr pole.  Jack in Ditch second time, set at full length (2mtrs), Mat position may vary by player one.  No challenge to distance once first bowl is delivered.


Position yourself 2/3 mtrs away from head, NW or NE never behind Jack, be aware of your shadow, do not block sight of Rink markers. Try not to move except when asked, excessive movement can disrupt.  Reply to questions succinctly do not expand. Remain neutral both with language and demeanour. 

Response tips: Whose holding:  You are /Against you

                            Position not clear:   It’s a measure

Touchers:  Mark with chalk when bowls come to rest (Both sides) and before next wood is delivered.  Look to see if next bowler needs assistance.  Mark toucher bowls in Ditch, remove dead bowls.  Live bowls use ditch indicators, White for Jack, Red for Home payer, Yellow for away.  When Jack or Bowl is in Ditch, stand on Bank or well away from Head.  Jack in ditch which is disturbed, replace to the marker as with a Toucher bowl.

Players wishing to visit the Head may do so with permission from either the Marker or his opponent, normally after his/her 2nd bowl

A bowl or Jack that has left the perimeters of a rink is Dead.

Section 4:

End of End

Assess the final position in your own mind.  Do not indicate your view.  Wait for player agreement before marking the scorecard.  Do not leave the Head until you have agreement.  Before measuring any bowls ask the players to remove those not involved.  Then ask all bowlers to move away from area.  Measure as taught, use wedges/callipers where required.  Indicate shot bowl, do not touch or remove, agree score and mark card accordingly.  Players may dispute decision, and then call an umpire.

End of Match:

Agree scores card to be signed, 21 is the maximum score in singles, remove all equipment.

Section 5 General:

Obvious preference to a player can be very off putting.  Try to be consistent when asked distances.  Keep communication with supporters to a minimum, if at all.  All bowls must travel 14mtrs to be legal.

Lastly:  Take your time if you are not sure: SAY SO.