A game is played in a number of ‘ENDS’, usually between 8 and 14, decided before-hand or as required by the competition being played. While the traditional game is TRIPLES, games can be played as PAIRS (a team of two players), as SINGLES (two players against each other) and CUTTHROAT (three players against each other). All games can be either mixed gender or a single gender depending on the competition being played.
For the TRIPLES game, each team is made up of : The ‘SKIP’, the team captain, who is usually the most experienced player and who always delivers the last bowls for his team in addition to directing the play for the other members of his team. The ‘LEAD’, who always delivers the first bowl for his team. And one or two other members when either triples or fours is being played. The game commences with the lead of the first team delivering the ‘JACK’, a small white ball, down the rink, which is then centered and becomes the target for all the bowls of both teams. This same lead then delivers his first bowl, making due allowance in his aim for the bias of the bowl. Then the lead of the other team delivers his first bowl. Each lead, in turn, delivers each of his bowls, four in the case of a pairs game, three in the case of a triples game and two in the case of a fours game.
After the LEADS have delivered all their bowls, the next team members follow in turn in a similar sequence, ending with the Skips of the two teams. The score is determined by which team has the closest bowl to the jack and multiple points are scored when more than one of his team’s bowls lie closer to the jack than the nearest of the other team’s bowls.
The game then recommences with the next end which is played from the opposite end of the rink than was used in the first end and continues in a similar sequence until all ends have been played. Each end can require very different strategies and tactics depending on the delivered length of the jackand the grouping of each teams’ bowls in relation to the jack. Sometimes your team is in the lead and the best tactic is to deliver a short bowl which can provide a guard for your counting bowls. Other times the other team is in the lead which demands that you either manage to get your own bowl closer to the jack than they are, or perhaps attempt to hit the other team’s scoring bowl, or the jack itself, in order to move them, or if all else fails, you might have to resort to a ‘TAKE-OUT’ shot which requires a fast delivered bowl intended to scatter all the bowls lying close to the jack.
A game can change character completely if the jack is moved out of its initial position,and provided that it remains inside the permissible playing surface of the rink, it presents a totally different target than before. This is what makes the game of bowls so interesting and exciting.
When it gets to the skips turn, the location and arrangement of bowls close to the jack, both those of his own team and those of the opposition, can require very accurate play, in order to increase his score or minimize that of his opponents. This is where skill counts and this is why the most experienced players usually play in this position. Beginners usually start in the lead position. This is an abbreviated description of how the game is played. The finer points can best be learned by actually playing a game with an experienced player or coach.