Note that many of these tips refer to etiquette – as opposed to rules – of the game, but it is an important component in order to ensure a smooth and pleasant game for all.

Step Up to the Mat

  1. Once on the mat, look at your Skip for guidance or information about the head.
  2. Stay on the mat and follow the path of your bowl until it comes to rest. You can learn something from every delivery – line, length, the amount of draw and any irregularities on the rink that day.
  3. Once your bowl has stopped, you must relinquish the mat to the opposition and no further discussion can take place with your skip until you next are back on the mat.
  4. When back on the mat, look at your skip to see if he/she has any specific directions to give you regarding your next delivery, then proceed as above.

Centering the Jack

An important part of a lead’s job is not only to roll the jack, but to center it too. With proper signals this can assist the skip in centering it quickly and help keep the game flowing. Please try and follow the directions below so we get uniformity into our signaling that everyone understands.

  1. Stand in the middle of the mat. Always signal with your hands (not just a finger) help up at a vertical position at about shoulder height.
  2. Hold your hands either to the left or right side of your body – it is not always easy to see them if held in front of your body.
  3. Hold your hands to the side of your body that the skip needs to move the jack, and with your hands apart by the appropriate amount the jack needs to be moved. Once the skip has seen your signal, lower your hands until the jack has been moved.
  4. Signal again in the same way, indicating the distance the jack needs to be moved. Again, lower your hands once the skip has seen the signal so he/she is only acting on one signal.
  5. Normally by then the jack is almost centered and so you only need to signal a turn or half turn of the jack by rotating one hand and wrist in the appropriate direction.
  6. Once the jack is aligned properly, drop one hand down vertically in front of you to let the skip know it is now centered.

Listen to the Experts

Here are some comments from champion bowlers:

  1. Every person from lead to skip is of equal importance. No matter how good the skip might be, he/she is dependent on the abilities of his other teammates.
  2. Consistency is impossible without a smooth delivery.
  3. The fingers should be even spaced with the middle finger on the center of the bowl.
  4. As the lead goes, so the game goes, is very often true. So remember, the lead’s job is to consistently “draw”, that is attempt to deliver a bowl as close to the jack as possible. Always attempt to be “up” or beyond the jack. One on the jack and a couple to the back (about 18 inches) is ideal.
  5. One in the back is worth ten in the way.
  6. Too many players look at the jack, rather than a definite point of aim. Look and aim at the line along which you want the bowl to travel.


Remember, that whichever team measures, the other team can ask to measure again if they think it is very close. Before signaling to the skips, the measurer and opponent must agree on the number of shots scored.

Tips for Leads and Vices

  1. Always carry a small towel. It is not only good for drying/cleaning bowls, but should also be used when measuring for more than one point. Lay the towel on the ground and place each scoring bowl onto the towel. This avoids confusion and ensures that a bowl set aside is not accidentally measured again.
  2. Whoever is responsible for raking should not start moving the bowls until after the measurer and their opponent have agreed on the score. This avoids the risk of bowl (that might have to be measured) being moved prematurely, and also allows the measurer to work without distraction.

Don’t Crowd the Head

In triples, only the two vices should be standing behind the head. The leads should be at the back of the green. When skip A is on the mat, then the vice for team A should be in the head to communicate with the skip. Once the skip’s bowl comes to rest, skip B takes over the mat and vice B takes over the head.

Only one vice should actually be in the head at any given time until the end is completed. Then both will agree the score – after measuring if necessary. Normally the team conceding the end would do the measuring. In a pairs game the same rules apply only it is the leads alternating in the head.

A bit of etiquette: Please remember that to play well you need to concentrate. By all means be sociable on the green, but don’t talk continuously and distract other bowlers. Cell phones are also a distraction. Please keep them off the green and preferably turned off while you are playing.

Better Bowls

How many times do your bowls seem to end up narrow? Too often for many,  especially new bowlers. This usually happens because you are over anxious to see where your bowl is going, so you look up towards the jack before your bowl is fully rolling along your aim line. This causes your arm to pull across your body in the direction of the target, and the bowl will almost always finish narrow!

The remedy is to consciously keep your head down and your eyes on the chosen delivery line for a few extra seconds before you look up. I am sure you will be pleased with the results if you follow this single tip.

Position of Players

Here are a few tips for new bowlers and maybe some experienced ones too:

Position of Players – within their own rink:

  1. Players at the mat end of the rink who are not delivering a bowl should stand at least 1 meter or 3 to 4 feet behind the mat.
  2. Players at the head end of the rink who are not controlling play should stand:
    • Behind the jack and away from the head – about 2 meters or 6 feet.
    • On the surround of the green if the jack is in the ditch.

Position of Players – walking down the green:

Whenever you walk down your own rink always go down the middle. This avoids walking along the bowling lines.

Tips for Skips

However good skips are, they should regard themselves as being on a permanent learning curve along with every other player. A good skip should be a statesman as well as an expert shot maker. Confident, respectful of team members, supportive, and a good communicator!  The skip doesn’t put up with negative talk or nonconstructive criticism and is guilty of neither.

Leading the Way

Many believe a good Lead is the most important player on the rink, so remember that whenever you are on the green. A Lead needs to be a skilled draw bowler with the ability to put his/her bowls near and preferably behind the Jack (18 inches to 2 feet is ideal).

The Heart of the Team

The Vice will aim to put his/her bowls close to the jack of the lead has not done so. Otherwise, he/she will follow the Skip’s advice and provide positional bowls and/or draw to an imaginary jack. The Vice should leave the head in good shape with bowls around the jack, back bowls and position bowls. Occasionally a Vice may even be asked to break up a head with a drive. The objective is to give the Skip every chance to complete the end successfully.

When the Skip is on the mat, the Vice should only offer advice to the Skip when asked or when the head has altered. Too often a Vice fails to advise the Skip when there is a change in the head i.e. from being one up to one down. The Skip must be made aware of any changes as this will influence his/her choice of shot.

A Vice must be good at reading the head and giving advice if necessary. Finally, a Vice must be a good communicator and give clear signals at all times. Now you can see that a good Vice is the heart of the team.

Possession of the Rink

Possession of the rink belongs to the player or team whose bowl is being played. As soon as that bowl comes to rest, possession of the rink will transfer to the opposing team (after allowing time to mark a toucher once it has come to rest). All your team players must come out of the head and your bowler must leave the mat.

Players who are not controlling play (from either team) should stand (a) behind the jack and away from the head or (b) on the surrounds of the green if the jack is in the ditch. Players at the mat end of the rink who are not delivering a bowl should stand at least 1yard behind the mat.

Finally, all players at the head end should remain still and quiet when a player is on the mat and should not block either the center marker or the boundary markers from the bowlers view. Equally, players behind the mat should remain still and quiet once a bowler is on the mat.

Remember, you can go back into the head when your team’s player next has possession of the mat. But there should only be one player actually in the head at one time until the end is completed or there is a dispute that requires the two teams to confer.