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It doesn’t matter if you’ve only ever watched a game of bowls, or if you know nothing about it – indoor bowls is a really simple and enjoyable game to get into. Some of the benefits of indoor bowls include its sociability (it’s a great way to meet new people and make new friends), as well as the fact it’s suitable for people of all ages and abilities – including those who are partially sighted or in a wheelchair. Please note that casual bowls is not available on all breaks.

If you’re new to the game and want to find out more about it, keep on reading. We’ll discuss how indoor bowls is played, the rules of the game, as well as some extra tips and tactics you can employ. 

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What is it and what to expect 

Indoor bowls is a game played with two teams and two types of ball (bowls). The aim of the game is to get your ball as close as possible to the jack (the small white ball). If you’ve ever played lawn bowls, the indoor version follows similar rules – with the main difference being the location of play. Although it sounds straightforward, ensuring the bowl stops near to the jack can be tricky as bowls do not travel in a straight line – it’s definitely a tactical game.

Top tips and basic techniques

The game takes place in an indoor bowls rink, which is 100m wide and 40m long. There are two teams, which can consist of solo players, pairs, threes or fours. Players toss a coin to determine which team goes first – with the leading player of the first team in charge of rolling the jack. The jack must roll at least 23m, and is moved to the centre of the rink once it has come to a standstill.
Then bowlers take it in turns until all of the bowls have been played. This is called an ‘end’. Points are awarded to each team for every bowl that is closer to the jack than the opposing team’s bowls. The direction of play changes after each end. 
Rules of the game
The rules for indoor bowls are simple: 
  • Players must keep one foot on the mat when bowling
  • The jack must travel a minimum of 23 metres without going over the rink boundaries
  • Bowls that land in the ditch are considered out of the game, unless they touch the jack before coming to a stop – in which case they are considered ‘alive’ and can still be played
  • If the jack goes over the rink boundaries, it is replayed
  • If the jack lands in the ditch it remains in play
  • In singles and pairs games, each player bowls four times per end; for teams of three, each player gets three bowls; teams of four get two bowls per end
How does scoring work? 
Generally, the game ends once a player or team has reached 21 points. Games can also be played for 18 or 21 ends, with the highest scoring team crowned the winners. 

What are the different types of delivery? 
The bowls are shaved on one side which means they are not fully round – this also gives them a bias, meaning they cannot travel in a straight line. This is what makes indoor bowls so tactical. When the bowl starts to lose speed, it will roll in the direction of the bias – which means the best players use the bias to their advantage when delivering the bowl to ensure it lands as close as possible to the jack. 

There are three types of delivery:
  • Draw shot. With this delivery, players concentrate on aiming the bowl to land in a specific location on the rink, without coming into contact with the other bowls already played. Right-handed bowlers aim the bowl to the right side of the jack so it curves towards the left – this is known as a forehand draw. A backhand draw can also be delivered, which happens when a bowler aims the bowl to the left of the jack so it curves towards the right
  • The drive. Players use considerable force to deliver the bowl in order to move the jack or the bowl closest to the jack out of play
  • Upshot or yard on. Similar to the drive, this method aims to move the jack or other bowls without bringing the game to an end
How can I play tactically? 
We mentioned above that indoor bowls is a game of tactics – and the further into an end you get; the more likely it is you will need to employ some tactics in order to become the winning team. For example, if you have already bowled very close to the jack, the other players on your team may try to deliver blocking shots to prevent the opposing team from knocking your bowl out of the way.
Another tactic is to aim your bowls so they will become close to the jack if the opposing team’s bowl knocks it away from its starting position. 
Are there any other tips to help me play better? 
As a beginner, you may find it takes a bit of practice to deliver winning bowls. Here are some extra tips to help you make your delivery more accurate: 
  • If you’re playing short - you can lengthen your delivery by increasing the speed you bowl. Try swinging your arm back a bit further to put more weight behind the bowl
  • If you’re playing too heavy - you can reduce the length of your delivery by moving more slowly. This will ensure there is less weight behind the bowl so it won’t travel as far
  • If you’re playing too wide - try keeping the shoulder of the bowl straight (the bias) and don’t step out to the side as far – that way the bowl will naturally curve around to where you want it to end
  • If you’re playing too narrow - again, keep an eye on the shoulder of the bowl and the amount you turn your body. Try to turn your entire body for a more accurate delivery

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