World Bowls A History

By Zaithyn Galter Published 11/15/2006 | Sports

Bowls is a sport that is played and followed by millions throughout the world.  It is a game of skill and precision rather than physical fitness and has therefore often been associated as a game for the older generation.  However, many of the upcoming champions are becoming increasingly younger and the sport has spent recent years making its competitions quicker and more colourful to encourage followers.

Bowls can be played indoors or outdoors, and the rules are the same for both.  Put simply, the aim of the game is to get your bowls as close as possible to a small white ball called the 'jack'.

In the singles competition, one of the two opponents flips a coin and begins a segment of the competition by placing the mat and rolling the jack to the other end of the green to serve as a target. Once it has come to rest, the jack is aligned to the canter of the rink and the players take turns to roll their bowls from the mat towards the jack.

When all the bowls have been played, a competitor or team gets one point for each of their bowls that is closer to the jack than the opponent's closest bowl.

After all the bowls have been played, the direction is reversed which signals the end of an end.

In group games, the team captain always plays last and has a key role in directing the team's shots and tactics.

Although it sounds easy, the fact that the bowls are not completely round and do not therefore travel in a straight line, means there is a great level of skill and tactics involved to win a match.

The game of Bowls has a distinctive history, dating all the way back to the Egyptians.  Based on artefacts found in tombs dating circa 5,000 B.C, it appears that the Egyptians used to enjoy playing a version of skittles using round stones.

Different versions of this form of game then spread throughout the world and can be seen in the many types of bowls games played today.  In Italy the game Bocce developed, which is a precision sport closely related to bowls with a common ancestry from ancient games played in the Roman Empire.  In France the famous game of Boules arose from Bowls.  This is a game that is played using metal balls, often on unusual and challenging terrain such as sand. The aim of the game is to get your large, heavy balls as close as possible to the small, white 'jack'.

The traditional game of bowls, also known as lawn bowls or lawn bowling, has particularly developed popularity throughout England, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and more recently, Denmark.  The oldest recorded bowls green is in Southampton, England, which dates back to 1299.

There are also many famous bowling fans throughout English history.  Perhaps one of the most infamous in bowls folklore is Sir Francis Drake who, according to legend, insisted on completing his game of bowls in Plymouth before setting sail to confront the Spanish Armada in 1588.

King Henry VIII and King James I were also said to be keen lawn bowlers and even introduced bowling legislation for their subjects! 

In 1903, the English Bowling Association was officially founded and began to organise and direct clubs and competitions.  Previously competitions had always taken place but for the first time an extensive league and organised contests sprang up. 

Indoor variations of the bowls game also appeared, largely due to the problem of the English winter stopping outdoor play.  Indoor Bowls is simply the indoor version of Lawn Bowls, which is played on strips of artificial green a similar length to Lawn Bowls rinks.

All versions of the sport have now grown enormously and there is a wealth of leagues, clubs, amateur and professional bowling leagues and competitions throughout the world.

World Bowls grew out of the Commonwealth Games when it was first held 70 years ago (then known as the Empire Games).  It was originally intended that only athletics would form part of the games but bowlers successfully convinced the organisers to have bowling included and it has been played at the games ever since.  Top stars from both indoor and outdoor formats now come together to play lawn bowls at the Commonwealth Games.

One of the largest bowling event organisers today, is the World Bowls Tour (WBT) - a limited company formed in September 1996 by the Professional Bowls Association, and the two major governing bodies for world flat green bowls, World Bowls Ltd and the World Indoor Bowls Council (WIBC).

The primary object of WBT is to set up a series of premier bowls events at which the top players in the world can play.

One of the most exciting competitions in the UK World Bowls Tour calendar is the World Indoor Bowls Championships that take place at Potters Leisure Resort in Hopton, Norfolk.  The event has been hosted at Potters for the last eight years (since 1999) and 2007 will see the event take place there once again for the ninth year running.

As on other previous years, 2007 will see professional players come together from throughout the world, to take part in televised matches including singles, pairs and mixed pairs.

The World Indoor Bowls championships take place at Potters Leisure Resort (more details can be found at

Author: Peter Joyner who regularly writes for