Laws & Etiquette

Learn The Unspoken Rules

Lawn bowling happens to be one of the games with several rules of etiquette. These rules, especially once learned and appreciated, create a pleasant game for all involved. If you are a beginner in lawn bowling, then knowing these will help you and others enjoy your game together and save any embarrassment.

What is Lawn Bowls Etiquette?

Lawn bowls etiquette refers to guidelines which control the way responsible players behave when bowling. They ensure an enjoyable experience for everyone playing and watching. They are simple, common-sense rules which can be followed easily.


1. Be on Time

Timekeeping is perhaps one of the oldest rules on courtesy. The greatest way to start lawn bowling is by showing up on time for a game. Arriving on time will also give you adequate time to change before the game. Being early will also give you a chance to help organize the equipment and familiarize yourself with the game. Ensure all equipment, jacks and mats are in position before the game begins.

2. Dress Appropriately

Ensure that you know the dress code for the game to avoid embarrassing your team, yourself or your club. Check your gear before you leave home, so you know you’ve got everything you’ll need. It could be too late once you’re already at the bowling green itself.

3. Stand Still When Someone is About to Bowl

Lawn bowling is a game of concentration. Distractions are not wanted when playing, and for this reason, as a courtesy to other players, you should avoid moving around when someone else is playing. If you are at the head, wait until the person playing is done bowling, then move. If you are at the same end as the player delivering the bowl, stay away from the mat and the player’s line of vision. You are expected to stand at least one meter behind the mat. On sunny days, ensure that your shadow is not cast upon the jack. Likewise, if you are in white shoes, avoid standing behind a white jack because your shoes will interfere with the player’s vision. If you are standing at the head, stay inside the rink markers but avoid obscuring the central rink number. Also, stay silent during the game. Being loud is equally distractive and unnecessary when you can communicate with signals.

4. Be Alert as You Walk Around Adjacent Rinks

Usually, bowl clubs will organize their rinks in parallel, which means the people next to you could be involved in a completely different game. When walking to a game, to the clubhouse or anywhere around the lawns, stay alert. It would be quite unfortunate if you walked into a game and tripped over a bowl because you were not looking. It’s best to step off the rink and walk around the outside if you need to get somewhere as opposed to walking on adjacent or vacant rinks. Also, avoid standing or sitting on the banks while waiting to play. People tend to place their feet on the greens while sitting on the banks, which is damaging to the edges of the greens.

5. Observe the Rules of Possession

According to the rules, after you have delivered a bowl, you have two choices. If you desire to track your bowl, you must be at the head when it stops rolling. If you choose to stay at the mat, you must be there when the bowl stops. By observing this rule, you ensure that the next player gets to play immediately when your turn is over. The rules also state that the rink shall belong to the team whose bowl is being played. This simply means that once yours or your teammates bowl stops rolling, the other player or team now have possession of the rink. While playing, players in possession of the rink shall not be disturbed or interfered with.

6. Acknowledgments are in Order

Competition is a critical ingredient in enjoying a game, but so is acknowledgment. Good bowling is the appreciation of skill to keep the congenial spirit alive. Congratulating an opponent or patting a player in the back for making an exceptional bowl is welcomed.

As happy as we might be with a bowl we’ve bowled, or one that our teammates have bowled, keep the celebration within order. Avoid any excessive celebration, shouting or any other gestures. No one likes a loudmouth. Especially if the bowl was a lucky one – ie: gives a great result, but not the type of bowl that was intended to be played.

7. Do Not Drop That Bowl

Dropping or throwing bowls on to the surface of the green for no particular reason is considered impolite. Bowling lawns are delicate and dropping bowls on them could damage the greens. You should not kick bowls or drop them. Pick them up gently and place them on the ground if you do not need them.

8. Shake Hands

It is good sportsmanship to shake hands before and after a game and introduce yourself when necessary. After a game, it is tempting to leave immediately, especially after losing. Ensure that you shake hands. It is also good form to offer to buy drinks after you win a game.

9. Watch your language

Respect your fellow players and keep your language clean. If you need to swear – that’s fine, just do it under your breath and silently.


10. Keep the Complaints to yourself

Perhaps your green was not as smooth as you expected, or you have not gotten on with one of your team players. It would be wise not to complain about any green, including yours, or about other people, especially at the bowling club.

How to Handle Wrong-Doing

Unfortunately, behaviour contrary to the rules will arise every once in a while. Whether deliberate or as a result of a mistake, a breach can be dealt with using the following framework.

  • Politely ask the player to stop breaking the rules. If necessary, explain which laws they are breaking through their behaviour. If the person is an opponent, be careful not to use insulting or vulgar language as it is contrary to lawn bowling custom.
  • If your attempt to inform them fails, seek the help of a knowledgeable club member. A third party may be in a better position to resolve the dispute before it escalates further. The third party’s opinion should be respected, and if necessary, he or she should be allowed to watch the game and note the relevant behaviour carefully.​​​​​​​
  • Above all, it is imperative to remember that disputes are bound to arise and can be resolved without extending the matter beyond the game or the clubhouse. Always strive to maintain good relationships with all players at the clubhouse and be mindful of your words.


Observing the rules above is a great place to start if you are learning how to play lawn bowls. By following common etiquette, lawn bowling can be a pleasant game for you and those around you.