6 reasons to play bowls

Bowls is a social sport, suitable for all levels of fitness. Check out our six reasons why you should give bowls a try. 

Lawn bowls

1. There’s a club near you

First, you need a place to play. Many bowls players are members of clubs, which provide facilities and opponents. There’s usually an annual fee (from £40 to £150). A lot of clubs offer free beginner sessions so you can try before you join, and then a cheaper fee for your first year.

“With more than 2,500 clubs across England, there’s bound to be one near to you,” says Tony Allcock, Chief Executive of Bowls England.

You can also play indoors. Contact your local leisure centre to find out if they have an indoor green. Drop-in games cost around £5.

2. The rules are simple

Next, you need to know the rules. Fortunately, they’re easy to learn.

You can play singles, pairs or in teams

Bowls is played on grass (the green). A game starts by throwing the jack (a small white ball) down the green. Each team has different colour bowls to roll towards the jack. “The person who gets nearest to the jack gets a point and wins what’s called the ‘end’,” explains Matt Wordingham from Bowls England. “It is added up over 18 or 21 ends.”

After each end, play is reversed and the teams bowl towards the other side of the green. Players can try to knock their opponents’ bowls away from the jack or position a bowl to block opposition shots. You can play singles, pairs or in teams. In singles, scoring is a bit different – the first player to reach 21 points is the winner.

3. There are many varieties to try

People playing lawn bowls

The most common type of bowls is flat green bowls (represented by Bowls England), which is played outdoors on a level grass surface. But that’s not the only way to bowl. There is crown green, federation, indoor and carpet bowls. Crown green bowls is a regional variety, played on a grass surface, but with a hump in the middle of the green. Indoor and carpet are similar to flat green, but played inside. You can learn more about crown green, indoor or carpet bowls clubs at bowlsclub.org.

4. It’s a gentle way to get active

“I don’t think you realise how much walking you do until you actually play it,” says Matt. “You can walk three miles while you’re playing. You’re only doing 30m stints at a time, but you’re doing a lot of them.” On top of the walking, your arms will get a workout as you perfect your bowling technique and your leg muscles will develop as you lunge into the throw.

5. There’s a social side

On top of the walking, your arms will get a workout

Many bowls clubs put on regular social functions. There are also opportunities to join the club committee or volunteer in the day-to-day running of the club. “There is a lot of socialising and you don’t have to be competitive to play,” says Matt. “If you just want to play with your friends on a Wednesday afternoon, there’s nothing stopping you.”

6. It’s perfect for all

“Bowls truly is the sport for all, regardless of age, sex or physical ability,” says Tony. The gentle pace and lack of contact means you’ll often find children playing with adults and people of different abilities and fitness levels on the same team. Despite what you might think, it’s not just a sport for retirees. “The general bowler is over 55,” says Matt. “But in our international teams, there is barely anyone over 40. We have an under-25 and under-18 international team as well.”

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