A quick and easy guide to simple bowling terms.

Bank: The area above the ditch

Back Bowl: A bowl that comes to rest beyond the Jack

Backhand: A bowl delivered across the body moving left to right for right handers ands right to left for left handers

Best back: The bowl coming to rest nearer to the ditch than any opponents bowl, behind the jack

Be up: An expression used by a skip requiring the bowler not to be short of the jack

Bias:  Bowls are not round, they are very slightly egg shaped and one side has a bias.  This causes the bowl to curve during its path after delivery

Blocker: A bowl that blocks (or is in the line of) someone trying to reach a desired target

Centre line: This is the (often imaginary) line marked at both ends of the rink by a rink number, that determines where the jack and mat are centred

Centring the jack: The act of positioning the jack on the centre line after it has been delivered at the start of an end. Usually completed by the Skip or Marker assisted by the Lead from the mat

Chalk: A stick of chalk (or spray) used to denote a bowl that has touched the jack during its travel after delivery

Chock or Wedge: A small plastic or wooden block placed under a bowl to prevent it from moving when ‘measuring’

Count: The number of a teams bowls closer to the jack than the opposition’s

Dead bowl: A bowl that after delivery, finishes in the ‘ditch’ (having not touched the jack) or outside the boundary markers at the side of the ‘rink’

Dead end: When the Jack has been knocked out of bounds ie, the sides of the rink or over the bank. The end is not counted and is replayed

Declare the head: an expression advising that the last player on the mat is not going to deliver their last bowl. It can be declared if the player or team is holding shot, or feel there is significant danger of changing the head to the detriment of the player/team, if the last bowl were to be bowled

Delivery: The process of rolling (delivering) a bowl towards the jack

Ditch: The ditch runs around the green and is at each end or one side of the rink

Draw shot: Shots where the bowl is rolled to the jack without disturbing the bowls already at the Head. The classic shot in the game of bowls.

Drive/Fire: This involves delivering a bowl with considerable force/speed with the aim of knocking either the Jack backwards into the ditch or to disrupt the head. Only usually used when the team playing are shot/s down or no draw is available

Down: When your team does not have the Shot Bowl, you are considered to be Down. You may be down by one or more shots

End: Means playing of the Jack and all bowls of both opponents in the same direction on a Rink.  The number of Ends played is decided by Competition, League or Club Rules. A typical game has 18 or 21 ends

Foot fault: A foot fault occurs when the bowler does not have one foot on or over the mat on release of the bowl

Forehand: When the bowl is delivered to the right of the Jack, and curves to the left (opposite for left handed bowlers)

Grass: Apart from the surface, the directional line the bowl takes in order for it to curve towards the Jack. So a bowl with “too much grass” will be too wide.

Green: The area of grass divided into ‘rinks’ the game is played on. The direction of play is often alternated to protect the bowling surface. Green is also used to indicate the directional line the bowl takes in order for it to curve towards the Jack. So a bowl with “too much green” will be wide. (See Grass)

Hand: The side on which the bowl is delivered

Having the mat: The team that won the last ‘end’ places the mat and delivers the jack and their bowl first. At the start of a game, possession of the mat is usually decided by a coin toss

Head: A group of bowls constitutes a head, which means the bowls that have been played and have come to rest

Heavy: A bowl delivered with more speed/force than required to reach the jack

Holding or Holding shot: Team with their bowl(s) closest to the Jack (see also Shot Bowl)

Hook: the direction a bowl takes when it is slowing down and has just about a metre or two left to roll. Some bowls hook more then others, especially older bowls with a large bias 

Jack: Yellow or White ball, smaller than a bowl used as the target to play to, which determines point scoring (see Points)

Jack high: A bowl that comes to rest level with the jack

Killing (an end): The act of playing the jack deliberately out of the rink to create a “Dead End”

Kite: The Jack

Kitty: The jack

Lead: The person who starts off the play of an end by placing the mat and rolling the Jack (if their team “has the mat”) or first to play in a team.

Line: The arc a bowl takes during a delivery

Marker: A non-playing bowler in a game of singles who assists the players during a game by centring the jack, answer questions from the players regarding the state of the head, chalks touchers and keeps the score card

Mat: The mat that is placed by the team winning the last end, in preparation to start the next end. This is also known as “having the mat”. The team with the mat rolls the Jack and first bowl

Measure: a string or calliper measure is used when it is uncertain which bowl is closest to the jack

Narrow: The bowler didn’t deliver the bowl far enough from the centre line to the Jack. It runs too narrow or ‘tight’ (also called not taking enough “Grass/Green”)

Pairs: Bowls game in which each team has a pair of players (a Skip and a Lead)

Promoting a bowl: Pushing up one of your team’s bowls to a better position

Quick: A bowl that is delivered with too much force towards the jack meaning it is likely to finish beyond jack high (See also “Heavy”)

Rink: The lane(s) on the bowling green playing surface. Each Rink is defined by markers on the ‘bank’ to clearly define the edge of each rink. Most greens have 6 rinks, but some can have more or less

Rinks game: A bowling game in which there are 4 players per team a Skip, a Three, a Two and a Lead. Each player uses 2 bowls each

Rub: A delivered bowl that gently brushes against another bowl in the head during its course

Running: A bowl delivered that is likely to travel further than was intended or required

Skipper/Skip: Team captain who always plays last. This person is usually the most experienced player, who also guides the strategy during the end

Shot bowl: The bowl closest to the Jack

Tied end: When the two closest bowls are both exactly the same distance from the jack and belong to opposing teams, even after measurement, the end is declared a tie.

Tight: When a bowler delivers their bowl too near the centre line

Touchers: Bowls that hit the Jack. These bowls are marked with chalk and remain ‘live’ even if knocked into the ditch

Trailing the Jack: The jack is moved by a bowl with the bowl staying with or under the jack. Often used to move the jack to a more favourable position in the head

Trial ends: Formal practice ends. Only allowed at the start of a game in which each team rolls bowls down and back to get a feel of the green. These ends do not count in the scoring

Triples: A game in which each team has 3 players on their team – a Skip, a Two and a Lead. Typically each player then only uses 3 bowls each

Up: When a team has the shot bowl, they are considered to be ‘up’. You may be ‘up’ by one or more points also, a bowl reaching the head

Wedge: See ‘Chock’

Weight: The amount of speed applied in delivering the bowl from the mat to the Jack. ‘Heavy’ weight means that the bowl stops beyond the Jack, while ‘light’ means that it stops short of the length desired

Wide: The bowler delivered the bowl too far from centreline to the Jack. It runs too wide (also called taking too much “grass/green”)

Wick: When a bowl bounces off another stationary bowl

Wood: An old term for a bowl

Wrong bias: A bowl delivered that is intended to move say left to right but due to the bowler having the bowl facing the wrong way in their hand, moves from right to left. This often results in a ‘dead bowl’

Yard on: A shot delivered with an extra degree of speed to displace or disturb other bowls in the head or trail the jack