Get Inspired: How to get into bowls

Lawn bowls has been a popular British sport for hundreds of years.

"It is a sport that takes just seconds to learn - and the rest of your bowling career to master," claims Bowls England, the organisation which runs the sport in England.

Played outdoors on a flat square of grass, or indoors on an artificial surface, bowls can be played by all ages.

While not an Olympic sport, lawn bowls is staged at each Commonwealth Games and will be part of the programme at Glasgow 2014.

The simple objective is to get your bowls closer to the target, known as a 'jack', than your opponent can manage.

Get involved

Toy bowls sets have been a childhood staple for many generations of Britons and offer a cheap opportunity for children to try the basics of the sport at home.

To try bowls for real, Bowls England runs a club finder which uses your postcode to locate the clubs nearest to you. The Welsh Bowling Association offers the same facility.

Bowls Scotland has launched a drive to find new members based on the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, and offers almost 900 clubs to choose from. The Northern Irish association, NIBA, links to the websites of local clubs.

As an alternative - particularly if space is at a premium - you could also consider short mat bowls, a modern variation on lawn bowls which uses a smaller playing surface.

Why is it good for you?

World Bowls, which runs the sport worldwide, argues lawn bowls provides "open-air exercise, comradeship [and] improved mental and physical facilities".

Bowls offers exercise and competitive sport regardless of physical condition, as long as the ball can be held in the hand. Players with disabilities are almost always able to play by the same rules as able-bodied opponents.


Bowls has existed in various forms for many centuries, though national federations only began to emerge at the end of the 19th Century - first in Scotland, then England. (The English association was founded in 1903 by the cricketer WG Grace, who also captained England for several years.)

Scotland remains the home of bowls, with governing body World Bowls headquartered in Edinburgh.

The 1930 British Empire Games - the first of what would later become known as the Commonwealth Games - were also the first to feature lawn bowls as one of just seven sports on the programme. England won all three gold medals on offer that year, and bowls has been a part of every Commonwealth Games since (with one exception, Kingston 1966, where bowls and rowing were temporarily dropped for badminton and shooting).

Are you inspired to try Bowls? Or maybe you are an enthusiast already? Get in touch and tell us your experience of the game by tweeting us on @bbcgetinspired or email us on

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