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Taking to the Green(s)

May 23, 1997

Lawn bowling, or bowling on the greens, has been an American pastime since the 17th century. Greens were present in Boston, for example, as early as 1615. The game is much older, however, dating to at least to the ancient Romans, who called it "bocce." The game is alive and well in Orange County. A primer for "bowls":

The Green

Lawn bowling is traditionally (and best) enjoyed outdoors, but can also be played inside on an artificial surface. It is played outdoors on close-cropped grass; one green can accommodate seven or eight lanes (called rinks):


The balls (also called bowls) are not round, but biased--meaning they roll in a curved rather than straight line. The path is controlled by the speed and manner of delivery.

Material: Wooden or plastic

Size: 4 11/16 to 5 1/8 inches

Weight: No more than 3 1/2 pounds

The smaller target ball (or "jack") is about 2 1/2 inches in diameter and weighs around 10 ounces


Teams can consist of one to four players, with the number of balls varying:

Bowls per player

Singles: 4

Pairs: 4

Triples: 3

Fours (or rinks): 2

The Game

The object of the game is to deliver as many of your bowls (or your team's bowls) closer to the jack than your opponent. It can be played offensively and defensively. Players may try to:

* Knock opponent's balls away from the jack

* Knock the jack away from opponent's balls

* Try to protect a ball already placed near the jack


Here's how the game proceeds, from a mat at the end of the rink:

* First player (the lead) rolls the jack to the opposite end of the rink then delivers the first bowl

* Opposing lead follows

* Opponents alternate until each player has delivered the allowed number of bowls

* When all players are finished, an "end" is complete

* Number of ends in a game is determined in advance--usually 12-14 for pairs, threes and fours. A singles game ends when one player reaches predetermined number of points, normally between 18 and 31.

* Next end is played in the opposite direction


Team with a ball closest to the jack wins one point for that ball and one for each additional ball closer to the jack than any of the opponents'. Only one team can score during any one rink.

Sources: Official Lawn Bowls Almanac, The American Lawn Bowler's Guide, World Book Encyclopedia

Researched by TOM REINKEN / Los Angeles Times

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