Laws Q & A

The game in Australia is played under World Bowls Laws of the Sport of Bowls 3rd Edition January 2015 (“law”) as varied by Australian Domestic Regulations (“D.R”)


1. Forfeiture.

If a player doesn’t comply with a law he forfeits the game.

Definitions C.2 and C.10 Pages 9 and 10
2. What is a head?

A head is a jack and any bowls which have come to rest and are not dead.

Definition C.13 Page 10
3. What is the mat line?

The mat line is the edge of the mat nearest the front ditch.

Definition C.20 Page 11
4. What does jack high mean?

A bowl is jack high where the nearest part of the bowl is in line with and at the same distance from the mat line as the nearest part of the jack.

Definition C.26 Page 12
5. Challenge to bowls

A challenge to an opponent’s bowls must be made within 10 minutes of the end of the game. If a person challenges or gives notice of a challenge during a game that person will be disqualified.

Law 52.4 Page 75
6. Mat placement

The mat is placed lengthwise on the centre line with the mat line at least 2 metres from the rear ditch and at least 23 metres from the front ditch.

Law 6.1.1 Page 21 Law 10.5 Page 26 as varied by D.R 1.3 Page 113
7. Mat off centre

An off centre mat must be moved to centre and this can be done at any time.

Law 6.2.3 Page 23
8. Foot faulting

Before delivery at least one foot must be fully or partly on the mat. At moment of delivery a player should have all or part of one foot on or above the mat. Non compliance is a foot fault.

Law 7.1 Page 23
9. Challenge to the length of end

Must be made before first bowl is delivered.

Law 9.7 Page 25
10. Improper delivery of jack

If the jack comes to rest in the ditch, completely outside a boundary or less than 21 metres from mat line it is improperly delivered. (It is not dead). The opposing lead then places the mat and delivers the jack. If that lead improperly delivers the jack it is placed on the 2 metre mark and the first to play places the mat and delivers their bowl.

Law 10 Page 25
11. Minimum length of jack

At least 21 metres from centre of mat to the nearest part of the jack after it has been centred.

Law 10 Page 25 as varied by D.R 1.3 Page 113
12. Touchers

A bowl in original course touching jack on the green is a live bowl even if it comes to rest in the ditch or rebounds from the bank. A bowl is also a toucher if it falls and touches the jack before the next bowl is delivered. A bowl is not a toucher if it touches a jack already in the ditch.

Law 14 Page 30
13. Marking a toucher

A toucher must be marked with chalk or nominated (agreed by opponents if it cannot be marked due to its position) before the next bowl comes to rest. If not marked or nominated it is not a toucher.

Law 15 Page 30
14. When is a bowl dead?

Not a toucher and ends in ditch; not a toucher and rebounds onto rink after contact  with the face of the bank or with toucher or jack in the ditch; less than 14 metres from mat line; comes to rest completely outside boundaries of play; wrong bias.

Law 17 Page 32

15. Displaced bowl or jack

If you touch a bowl or jack moving or at rest then depending on the circumstances, the opposition have the right to replace it, put it where they think it would have finished or declare the end dead. Moral- do not be helpful- let a moving bowl or jack end up in the ditch.

Law 37 (Bowl displacement) pages 46-54 and Law 38 (Jack displacement) pages 54-57

16. What action is taken and by whom to prevent a disturbance of the head by a bowl from a neighbouring rink?

Any player at the head can choose whether to stop a bowl or lift a bowl and replace it as long as this action would not effect the outcome of the head. Under no circumstances lift a jack! Law37.6.1 Page 53. Players must not enter another rink to stop or lift a bowl.              Law 12.2.1 Page 28.

17. What is a dead jack?

A jack that is moved as a result of play and passes over the bank, passes over the boundary, comes to rest in a hollow in the face of the bank or comes to rest less than 18 metres from the centre of the mat line.

Law 19.1 Page 34 as varied by D.R 1.3 Page 113

18. What is a dead end?

If the jack is dead, the end is dead and is not counted as a completed end. It is replayed in the same direction unless the skips otherwise agree.

Law 19.4 and Law 20 Page 35

19. Rebounding jack

If the jack is moved in play from the ditch or face of bank onto the green the end will continue. In this case there can be further touchers.

Law 21 Page 35

20. Possession of the rink

The team delivering a bowl has possession and they should not be interfered with by their opponents. There are penalties for non compliance including having your last bowl declared dead and having the end declared dead.

Law 13 Page 29

21. Position of players

At the mat end at least 1 metre behind the mat when not delivering a bowl.

At the head end-
Behind the jack when in possession.
Behind the jack and away from the head if not in possession.
On the surrounds if the jack is in the ditch.
Well clear of the head if it is not possible to be on the surrounds.

Penalties for non compliance are as per Law 13.

Law 12.1 Page 28

22. Players duties in Fours

is in charge
can delegate some duties
decides disputed points.

Third –  Can measure.

Second- Keeps and completes the scorecard

Lead- Places mat and delivers the jack.

Other duties- As delegated by the skip.

Law 40 Page 59 as varied by D.R 3.1 Page 120

23. Is it necessary for thirds to agree to each shot before it is moved?

Yes. Shots may be placed in a group and this is recommended rather than the practice of kicking bowls out.

Law 22.2,3,4,5,6 Page 35

24. What measuring device is used for measuring jack in ditch to bowl on green or vice versa?

A flexible or string measure where possible.

Law 23.5 Page 37

25. Measuring before end is finished

No measuring of any kind is allowed at any time before the process of deciding number of shots has commenced.

Law 23.3 Page 36

26. What is a tied end?

No shot is scored if both sides have a bowl touching the jack or equidistant from the jack or if there are no live bowls. A tied end is not a dead end and counts as a played end.

Law 24 Page 37
27. Absentee player in a side game

If after 30 minutes from starting time a player is absent from one or more teams, those teams may play one short with each player playing the number of bowls specified in the conditions of play (not staggered).  If an absent player arrives late they must take their place at the completion of the end in progress.

D.R.2.5.1, 2 and 3 Page 119

A substitute if available and eligible can play until the late player arrives.

D.R 2.5.4 Page 120
28. Playing out of turn

The opposing skip may stop the bowl and return it to get back to proper sequence.

If the bowl has come to rest and has not disturbed the head the opposing skip may return it or leave the bowl where it is and have his team play 2 bowls in succession.

If the bowl has disturbed the head the opposing skip may leave the head as it is and have his team play 2 bowls in succession or replace the head and return the bowl or declare the end dead.

Law 29.1 Page 41

29. Playing the wrong bowl

If a player plays another’s bowl, it is replaced by one of his own, which is marked or nominated as a toucher if the wrong bowl was a toucher.

Law 29.2 Page 41

30. Changing bowls

Bowls can’t be changed on the day but can be changed if the game is interrupted and completed on another day.

Law 29.3 Page 42

31. Failing to play

If the measuring process has started, a player loses the right to play a bowl he has deliberately or accidentally failed to play.

If a bowl has been played by each team before it is discovered that a player has failed to play a bowl the player loses the right to play the bowl.

Law 29.4.1 and 2 Page 42

32. Game stoppages

A game stopped for bad weather etc by the controlling body, by the umpire or by the players if there is no umpire should be continued on the same or another day.

Law 32.1 Page 43

If an end has been started but is stopped as per Law 32.1 and all bowls have not been played it shall be declared dead.

Law 32.2 Page 43

If an end has been started but is stopped as per law 32.1 and all bowls have been played the number of shots shall be decided before the game stops.

Law 32.3 Page 43

Note that Law 32.2 only applies if the game has been stopped as per Law 32.1. If the players agree to come off the green where the Controlling body or the umpire has not stopped the game, then the end is not dead and continues (Bowls Australia memo dated 23/8/2010).
33. Leaving the green

Players may only leave the green if their opponent agrees and then only for 10 minutes. A player breaching this law forfeits the game.

Law 33 Page 44

34. Bowls testing

Although the laws state that bowls must be tested every 10 years this is not necessary for most purposes in Australia particularly at club level. Higher competitions usually require bowls to be recently tested.

Law 52.2 Page 74 as varied by D.R 4.8 Page 122
35. Replacement and substitute players

This can be tricky and it is best to check with the Controlling body or the umpire

D.R 2 Pages 114-120



This paper does not cover all circumstances which may arise. If you have a query please contact one of the other club umpires or myself


If you are not sure of your position during a game, don’t just accept what your opponent says – call the umpire!


Barry Wilkins

8 April 2015