|A Lawn Bowling tournament in Berrigan, New South Wales|
Lawn Bowling, more commonly referred to as "Bowls", is a variation of the common sport of bowling with one major difference—there are no pins in lawn bowling. For lack of a better explanation, lawn bowling is similar to the game of horseshoes, in that it is customarily played outdoors, but on a manicured green, and the object is for competing players to roll their balls a significant distance, and have the balls stop closer to a target than the opponents' balls.
To be more specific, a regulation public playing area, called the 'bowling green' is approximately 120' x 120', and is divided into 8 vertical strips, so that several games can be played at once. This would make the playing area for each game somewhere between 14 and 15 feet wide. In a typical variation, depending on geographic locale, a game begins between opposing players or teams with the flip of a coin. The winning side begins by placing a mat at one end of the playing surface, centered from left to right, and a minimum of 6 feet from the edge, which can be construed as serving as a 'foul line', although players use the mat as a guide as to where to stand. Then the player from the side who won the coin toss first rolls a small ball, usually white and called a "jack", to the other end of the playing surface. When the ball comes to rest, it is centered width-wise in the playing area where it lies. This "jack" serves as a target ball. At this point, opposing players roll their balls in an attempt to get as close to the jack as possible. After all balls are rolled in a round, points are determined by the player's balls that are closer to the jack than the opponent's balls. Depending on the geographic location of where the game is being played, the rules for determining a winner are different. In the United States, many competitions are based on having a pre-set number of rounds, like in the conventional game of bowling, where a game is divided into 10 frames. In Canada, several competitions are based on the first player or team to get to 21 points, much like in ping pong or table tennis. In other locations, such as Australia or England, a game may go as high as 41 points, or whatever number is pre-determined.
The initial "jack" ball is a standard round ball. The balls used by the players during the game are larger than the jack, and are factory-weighted (lopsided) so that they curve as the ball slows down in its roll.
In the past, weights could be inserted into the balls, but the game has been regulated to where the shape of the ball now determines the amount of curve, and inserting weights at a later time is no longer allowed. The game is pretty intriguing as the player has to be consistent with his roll and with the way he positions the ball in his hand when rolling, so that he can rely on which way the ball will curve. Strategies can be employed in the game in that if a player gets one of his balls extremely close to the jack, he can try to roll his other balls to act as 'guard balls' to keep other players from either getting closer to the jack, or to keep other players from knocking a ball farther from the jack. A player may also roll a ball at the "jack" to try to move it out of position, and thus re-establish the target.
Lawn Bowling is popular in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, Hong Kong and parts of the United States. It is also gaining momentum in Japan. Because of its competitiveness, skill, and the fact that it is a non-contact sport, the game suits people from teen years through their nineties. However, there is a considerable professional competition with many younger men and women playing. Since the early 2000s, the sport has developed in Denmark as well. The World Championships, held in the UK annually, was first held in Australia in 1966. The World Championships for men and women are held every 4 years. Qualifying national lawn bowling organizations (usually countries) are represented by sides of 5 players, who play once as a single and a four, then again as a pair and a triple. Gold, silver, and bronze medals are awarded in each of the 4 disciplines, and there is also a trophy for the best overall 5-player side, called the "Leonard Trophy" for men and the "Taylor Trophy" for women.
The next World Lawn Bowl Championships will be held in Adelaide, Australia, from November 24 - December 9, 2012.
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