Etiquette in Bowls – Coaching with BQ Coaching Committee

by bqmedia on November 12, 2021

By Mal Mackney

When travelling around we coaches often hear comments such as, “there is just no etiquette in bowls anymore”.

What is etiquette? What is the difference between etiquette and the rules of the game?

Definition of etiquette:


1. the customary code of polite behaviour in society or among members of a particular profession or group.

Etiquette is polite behaviour that helps contribute towards an enjoyable game.

While the Laws of the Game and Conditions of Play control the playing of the game and are enforceable by an umpire or controlling body, there are many unwritten codes of conduct and expectations that make the game enjoyable for all players. These are known as the etiquette of bowls and, while they are not enforceable by an umpire or controlling body, contribute to the continued flow of the game and allow everyone to enjoy the game. Some are normal good manners, while others have evolved to allow the game to provide an enjoyable time for all players.

Below are some of the etiquette of bowls that I would suggest we should all follow.

  • Be on time.
  • Be prepared. Ensure you have all the equipment you need for your position in the game.
  • Ensure your bowls bag and any other personal gear is placed neatly away from the bank so as not to interfere with any players.
  • Always respect your opponent/s and treat them appropriately.

Beginning of game:

  • Introduce yourself to opponent/s, shake hands and wish everyone good bowling.
  • Ensure you have all your equipment with you.
  • Turn your mobile phone off and put it in your bowls bag.
  • Skips toss and communicate result to their team members and ensure they carry all necessary equipment (mat etc.) to the other end.

During the game:

  • Be respectful. Never cheer false shots from the opposition or yourself that result in your favour.
  • If playing lead, when the opponent rolls the jack, pick their first bowl up and hand it to them, unless they request that you do not do so. Expect the same courtesy.
  • Stand at least 1.5 meters behind the player on the mat and 1.5 meters behind directors at the head. Always be quiet and still, otherwise stand on the bank.
  • Never stand in front of or behind rink markers, or directly behind the jack.
  • Walk down the centre of the green when changing ends.
  • “Possession of the mat” is a rule that all players should be aware of and follow.
  • When a skip has played the last bowl, as soon as the mat is clear, the opposing skip should pick up the mat and place it in a safe position on the bank.
  • Ensure any lifters or other equipment is placed on the bank in a safe way so as not to interfere with any bowls in play.
  • Never encroach another rink.
  • Any bowl from an adjoining rink on its correct bias that is stopped must be returned to be replayed.

At the end of a game:

  • Shake all opponents’ hands and congratulate/ commiserate on the result.
  • Ensure all equipment is returned as per club policy.
  • Skips sign cards if necessary and cards are returned to the day’s official person on duty.
  • Invite/join opponent for post-game drinks.
  • If organised, join teammates for a debrief.

It is also important to remember that how you speak and act can, and does, affect all other players on the rink and sometimes the green. The “Beginners Guide to Lawn Bowls” and “Coaching Basics and Etiquette of Bowls” are two resources that can be purchased from the BQ website under “Forms” in Stock Requisition. I would suggest that clubs buy a stock of these to be made available to all bowlers.