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What is it?

  • Bowls generally involves rolling a large, fairly heavy ball, down a prepared pitch or lane, towards a target of some kind.  The latter may be a small ball (as in lawn, crown or carpet bowls) or a series of standing pins to be knocked down (as in ten pin bowling). 

  • Various version of the game exist, on different surfaces and outdoor and indoors.  Petanque is a similar game which originated in France;  it involves throwing not rolling smaller heavy balls on a sandy surface.  Ten pin bowling in special indoor centres is a modern variant of older games of skittles.

  • More detailed information on these variations can be obtained from the specialist organisations listed below.  

  • Bowls is generally played between two or four people (the latter often in pairs).   The competitive aspect of these activities is important.

Find out more


British Crown Green Bowling Association
English Bowling Association  01903 820222
English Bowling Federation  0114 247 7763

British Petanque Association

English Boccia Association  0115 987 2002
English Indoor Bowling Association  01664 481900
British Tenpin Bowling Association


Bowlers World 
Woods & Jacks 
Go Tenpin 

Getting started

  • Find a local bowls group or club (see organisations above).

  • See if there are introductory sessions at your local club or centre.

  • Consult books or magazines on different types of bowls.

  • Check in your local library/paper or sports centre for more information.

What you need

Skills and people
  • Bowls can be played by people of all ages and both sexes and is a fairly easy game to pick up.  The physical effort required is not great, and traditional bowls is often played by older people;  ten pin bowling is generally more popular among younger age groups. 

  • You can practice bowling on your own but to play you need at least one other person.  Many players belong to a group or club to get access to the necessary facilities as well as appropriate opponents.  The social element of club life is also important.  

  • It is better if the people you play with are of roughly the same standard as yourself.  But they need not be of the same age or sex.

Equipment or clothing
  • A set of the appropriate bowls and the target are essential.  These are often provided by the club or centre at which you play, though serious players may have their own bowls.  

  • Special footwear is generally needed to protect the playing surface.  For club competitions, special clothing may be required.

A place or facilities
  • Special surfaces are needed for indoor and outdoor bowls.  

  • There are facilities for some variants of indoor bowls in many village and community halls, as well as most sports centres.  Some of these are provided on a temporary basis using more general spaces.  

  • Outdoor bowls grounds may be in local parks;  local clubs often own their own grounds.  There are regional differences in the most popular forms of bowls and so in the main types of facilities to be found.

  • There are national networks of commercial ten pin bowling centres.  

Have a go - get started now


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