Indoor Bowls – Games Played & Equipment Required
Indoor bowls is a variation of the lawns bowls. It came about to make the game more accessible so it could be played year round, whatever the weather. Indoor bowls is very similar to lawn bowls and is played on strips of imitation green which are roughly the same length as the outdoor sport. The rules differ slightly to lawn bowls, but essentially it is the same game.
There are also two other bowling games which can be played inside; short mat bowls and carpet bowls. This article describes each of these games in turn and looks at the types of indoor bowls equipment needed.
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Indoor bowls has its roots in London in 1888, when W G Grace, the then president of the English Bowling Association rolled out a carpet and demonstrated how bowls could be played away from the elements.
The first bowls club sprung up in Edinburgh at the beginning of the 20th century. Although more clubs have emerged since then, indoor bowling only really came into full force in the 1970’s.
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Indoor Bowls Equipment and Clothing
The minimum equipment a first time indoor bowls player would need to take along to a game is bowls and shoes. Types of bowls vary but Drakes Pride Professional, Almark Arrow and Taylor Ace bowls are suitable for all levels of players, including beginners.
Like in many other sports, such as tennis and cricket, there is a dress code for players. Although white is the traditional colour for bowls clothing, grey is also an option. Women are expected to wear a skirt, cropped or full length trousers and a blouse (available with varying necklines). There are several different tops men can choose from, as well as full length trousers and shorts.
Bowls World sell a variety of indoor bowling equipment including shoes, bowls, clothing and accessories.
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Short Mat Bowls
Although it is hard to determine exactly when the first game of short mat bowls was played, it is thought that it was first introduced in Wales by two South Africans. They took the game to Northern Ireland when they moved, and in the 1940’s the game sprang up in village halls. The Irish Indoor Bowling Association was founded 20 years later.
The game of short mat bowls is played on a 45 ft x 6 ft roll down carpet using full-size bowls. Fenders are used to mark the end of the mat, which is an alternative to the ditch in outdoor bowls. It requires a much heavier jack than the one used for indoor bowls and an 18-inch block.
Again bowls and shoes are the minimum a player would need if they are taking up game for the first time. Shoes are essential to prevent damage to the playing surface and provide support and comfort. There are plenty of shoes on the market today for men or women including slip on, trainer, lace up designs and sandals (for women).
A more experienced player will also need a bag, measure, grip wax spray and chalk.
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Carpet bowls is thought to have originated from a parlour game in Scotland known as ‘Piggies’ which was popular in the latter half of the 19th century. It does not have the same level of publicity of other bowls games, but it is played at league and county level in East Anglia, the Midlands and the North.
The game involves a smaller mat, 30 x 6 ft and smaller bowls. A circular block is used in the centre of the mat, and no fenders. The bowl must be delivered within an 18 inch area at the front of the carpet and not standing on it.
Essential equipment needed for carpet bowls is a mat, a centre block, bowls and a jack. Other accessories are also useful for the game and include mat storage bags, which Bowls World sell in a variety of makes.
Carpet bowls are manufactured in the same shape and weight so the choice just comes down to colour preference. Although carpet bowls are traditionally black there are other colours now available.
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Table bowls is essentially a fun game played in pubs and it does not have an organised or centralised body like other indoor bowls games. It involves the use of miniature bowls delivered via a wooden chute onto a snooker or billiards table. The use of the chute means it is important to get the angle exactly right to win the game.
Indoor Bowls Etiquette
Indoor bowls has essentially the same etiquette as lawn bowls which briefly is:
- Make sure you adhere to the dress code.
- Turn up on time
- Introduce yourself to your opponent and shake hands with them before and after a game.
- Don’t distract your opponent when they are playing and keep out of their line of vision when they are delivering a bowl, by standing behind the mat.
- Do not walk across mats that other people are using.
- Make sure you do not obstruct the players view to the boundary markers or jack.
Indoor League Play
Indoor League Play usually has a two hour time limit, so time is of the essence. You will normally play to a buzzer signalling the end of the game, instead of playing a set amount of ends. To comply with the time constraints players are not allowed to visit the head of bowls and the skip is normally only allowed one visit per end. If the jack is sprung off the rink more then once per side, points are deducted. These rules only apply to League games and not during national or county games.
There are high standards of dress in bowls games, which like in many other sports, helps to maintain discipline and focus.
The traditional bowls clothing is white with skirts, blouses and shoes worn by the ladies and trousers, shirts and shoes by the men. Shoes were traditionally brown but white has since been introduced, along with several different styles. The code is much more relaxed now, but clubs have their own different rules on this. Grey has become an alternative to white and ladies may choose to wear trousers or skirts, although skirts are required to be worn on some occasions.
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