The basic idea of the game is for one team to get their bowls closer to the jack than the opposition. One bowl closer to the Jack means that the team has won the end by one shot, if two or more bowls are closer then the team has won by 2, 3 or however many bowls are closer.
A Singles game is normally decided by specifying the number of shots that the winning player has to get, eg 21. Pairs, Triples and Fours games are decided by who has the most shots after a specified number of ends, eg 10, played 5 one way on the mat and five the other way alternately.
For full details of how to play the game and the rules involved visit the English Short Mat Bowling Association’s web site ESMBA(Sorry, this link is currently broken as ESMBA have upgraded their web site and now there is no link to their Rules.)
The Mat. You must keep one foot either on or over the confines of the mat when you bowl your bowl otherwise you will have a “Foot Fault” called against you.
The Fender. This prevents bowls and the Jack from travelling too far from the end of the mat (it is the equivalent of the Ditch on a full length bowls “green”.
These are the “Foot Fault” lines. If any part of your “leading” foot is either on or over the line you will be “Foot Faulting”.
This is the line that the Jack is placed on at the beginning of each end. The Lead can request where the Jack is positioned but the Skip has the FINAL choice.
These are the “Dead” lines. Any bowl being delivered must not come to rest between these lines. If the bowl fails to break the line nearest the bowler, eg the bowl is dropped, he/she may retrieve it and bowl it again. Once the bowl breaks this line it is deemed to be in play. If the bowl fails to fully cross the line farthest from the bowler it is deemed to be out of play. If part of the bowl is breaking the line it is “dead”.
These are the “Ditch” lines. Once any part of a bowl breaks the front of the line the bowl is deemed to be “dead” or out of play, unless, it has touched the Jack immediately after being delivered, in which case it is a “toucher” and can remain in play even if it fully enters the ditch.
The centre block. (The most unpopular part of the equipment) If a bowl strikes this block, however lightly it is “dead”.
The Jack. This is what we are aiming for (not always successfully)