Can You Move a Bowl by Hand or Touch a Bowl That is Still Running?

  • By: Jack Toucher
  • Date: July 9, 2023

In August 2022, two new laws – Laws 37.1.3 and 37.1.5.3 – were introduced to the World Bowls Laws of the Sport Crystal Mark Fourth Edition (2021).

The intention of the laws was to penalise a player who deliberately displaced their own teams bowl on its original course or lifted a bowl at rest to allow one of their own team’s bowls to pass.

These two innocent-sounding refinements to the Laws of Bowls had unexpected consequences. As a result of confusion created by the lawns, many a player who innocently laid a hand on a bowl to prevent it from running into the ditch found that their team had to forfeit the game in terms of the new laws.

Not only teams but whole sides had to forfeit games as a result of misunderstanding the laws.

World Bowls tried to explain

A clarification document was published on the World Bowls Website in September 2022 recognising that the two laws had caused a great deal of confusion. Apparently the clarification document did not lessen the confusion.

World Bowls also said there were suggestions that the penalty (forfeiting the game) was too harsh and that penalising with shot deductions should be applied instead. However, the suggestion was rejected as “this approach would be inconsistent with any other law”.

World Bowls also pointed out that “penalties have always existed for the displacement of a bowl by its own team players but at the time of the 2021 Laws review these penalties were not felt to be severe enough for what is considered an act of “cheating”.

World Bowls scraps the laws

After much head-scratching, World Bowls announced in May 2023 that the Laws Advisory Group had concluded and recommended to the Board of World Bowls to rescind the laws with immediate effect.

They said the numbering of Law 37.1.4 would remain untouched until the next review of the Laws.
The changes to the Laws weree summarised as follows:

37.1.3 If a bowl in its original course is deliberately displaced or stopped by a member of the team that delivered the bowl, the defaulting team will forfeit the game to their opponent.

37.1.4 Displacement of a bowl in motion.
37.1.4.1 If a bowl in motion is displaced by a player and it has not disturbed the head after it is displaced, the opposing skip or the opponent in Singles must choose whether to:
37.1.4.1.1 place the bowl where the player believes it would have come to rest; or
37.1.4.1.2 declare the end dead.
37.1.4.2 If a bowl in motion is displaced by a player and it has disturbed the head after it is displaced, the opposing skip or the opponent in Singles must choose whether to:
37.1.4.2.1 place the bowl where the player believes it would have come to rest and replace any part of the head disturbed after the displacement; or
37.1.4.2.2 declare the end dead.

37.1.5 Displacement of a bowl at rest.
37.1.5.1 If a bowl at rest or a toucher in the ditch is displaced by a player and it has not disturbed the head after it is displaced, the
opponent must put the bowl back to its former position.
37.1.5.2 If a bowl at rest or a toucher in the ditch is displaced by a player and it has disturbed the head after it is displaced, the
opponent must put the bowl back to its former position and replace any part of the head disturbed after the displacement.
37.1.5.3 If a player lifts a bowl at rest on their rink to allow their team’s bowl in its original course to pass, the defaulting team will forfeit the game to their opponent