Can You Move the Mat in Lawn Bowls?

  • By: Jack Toucher
  • Date: August 20, 2023

The mat not be moved once the end has started. However, between ends the skip who “has the mat”, i.e. whose team won the toss (first end) or won the previous end, may ask the lead for the mat to be placed at different lengths along the centre line.

The mat always remains squarely on the centre line, no matter how short the end is (minimum 23 metres) or how long it is (maximum with the front edge of mat on the 2 metre mark and the jack on the 2 metre mark at the other end – about 32 metres).

Can you touch the mat with your hands during an end?

There are three occasions when you may lift the mat with your hands during an end:

  • If the previous player moved the mat skew off the centre line during delivery
  • If a a bowl from another rink is about to run over the mat
  • If weather or green conditions make it so that you want to turn the mat over

Then you may “straighten” the mat if it is skew, or pick up the mat for the bowl to pass, or turn it over. But you definitely may not make the end any shorter or longer. In other words, you may not move the mat up or down the centre line when straightening the mat, turning it over or moving it out of the way for a bowl to pass.

Why move the mat during a match?

There are several of reasons why the skip may ask the lead to “bring the mat up” or keep it in the vicinity of the 2 metre mark. Some of these are

  • The opponents may be having trouble playing longer or shorter ends, so it would be tactical move to request a mat length that would put the opposing team at a disadvantage
  • Sometimes a team has a preferred length to play throughout the game or in certain conditions. The team may decide beforehand to play that length every end when they have won the mat
  • Some skips believe that playing shorter ends in windy conditions or on a tricky green may produce better results as there is less opportunity for the bowls to be diverted from their path with a short end
  • The skip may simply have observed that longer or shorter ends are playing “better’ i.e. it is easier to get good results at that length and may therefore repeatedly ask for a certain length to be played
  • Laziness! Sometimes in a social game the skip says prior to the mat being put down that the lead should simply bring the mat to where the short bowls are so the players don’t have to kick the bowls much

What do you do with the mat after completing an end?

Once the end is completed (all the players have played their bowls) the penultimate player lifts the mat and places it on the bank well back from the ditch face.

World Bowls laws on moving the mat

The Crystal Mark Fourth Edition Laws of Bowls from World Bowls have clear directives about the placement and movement of the mat:

6 Placing the mat
6.1 At the start of each end
6.1.1 Before the start of play in each end, the player to play first must place the centre line of the mat lengthwise along the centre line of the rink, with the mat line at least 2 metres from the rear ditch and at least 25 metres from the front ditch.
6.1.2 If, before the jack has been delivered, a player or the marker finds that the mat has not been placed as described in law 6.1.1, the player to play first must correctly position the mat.
6.1.3 If, after the jack has been delivered but before the first bowl is delivered, a player or the marker finds that the mat line has not been positioned within the distances described in law 6.1.1, the opposing player must place the mat as described in law 6.1.1 and re-deliver the jack, making sure that it is centred, but the opposing player must not play first.
6.1.4 After the first player to play has delivered the first bowl, no-one has the right to challenge the legality of the original distance of the mat line from the rear and front ditches.

Laws of Bowls, World Bowls

6.2 During each end
After the start of play in any end, the mat must not be moved from its original position except in the following circumstances.
6.2.1 If the mat is displaced, it must be replaced in its original position.
6.2.2 If the mat is out of line with the centre line, it must be straightened on that line.
6.2.3 If the mat is off the centre line, it must be moved to that line.
6.2.4 If a player picks up the mat before the end has been completed, an opposing player must replace the mat in its original position.
6.2.5 If a bowl from a neighbouring rink, moving in its original course and on a bias which will take it back into its own rink, is travelling on a path which will bring it into contact with the mat, any player on the rink on which the mat is being used can lift it so that the bowl can pass and then
replace the mat in its original position.
6.2.6 To gain better grip during adverse weather conditions a player can, before delivering their bowl, lift the mat, turn it over and replace it in its original position.
6.2.7 After the last bowl required to be played in each end has been delivered, a player or the marker must lift the mat and place it completely beyond the face of the rear bank. Opponents in Singles can, however, agree to carry the mat up the rink so that they can use it at the next end.