There is a specific way to put down the mat in lawn bowls. It is the lead of the team that won the toss (or the singles player that won the toss) who puts down the mat. The routine for placing the mat is as follows:
- Pick up the mat by the corner and then stand between the ditch and two metre mark. Look towards the skip to see if he has any instructions. Does he want a short or medium end? Does he want the mat put down on the 2 metre mark? If a strategy for putting down the mat was previously established then the lead can put down the mat without consultation.
- The World Bowls rules regarding placing the mat is that the front edge must be between two metres from the ditch and 25 metres from the ditch.
- Once it is clear where on the centre line the mat should be placed, the lead should turn his back on the skip, as per the photo above and grip two corners with both hands.
- He then lines up the mat with the rink number or places the mat on the stippled chalk line, if there is one. The reason he faces this way is to make sure the mat lines up with the ditch. In other words, it won’t be skew but will point directly down the centre line.
- The correct way to place a mat on the 2 metre mark is with the front edge on the mark. However, there is confusion about this in many clubs, so check with the skip what he understands by the two-metre mark. He might think that the back of the mat should line up with the two metre mark.
- If there is no 2 metre button on the green (or a chalk mark) then two strides from the ditch will take you roughly to the two metre mark.
- Once the mat is in position, the lead takes his first bowl and stands behind the mat, waiting for further instructions from the skip before delivering the bowl.
Can a player move the mat during an end?
No, players must not move the mat during an end. However, if a player kicks the mat out of position by mistake, usually due to a clumsy delivery, then the next player to play may straighten the mat without picking it up. Thus he may not make the mat’s position on the centre line longer or shorter while straightening the mat.
What happens if a player picks up the mat by mistake?
Usually a player picks up the mat by mistake thinking that the last bowl of the end has been played. Good sportsmanship and bowling etiquette dictate that the opposition should immediately forgive the mistake and allow the player to put down the mat where it previously lay.
However, in competitions unpleasant may emerge about this. You will just have to ride it out. The skips must come to an agreement about how to proceed and if they can’t the umpire must make a decision. This will likely be to play the end over, or simply to mediate an agreement on how play should go ahead.
Why skilled bowlers put down the mat differently
Here you can see an Australian international-level bowler put down the mat apparently any old how. He is not facing the ditch and he is not even looking down the centre line to make sure the mat is straight.
There is a number of reasons why he can put down the mat facing forward: 1) Sheer experience. Having put down the mat thousands of times, the player puts it down correctly by instinct; 2) To keep play moving. Especially with TV cameras watching, the game must move along fast; 3) The players are so experienced that a slightly off-centre mat does not mean much in terms of their accuracy.