What do Bowlers Talk About on the Bowling Green?

  • By: Jack Toucher
  • Date: June 11, 2023

There is a lot of idle chatter and laughter on the green during a social game. But during competitions this kind of talk is out of the question. Yet in a competition there is a great deal of communication that goes on, and it’s vital to playing a successful game.

Talk in a game of fours

The skip and the third do most of the talking during a game of fours. The skip asks for certain shots to be played and imparts certain information to each player. Information includes the exact position of a bowl in relation to the jack or other bowls, what will happen if a certain shot is played, are we holding the shot, and so on.

The lead and the second stay quiet unless asked a question by the skip or the third. However, the lead and the second may ask questions such as: how far through the head was my bowl? and other questions of this nature. Typically the skip answers, but if the skip is off the green for any reason the third conveys the information.

The skip of the team that is next to play on the mat may confer with the third when they cross over the green. This can occur near to the head or in the middle of the green.

The trend in high-end competitions for the entire team to confer prior to a difficult and important shot if necessary. Sometimes the third will ask the front ranks (the lead and the second) for confirmation of his view of the head and what he should recommend to the skip.

Who talks in a game of trips (triples)

As usual, the skip does most of the talking in a game of trips and the other two players (the lead and the second) can ask the skip questions.

The “middle pip” (the nickname of a second in a game of trips) has double work in a sense, as he must play the position of second and third together. Therefore the middle pip must have a whole array of shot-playing skills, from driving to dead draws.

The lead and the second in a game of trips tend to have a close relationships and discuss the head together so the skip can receive the best information possible.

Talking in lawn bowls pairs

Of all the bowls formats, pairs requires the most advanced, detailed and patient communication between players. In the photo above you see a player about to talk to his teammate to explain exactly what has happened in the head and which is the best shot to play and why.

In effect, the two players in a pairs team become markers for each other during the game. Usually Conditions of Play allow each player to walk up to the head to see what the lie of the bowls is, but only if they have one last bowl to play. Otherwise the players are dependent on their team mates for information.

The best pairs teams know each other well and have played together for a long time. This allows them to communicate well on the bowling green. Both players are leads, seconds, thirds and skips, as each of them may be required to play any of the full array of bowls shots, from close shots to driving shots to burn the end.

Players in a pairs team may talk to each other when crossing over to opposite ends of the green, as long as theirs is the next player on the mat.

Players talking to the marker

In a game of lawn bowls singles there is usually a marker, who is a kind of assistant umpire, who assists the players from the other end of the green.

The marker is there to centre the jack, make sure the jack is within bounds, remove bowls from the ditch and answer the players’ questions in a neutral way.

Here you can see a marker, in response to a question from a player, indicating that the bowl in question is level with the jack.

What can players ask the marker?

The players should ask one question at a time, for example: how far from the jack is my bowl? rather than how far from the jack is my bowl and is it level with the jack?

The only time a player may ask the marker a question is while standing behind the mat prior to delivering a bowl. The players may not ask questions once the bowl has been bowled. They must wait until the next time they are standing behind the mat, ready to deliver a bowl before talking to the marker again.

In the photo the marker is indicating to the player that there is a measure for shot. In other words, it is her opinion that the two opposing players’ bowls are equidistant from the jack.

In a singles game the players themselves do not generally talk to each other about the game other than to congratulate each other on a shot well played. The best singles players are relaxed and friendly, and might exchange other pleasantries.