Walking Up to the Head

  • By: Kitty Driver
  • Date: November 7, 2023

In an ideal world, any lawn bowler playing in any position could walk up to the head anytime he liked to see what shot he should play to gain an advantage in the game.

But walking up to the head at whim is not possible for one good reason: every game would be unbearably slow and arduous. Each and very game and would take hours more to complete.

For this reason, conventional social play where I come from has it that only the skip (or players in a singles or pairs game) may walk up to the head before playing her last bowl.

The idea here is that the skip’s last bowl is the chance the skip, or player, has to get the shot or gain a shot, changing the outcome of the end in question. This convention is good enough for most games, including competitions and tournaments.

Indeed, an important part of playing bowls is the imparting of information from the players (or marker) at the head to the player who has a bowl to deliver. Excellent communication among team members for excellent performance, a smooth rhythm of play for everyone and accurate outcomes – without players continuously walking up to the head.

Where do the rules about walking up the head come from?

World Bowls Crystal Mark Rules of Bowls have clear guidelines on walking up to the head. However, social conventions within clubs or regions may differ. And Conditions of Play (COP) for any particular tournament may incorporate some or all – or none – of the rules put out by World Bowls.

Here are the guidelines:

A.4 Restricting the movement of players during play
If a Controlling Body decides that it is appropriate to restrict the movement of players
during play, provision for this must be included within the Conditions of Play.
Controlling Bodies can adopt or adapt the following.
A.4.1 After delivering their first bowl, players will only be allowed to walk up to the head under the following circumstances.
A.4.1.1 Singles game
A.4.1.1.1 the opponents: after delivery of their third and fourth bowls.
A.4.1.2 Pairs game (each player playing four bowls)
A.4.1.2.1 the leads: after delivery of their third and fourth bowls;
and
A.4.1.2.2 the skips: after delivery of their second, third and fourth
bowls.

A.4.1.3 Pairs game (each player playing three bowls)
A.4.1.3.1 the leads: after delivery of their third bowl; and
A.4.1.3.2 the skips: after delivery of their second and third bowls.

A.4.1.4 Pairs game (each player playing two bowls)
A.4.1.4.1 the leads: after delivery of their second bowl; and
A.4.1.4.2 the skips: after delivery of each of their bowls.

A.4.1.5 Triples game (each player playing three bowls)
A.4.1.5.1 the leads: after delivery of their third bowl;
A.4.1.5.2 the seconds: after delivery of their second and third bowls; and
A.4.1.5.3 the skips: after delivery of each of their bowls.

A.4.1.6 Triples game (each player playing two bowls)
A.4.1.6.1 the leads: after delivery of their second bowl;
A.4.1.6.2 the seconds: after delivery of their second bowl; and
A.4.1.6.3 the skips: after delivery of each of their bowls.

A.4.1.7 Fours game
A.4.1.7.1 the leads: after the second player in their team has delivered their second bowl;
A.4.1.7.2 the seconds: after delivery of their second bowl;
A.4.1.7.3 the thirds: after delivery of their second bowl; and
A.4.1.7.4 the skips: after delivery of each of their bowls.

A.4.2 In exceptional and limited circumstances, a Singles player can ask the marker for permission to walk up to the head, or a skip can ask that a player walks up to the head earlier than described in law A.4.1.
A.4.3 When a player at the head walks up to the mat to deliver their first bowl, their direct opponent can remain at the head until that bowl has come to rest before walking up to the mat to deliver their own first bowl.

A.4.4 If a player does not meet the terms of this law, law 13 will apply. (Note: Law 13 is regarding possession of the rink.)