Team Play

Bowls is primarily a team game, and each of the team positions has a role to play within the team.  These notes are intended to give guidance to new players, and remind the more experienced, as to the major roles of the various positions in a three-person team.


  • Unless pre-determined, spin a coin to decide which team bowls first. In most league matches this will have already been decided by the Captains. With friendly games it is usually the visiting team who bowls first.
  • If it’s your turn, place the mat and roll the jack to the distance that the skip requires. If the skip does not indicate a length then you should ask them.
  • Centre the jack in consultation with your skip.
  • As none, or few woods, will have been bowled, you are normally free to bowl your favoured hand.
  • Try and bowl your woods as close to the jack as possible. Ideally one just in front, and the other(s) as close behind as possible.
  • Once you have bowled all your woods then stand to the back, behind the mat, and cause as little distraction as possible to the other players. You can, of course, converse with members of the teams, but not when a player of either side is on the mat.
  • When all the woods have been bowled, and if it is your skip’s turn to bowl first, position one of his/her woods next to the mat in readiness for him/her to prepare to bowl.
  • Walk at a reasonable pace to the other end of the green, consulting with your skip if and when necessary.
  • Once at the other end, other than controlled constructive consultation as appropriate with your number two, your work is complete until all the woods have been bowled.
  • If you win the end then you retrieve the mat and jack, and position the mat ready for you to bowl. Roll the jack to a distance agreed with your skip.
  • If you have lost the end your role is either to use the pusher or to help the rest of the players ‘kick’ the woods back to behind the position where the mat will be placed.


  • You should bowl to the instructions of the skip. For example, if you are holding shot after the leads have bowled, the skip may ask you to bowl your woods to a position behind the jack, or if the opposition are holding your skip may ask you to take the wood out which is holding shot or to draw to it to try and get second shot.
  • You will be called upon to play a wide variety of shots as and when required, depending on the state of the head and as instructed by your skip. Feel free to ask the skip about what you should do.
  • When it is your skip’s turn they should know what they intend to do with their first bowl, particularly if they are going first. However, you are the only member of the team who should talk to the skip when he/she is on the mat. The general rule is: only offer advice when asked, or if the head changes dramatically and you feel your skip needs to know the state of play.
  • At the finish of each end it is the number two’s role to be involved with any measuring that is required and to decide with the opposition’s number two (nobody else) who won the end and by how many. After you have agreed, neither person can change their mind. If you are uncertain about the score always ask for a measure. 
  • No counting bowls in the head must be disturbed until after both number twos have agreed the score.
  • You then inform your own skip as to the outcome, even if the opposing number two has already informed their skip.
  • Also, you help to kick the woods back.


  • The skip is the person who is in charge and normally has the scorecard.
  • You must give clear instructions as to what you want your team to do. For instance, short/long jack, come this way, don’t move the jack, put one at the back, you’ve got to be up etc. etc.
  • If you are holding shot, then your role may be more about ‘protecting the head’ rather than winning extra shots.
  • Keep an eye on the scores on other rinks, particularly towards the end of the game. You may lose on your rink, but total shot difference overall can make or break the final score.
  • Most importantly, you must use words and body language to encourage members on your rink to play their best and to help them feel part of the team.