Players Roles and Rink Possession 

The fours game is, however, the most popular one, since it accommodates the maximum number of players (8) on a rink, demanding that each side of four players should combine to play as a team. Matches are invariably played as fours games.

Fours play demands a greater skill than the other games. Each player is limited to two bowls, and with only a pair of bowls to deliver in each end, no player can afford to be careless with either shot.

The four players in each side are known as lead, second, third and skip. They play in that order, alternating their shots with their opposite numbers in the other team, and continue to play in that order until the end of the game or match. Changing the order involves forfeiture of the game or match to the opponents.

Each player must be a specialist in his position. In addition each player has certain duties to contribute towards the smooth progress of the game.

The Lead

His special responsibility is to place the mat and throw the jack, ensuring that the jack is properly centred before playing his first bowl. To commence the game the mat is placed with the back edge 2 meters from the rear ditch; at subsequent ends the back edge of the mat shall be not less than 2 meters  from the rear ditch and the front edge not less than 25 meters from the front ditch and on the centre line of the rink of play.

If his side has won the preceding end, the lead is in a position to place the mat and throw the jack to a length preferred by his four – a big advantage.

He must be a skilful player at any length. With an open jack to play at, his object must be to get both bowls nearer the jack than any bowls delivered by his opponents.

The choice of hands (back hand or forehand)  rests with the lead – he should decide which hand most suits his team.

The Second

The duties undertaken by the second man consist of keeping a record of all shots scored for and against his side. He records the names of the players on the score card, and after each end he compares his record of the game with that of the opposing second player. At the close of the game he hands the score card to the skip.

As a player the second specialises in positioning. If the lead has placed a bowl nearest the jack the second should play his bowl into a protecting position. If the lead has lost the shot he must attempt to place his bowls closest to the jack. Versatility is required of him – an ability to play almost any shot in the game.

The Third

The third player may have deputed to him the duty of measuring all disputed shots.

The third man needs to be an experienced player, who must be ready for forceful play but who can, when necessary, play any shot in the game.

The Skip

The skip has sole charge of his rink and his instructions must be obeyed by his players. He decides, with the opposing skip, all disputed points and their agreed decision is final. If the two skips are unable to agree the point in dispute is referred to an umpire whose decision is final.

In the game the skip plays last. While his players are delivering their bowls he issues directions to them by hand movements. It is he who decides the tactics and strategy of his four.

Position Of Players During Play

Possession of the rink belongs to each side in turn, belonging, any any moment, to the side whose bowl is being played. As soon as each bowl comes to rest, possession of the rink is transferred to the other side unless a bowl becomes a toucher when possession is not transferred until the toucher has been marked.

Players not in possession of the rink must not interfere with their opponents, distract their attention, or in any way annoy them.

The position of players during play is important. Players standing at the head of the green, unless directing play, i.e, the skip or third man, must stand behind the jack and away from the head. The skip or third man directing play may stand in front of the jack, but must retire behind it as soon as the bowl is delivered.

All players at the mat end of the green, other than the one actually delivering a bowl, must stand behind the mat.

Playing Out Of Turn

All players must stick rigorously to their order of play in each end. If a player plays out of turn, the opposing skip may:

  1. Stop the bowl while it is still running and have it played in its proper turn
  2. If the bowl has displaced the jack or a bowl, accept the situation or, alternatively, have the end played afresh

Playing The Wrong Bowl

A bowl played by mistake shall be replaced by the player’s own bowl.

Changing Bowls

A player shall not be allowed to change his bowls during the course of a game, or in a resumed game, unless they be objected to, as provided in LAW II 3(c) of the Laws Of The Game, or when a bowl has been so damaged in the course of play as, in the opinion on the umpire, to render the bowl (or bowls) unfit to play.


 The teams may mutually agree to cease play, on account of the weather, or because of the darkness. When the game is resumed the score will be as it was when the interruption occurred, an end that was not completed not being counted. On resumption, if one of the four original players in the rink is not available, one substitute player is allowed.

Result Of The End

The bowl or bowls nearer to the jack than any of the opponents’ bowls are the scoring ones. In a game of winning ends the side with the bowl nearest the jack in each end become the winners of that end, i.e, they are awarded the shot. Otherwise all bowls nearer the jack than any of the opponents’ bowls count one shot each.

To allow all the bowls to come finally to rest, up to half a minute, after the last bowl has stopped running, may be claimed by either side before counting the shots.

The jack or bowls may not be moved until the skips have agreed the number of shots. Exception is made, however, where a bowl must be moved to allow the measuring of another bowl

If the nearest bowl of each team should be touching the jack, or they are agreed to be the same distance from the jack, the end is declared “drawn” and no score is recorded. The end is counted as a played end.

Great care must be taken when measuring a bowl to ensure that the positions of other bowls are not disturbed. If the bowl to be measured is resting on another bowl which prevents the measurement, the players must use the best available means to secure it in its position before removing the other bowl. Similar action should be taken where more than two bowls are involved or where measurement is likely to cause a single bowl to fall over or change its position.

Game Decisions

In a game of winning ends – victory decision goes to the side with the majority of winning ends. Other games – victory decision goes to the side with the highest total of shots.