Get Inspired: How to get into bowls

Fast Answers
Why get into bowls?It's an accessible game that's quick to learn and combines physical activity with precision, patience and power.
Who is it for?Played outdoors on grass, or indoors on an artificial surface, bowls can be played by all ages and abilities.
Is there a cheap option?'Pay and Play' at your local club, or bring our own set to the park!
What if I want a proper workout?It improves muscle strength, flexibility and endurance.
Can I take it to another level?It can be played at a competitive level, for those who want more of a challenge.
Is there a disability option?It's a non-contact sport which is enjoyed by all, including people with disabilities.
Is there a family optionAny version of the game can be played for fun with the whole family - indoors or outdoors.

There are many different games related to bowls - some are played throwing the ball, others by rolling and the various forms are played with different equipment. We've selected a few below but there are plenty more to choose from!

Bowls is played by people of all ages, as the basics are easy to pick up and you can play anytime, day or night. Traditionally it's been seen as an older person's game, but in recent years an increasing number of younger people are taking up bowls. To find out more about your local club, taster sessions and open days see Bowls Scotland,Welsh Bowling Association, Northern Ireland Bowling Association or Bowls England.

Lawn Bowls

lawn bowls being judged

Lawn Bowls is a vibrant game that can be enjoyed by all ages. Played on a flat rectangular bowling green (usually artificial grass), the aim is simple - to get your bowls as close as possible to a small white ball called the 'jack'. However to play consistently well demands determination, concentration and practice. Because it is low impact, bowlers are able to continue playing for many years. Explore Bowls Scotland,Welsh Bowling Association,Northern Ireland Bowling Association or Bowls England for clubs in your area.

Crown Green Bowls

Man about to bowl.

The game of Crown Green Bowls may look similar but is quite different to lawn bowls. It is played on a square bowling green which is made of natural grass, with a larger jack. The main difference is that there is a "crown" in the green that makes the ground uneven adding an extra challenge for players. Contact the British Crown Green Bowling Association to find out how to get involved.

Indoor Bowls

Indoor bowls.

Indoor bowls is game of skill but it is also very social. Played on a carpeted area divided into rinks surrounded by a shallow ditch, bowlers take it in turn to deliver their bowls from a mat at one end of the rink towards the jack. See Scottish Indoor Bowling Association,Welsh Indoor Bowls Association,Irish Indoor Bowling Association,Bowls England and English Indoor Bowling Association to find opportunities to play near you.

Short Mat and Carpet Bowls

Short mat and carpet bowls are versions of indoor bowls based on roll-down mats (carpet bowls use a shorter mat with smaller bowls) rather than a custom-built rink. They can be easy to set up, can be played in smaller spaces and the mats can be rolled up and stored away which make them perfect for community groups and halls. Contact the indoor bowling association near you to get ideas on where to start, and in England and Wales you can also try the Welsh Short Mat Bowls Association,English Short Mat Bowls Association or the England Carpet Bowls Association.

Barefoot Bowls

a bare of men's bare feet with bowling balls

Originated in Australia, barefoot bowls is drawing new audiences to the game. Whether it's a family day out or a get together with friends - often played in a great party atmosphere, it's a fun way to play bowls with fewer rules, no dress code and no special footwear (or even no footwear). To find out more, see Bowls Scotland,Welsh Bowling Association,Northern Ireland Bowling Association, and Bowls England for clubs and events offering barefoot bowls near you.

Pétanque (or Boules)

Metal boules.

Pétanque (or boules), can be enjoyed socially by family and friends or more competitively up to championship level. French in origin, the game is played with hand-sized hollow metal boules on various types of gravel surfaces. There are two main roles where the pointer tries to get their boule as close as possible to the jack and the shooter tries to remove an opponent's boule. The game is easy to learn where new players can start straight away but the various techniques and tactics can take years of practice! The only equipment you need is a set of boules but many clubs will loan you sets too. Go to English Petanque Association,Scottish Petanque Association,Welsh Petanque Association or Irish Petanque Association to find out about local Come & Try days and games.


Originally designed for people with severe cerebral palsy, Boccia is now enjoyed by players of all abilities. It is an attack and defend game, with two sides competing over a set number of ends. The aim is to score as many points as possible by placing their set of coloured balls closest to the white jack ball. To find a club near you contact Boccia England,Disability Sports Scotland,Disability Sports Wales or Disability Sports Northern Ireland. The EFDS are also a good resource for playing at a community level. If you are looking to challenge yourself, talk to GB Boccia to find out about their talent pathway scheme to be considered for the Paralympics.

Disability Bowls

Man in a wheelchair playing lawn bowls.

Bowls is one of the most integrated activities available, where bowlers with a disability can compete with and against non-disabled bowlers. In recent years, the game has become even more accessible, with the development of wheelchairs designed especially for bowling greens along with several other aids enabling greater participation in the sport. Whether you are an existing bowler or have never tried bowls before, see Disability Sports Scotland,Disability Sports Wales,Disability Sports Northern Ireland or Disability Bowls England for info on clubs with facilities and activities suited to people with disabilities. EFDS are also a helpful if you are looking for local opportunities to plan.

Young people

Boy playing lawn bowls

Bowls is quick to learn, good fun and really adaptable, so it's ideal for children and young people. Children from 6 years old can get stuck in playing carpet bowls and from 9 years old can start club bowling. Children's bowls are lighter and are designed especially for smaller hands. The bowls are fully coloured to make distinguishing them on the green easier.

Most of the indoor clubs across the country have junior sections, as do a few of the bigger outdoor clubs. To find out more, visit Scottish Indoor Bowling Association,Bowls Scotland,Welsh Indoor Bowls Association,Welsh Bowling Association,Irish Indoor Bowling Association,Northern Ireland Bowling Association,English Indoor Bowling Association and Bowls England.

Coaching and volunteering

Person checking measurements during lawn bowls game.

Whether you have been a competitor in the past or just have a keen interest in developing talent, Bowls Scotland,Welsh Bowling Association,Welsh Bowling Federation,Northern Ireland Bowling Association, and Bowls England provide all the information you need about coaching opportunities. You can also try Sports Coach UK for more ideas.

Or use your skills to help a local club - Volunteer Scotland,Join In UK, and Volunteer Now in Northern Ireland all have information about volunteering opportunities near you.

What's next?

1. Go to our Activity Finder to get into bowls near you.

2. Find your local bowls club in Wales,Scotland, Northern Ireland and England

3. Share your story and inspire others!

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