Bowling Rules - is this right? The Ref speaks

Updated: May 24

During a random browse on the internet I came across the following article on a bowling website. It made me think a little and that is a dangerous thing for me. I came to the conclusion that I have to challenge the verdict arrived at in this article but I'm not sure why. It just doesn't seem right. Take a read, see if you agree with the outcome offered and then check the Laws of the Game to verify your decision.


Scroll right down to the foot of this posting to get the Ref's final word on this one.


Tonight in a league match I walked across the green after I had already sent the Jack, to collect and resend it. I had not sent my first Bowl of the end. Nothing too unusual in that, except the Jack wasn’t in the way of any other End (‘jack up’), it didn’t end up in the ditch and it wasn’t a short mark (less than the official shortest distance allowed of 19 metres). So why did I go and get it back, and can I get away with that?


Well, the Jack had passed through a hole on the green which had sent it off from its original course (Regular occurrence on our park owned green). And YES, I was entitled to reclaim and resend the Jack.


Until recently I had believed that if you sent the Jack out and it wasn’t ‘jack up’, you had no right to have it returned. However this is not the case. According to the official crown green bowls rules (rule 4.4.a*), you can ask for your Jack to be returned so you can resend it, as long as your first Bowl has not been sent.


This has 2 potential benefits to your game:

  1. If you send a Jack out, and you are convinced (or are unsure if) it is shorter than the minimal legal distance (19 metres), you can simply reclaim it. Previously I had always just sent the first Bowl and ‘hoped’ my opponent would not shout for ‘long tapes’ (used to make sure you did send the Jack over 19 metres). NO LONGER. Now if in doubt, just get your Jack back and send it again.

  2. If the response of my opponent this evening is anything to go by, this is not a commonly known rule (at least not in our lowly league). It caused some confusion to him, and some clarification on my behalf.  It has now struck me that if in future I intentionally send out a Jack and then ask for it to be returned before I send my first Bowl, it could be a sneaky tactic to unsettle my opponent.

The latter tactic is obviously very sneaky, but sometimes if you’re feeling very competitive, or if your opponent is winding you up, this could just be the tactic that might win you the game.


As if to underline this, tonight this incident happened when I was 19-18 down and I went on to win 21-19. I believe if I hadn’t called that Jack back, I would have had to send my Bowl to a Jack that was off its original course and this would have handed the initiative to my opponent and I would have lost the game.


* In fact Rule 4.4.a states ‘Verbal objection to a mark set by the leader must be made by the leader’s opponent only after the first Bowl has come to rest, otherwise the leader may have the Jack, and bowl if played, returned to have another attempt at setting a mark. An opponent objecting to a mark must make an indication that an objection has been made.’  So on the flip side, if you’re planning to challenge the Jack distance sent by your opponent, you should always wait until their first Bowl comes to rest before calling for ‘long tapes’.


Laws of the Game


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