20210128_110406 (2).jpg

Laws of the Sport

History of the Laws

It is to a Scot that we owe our appreciation for the democratic spirit in which the game of bowls is played in that he drew up a complete code of laws which were adopted and have formed the basis of our present laws.

He was William Mitchell, a Glaswegian solicitor, and although the reading of those laws as originally written is amusing in their simple dated terms we can see how our present laws were derived.

There were, however, earlier Laws of the Game, which were drawn up to suit the game as played in the time of King Charles II. This game bore little relation to the game as we now know it.

Mitchell's laws sufficed from the time they were drawn up in 1850 until the formation of the Scottish Bowling Association in 1892, who as one of their first tasks had a revised set of laws drawn up. This provided for the first time a standard minimum bias for bowls.

In England things were a little confused. Not until a joint New Zealand / Australian team of bowlers arrived for the first international bowls tour, did it become apparent that an organisation to administer such events was required.

Also there was the question of "Who's Laws do we use". The Scots were reluctant to allow their laws to be used as they had taken the step of copyrighting them. To solve these problems the Imperial Bowling Association was formed and drew up their own Laws of the Game, but as can be imagined, followed closely the Scottish laws.

Incidentally, it was on the above occasion that the Australia Cup was presented to the Imperial Bowling Association and has been presented to the winners of the "Fours Championships" at National finals every year since.

In 1903 the English Bowling Association succeeded the Imperial Association under the leadership of the famous W. G. Grace, followed closely by the Welsh and Irish associations, and most importantly the International Bowling Board. The name of this organisation was changed to the World Bowls Board and subsequently to World Bowls Ltd.

This Authority has become recognised internationally as the sole authority for production and revision of outdoor laws, which except for slight modifications for local conditions, apply to every country where bowls is played.


The Laws of the Sport of Bowls

The Sport of Lawn Bowls is played in accordance with the current edition of the World Bowls Laws of the Sport of Bowls.

The current edition is the Crystal Mark Third Edition.

This edition became effective from 1st April 2015 in England for all outdoor bowling played under the auspices of Bowls England.

This edition will become effective from the start of the 2018-2019 Indoor season in England for all indoor bowling played under the auspices of the English Indoor Bowls Association.

Copies of the Third Edition can be obtained at a cost of ₤ 2.00 plus postage from the Bowls England website

Prospective new members should note that a copy of the Law Book is provided as part of your Home Study pack.

A copy of the Bowls England Domestic Regulations can be downloaded here and they are also reproduced in the Third Edition booklet as published by Bowls England.

Bowls England Domestic Regulations


Law Changes.

The World Bowls Laws Committee, in conjunction with World Bowls Member National Authorities, undertakes a comprehensive review of the Laws of the Sport on the same 4-yearly cycle as the Commonwealth Games. The last such review was held in 2014 - it led to the publication of the 'Laws of the Sport of Bowls- Crystal Mark Third Edition'.

Member National Authorities can propose changes to the Laws of the Sport as can the World Bowls Laws Committee and these are normally approved at World Bowls Council Meetings.

The Crystal Mark Third Edition of the Laws of the Sport of Bowls was approved at a WB Council Meeting in August 2014.

Since the printed Law Book was published in 2014 there have been two minor changes to the Laws, both concerning Bowls.

5th December 2016.

Removal of the requirement for large grooved rings on the non-bias side of the bowls.

 WB Law Changes 5 December 2016.pdf


14th April 2018

Introduction of two smaller sizes of Bowls. Size '000' and '0000'

 WB Law Changes 14 April 2018.pdf

World Bowls Law Committee decisions.

As and when necessary the World Bowls Law Committee make decisions on interpretations of the Laws of the Sport of Bowls.

The World Bowls Law Committee decisions can be found by clicking here or going to www.worldbowls.com/laws-umpiring/wb-law-decisions/

Of particular note for members are the following:-

Use of transparent ‘Shot Spotter’.

 Shot Spotter.pdf


Bowls England request for Domestic Regulation on “Shot Spotter”
N.B. this request was refused by World Bowls.

 BE DR Request.pdf


Competition Rules

Some competitions played under the authority of country and county associations have additional rules.  It is important that as Umpires we are aware of these rules before we officiate at an event.

These additional rules are now often called Conditions of Play.

The links below contain information on some of the Competition Rules you may need to be aware of as well as points of interest on the Laws of the Sport.


Bowls England Rules & Regulations 50-70 April 2022

English Indoor Bowling Association Competition Rules