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The Game of Lawn Bowls
As played under the code of rules of the Scottish Bowling Association of Glasgow, Scotland.

By  Henry Chadwick


The rapidity with which we Americans are rivaling our British friends in their love of national sports and pastimes, especially in t lie arena of Sports which men and women of leisure, and of education and refinement can take part, alike as participants as well as spectators, is remarkable. The fact is. Ave are just rushing things" in our determined efforts to outdo the Britishers in their great specialty of field sports; and our success has been decidedly gratifying up to date. Moreover, everything in the line of sports, which we ''Yanks" take up, we improve upon in one respect or another. About the first thing we do, in this is direction, when we adopt a British game new to us, is to improve its playing code of rules through the medium of a ''National Association." For more than a century past, English cricketers have submitted to the dictates of a single club—the Marylebone Club—in the matter of its code of playing rules; while our American national game has, from its inception, been controlled by a National Association or a League. When we adopted the English game of tennis we very soon placed a National Association at the head of it; and even the case of the latest fashionable ''fad" in field sports, the Scottish game of Golf, though only just adopted, as it were, is now subject in its rules to the control of the United States National Golf Association. The latest sport arrival from the British Isles is another old Scottish game, viz., the field form of the Scotch winter sport of Curling, the American name of which is ''Lawn Bowling." to distinguish it from the game of bowling on the alleys, the latter of which is now in the midst of a regular furore, as the game of games for indoor winter exercise.

We could till pages with historical reminiscences of the olden time game of "Bowls on the Green," when the lower part of Broadway, near the Battery, was New York City's centre; one of its distinguishing sport features then being its Bowling Green, now a well remembered little park at the foot of Broadway. Before the days of the Revolution, elderly New Yorkers of leisure delighted to spend their afternoons in the engagement of ''Bowling on the Green." A Scotch writer, in describing the merits of ''Bowls," says:- No other game is more clearly associated with genial worth, or conduces in a greater degree to sociality and good fellowship. It is not only a gentle and enlivening recreation, but, in strategy and general interest, it is unsurpassed by any other field game; and as it is only played in pleasant weather, its the open air, and on a green lawn, finer and more kindly to tread upon than the most costly carpet, it can be enjoyed by all, without regard to skill, age, grade, class, craft or condition; thus novices as well as adepts; youth in their teens and veterans of three-score; the Earl and his tenantry; the representative and his constituents; gentle and simple. all these meet and commingle in harmonious sport."

Looking at the game of Bowls from all point of view, it may he truthfully fully said that there is no field game now in vogue more suitable for adults of sedentary habits who desire to derive healthful advantage from some outdoor recreation or other, than the old Scottish game of Lawn Bowls. It was the game of games with the English nobility Centuries ago, and it was the royal field game in the time of King Charles.

Bowls is a game which, while easy of achievement, affords ample scope for the employment of considerable strategic skill in its playing; while for enjoyable excitement, alike for the spectator and the player, in a spirited contest between expert exemplars of the game, it is far ahead of the existing form of croquet. It is not a rival at all of Tennis, for nothing in the way of rapid action or special activity of movement is required in Lawn Bowls as there is in Tennis. In fact, it may appropriately be said to be the game of chess of field games, chance giving way to skill in the game to a greater extent than in any known field game of ball. Here we have an illustration of an ordinary field for Lawn Bowls, which plainly tells the initial story of its simple character; and yet it is a game which opens up a field for strategic skill and scientific play to a high degree.

Bowls is similar in its principle to the old Scotch game of curling, also to shuffleboard and to quoiting. In bowls the "Jack" is the centre of attraction for the bowler, as the ''Tee" is to the curler, or the ''Flub" to the quoiter. The player aims to bowl his ball as near to the ''jack" as it can safely lie, while the curler slides his curling stone as near as possible to the "tee" or centre of the circle; and the quoit player strives to ring the "hub" with his quoit. It requires great muscular strength to engage in curling or quoiting, but in bowls strategic skill rather than mere strength, comes most in play.

The Game of Lawn Bowls
As played under the code of rules of the Scottish Bowling Association together with a brief history of the game (pdf)

Return to History of Sports in Scotland


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