Short Mat Bowls is based on the outdoor version of the game, so most of the rules are the same or adaptations of the rules of the outdoor game. The history and rules of the game can be found on the English Short Mat Bowling Association (ESMBA) website. The following describes the major differences and should be helpful to new (and old!) players of the game.
Just like lawn bowling, the game is played with full-sized bowls which are aimed at the jack in an attempt to get as many bowls as you can closer to the jack than those of your opponent. Unlike lawn bowling, these bowls have to negotiate a small wooden block placed in the middle of the mat. If you strike the block, or roll your bowl off the delivery mat, your bowl is “dead” and is removed from the game.
- The pre-marked mat is 6 feet wide and between 40 and 45 feet long. A white wooden block is placed on the line across the centre of the mat. At each end of the mat is a wooden fender which defines the limits of the ditch area and provides some protection to the players (and the hall!) from heavily bowled woods. At the beginning of each end a rubber delivery foot mat is placed in the pre-marked central position at the end of the mat that an end is to be played from and the jack is placed on the centre jack line at the opposite end of the mat.
- The team who bowls first in an end decides where on the centre jack line at the head end the jack is placed (from a ‘short’ jack at the front of the line to a ‘long’ jack furthest from the bowlers).
- When delivering a bowl, a player must have one foot entirely within, or above, the bounds of the delivery foot mat. The other foot must be within and not touching the side delivery lines. If either condition is not met, then a foot fault occurs and the bowl is removed from the playing area.
- Any bowl which touches the centre block is considered dead. The block must be replaced and the bowl is removed from the playing area.
- Any bowl which fails to cross the far dead line is considered dead and must be removed from the playing area. To cross the line, the bowl must be wholly past the back edge of the line and not touching or overhanging it.
- Any bowl which crosses the ditch line without first touching the jack is considered dead and is immediately removed. In this case the bowl will have crossed the line, if any part of the bowl is touching or overhanging the front edge of the ditch line.
- Any bowl leaving the side of the mat is dead.
- If the jack is driven off the mat the end is declared dead. In the GSMBA leagues the team causing the dead end automatically lose the end, and may concede 2 shots.
- If a wood is played which touches the jack before coming to rest it is declared a ‘toucher’ and is marked with spray chalk.
- A toucher or the jack remains in play when it crosses the ditch line. If a toucher or the jack is completely over the ditch line, then it can only be moved by another toucher or the jack. A toucher or the jack lying across the ditch line is still ‘live’ and can be moved by any wood. A toucher or jack, which has completely crossed the ditch line, has its position marked by chalk marks on the mat, so that it can be returned to its position, if it is illegally moved by a non-toucher wood.
What Wikipedia says…