Indoor bowls is a miniature version of lawn bowls. It is played on a green woollen or synthetic mat about 6.7 metres long and 1.8 metres wide. As with lawn bowls the object of the game is to get your own bowls closer to the jack than your competitor’s and score points.
Games are played in singles, or teams of two, three or four. The toss of a coin determines which player or team begins first and delivers the jack to begin an end. Bowlers cannot touch the mat when delivering a bowl. They kneel at its end and deliver their bowls from a bowling square painted on the mat's base. Games are played for a set length of time or a set number of ends. The side with the most points at the conclusion of play wins.
It’s unusual for indoor bowls to be affected by the weather, but this happened at the 1972 finals in Invercargill, when play was interrupted after hail began falling through the venue’s roof and onto the finals mat. The next day all play was abandoned when overnight heavy rain flooded the hall and many mats were found floating.
History and organisation
Indoor bowls was introduced to New Zealand from England by an Aucklander, John Jenkins, in 1908. Its New Zealand origins were in friendly societies or lodges and later with church groups. In 1948 Wellingtonian George Welch spearheaded the formation of the New Zealand Indoor Bowls Federation and since 1950 there have been national championships, in which both men and women compete on even terms. Indoor bowls’ popularity reached a peak in the 1970s and at the 1977 nationals there were 3,050 singles entries, 1700 pairs and 835 triples. However, as with lawn bowls, there has been a decline in membership, for the same socio-economic and employment reasons.
Outstanding players have been Sen Smith of Auckland, who qualified for his gold star by winning five national titles in 1989, Grant L’Ami of Otago, who achieved the feat in 2002, and Paul Psaila, of Auckland, in 2006. There are many involved in both forms of bowls and several outstanding lawn bowlers have started in the indoor game. One was Gary Lawson, who won a national indoor title.
Both lawn and indoor bowls are popular among people with disabilities. The New Zealand Blind Lawn Bowling Association represents players who are blind and sponsors teams to the World Championships, held every four years. A sister body is the New Zealand Blind and Visually Impaired Indoor Bowls Federation. Lawn and indoor bowls comprise two of the six sports played at the annual New Zealand Deaf Games. The New Zealand Deaf Sports Association supports players to compete in international competitions such as the World Deaf Lawn Bowls Championship.