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The differences in laws indoor and outdoor.

As we approach the outdoor season, I thought it would be beneficial to look at the differences between the indoor laws of the sport and the outdoor laws of the sport. I am indebted to Fred Thornton, Chairman of the Jersey Umpiresโ€™ Association who complied much of the following information and was kind enough to allow me to use it in this article.

The outdoor laws of the sport are based on the World Bowls Laws of the Sport of Bowls, Crystal Mark Second Edition, which became effective in the northern territories from April 1, 2011. The World Indoor Bowls Council has its own set of laws which govern the indoor game. These are known as the World Indoor Bowls Council Laws of the Sport of Indoor Bowls First Edition (Revised August 2010), which became effective from the indoor winter season of 2010.

There are a number of practical differences now developing between the outdoor and indoor games. The following is a brief summary of some of the differences which arise and need to be borne in mind when playing or officiating.


OUTDOOR Law 1.3.26: Jack high and jack level mean the same thing.

INDOOR Law 1C (xiii): Jack high replaces jack level.


OUTDOOR Law 5.1.1: Width of rinks between 4.3 metres and 5.8 metres.

INDOOR Law 5 (i): Between 4.6 and 5.8 metres.


OUTDOOR Law 15: Rules for sets play cover format, tie-breaker, limited mat options and re-spotting the jack (see rink layout appendix B.2.3).

INDOOR Law 51: Basic rules cover scoring and limited mat options.


OUTDOOR Law 16.3: Formats of domestic play will be decided by the controlling body.

INDOOR Law 16: To be agreed in advance by the controlling body.

NOTE: In both cases, games may have a time limit imposed.


OUTDOOR Law 18.1: Substantial laws to regulate trial ends which give flexibility with different bowls and choosing the mat length.

INDOOR Law 17A: Basic law to limit ends to one in each direction.


OUTDOOR Law 19.2.3: Law allows movement of a mat off the centreline back to the centreline.

INDOOR: Law 18A: Only allows the re-alignment or replacement of a displaced mat.


OUTDOOR Law 20: Before delivery, one foot must be fully on the mat. On delivery, all or part of one foot must be on or above the mat.

INDOOR: Law 19: No prescribed stance on the mat other than at the time of delivery. On delivery, all or part of one foot must be entirely on or above the confines of the mat.


These can be a complex bundle of laws to follow as a number of different factors may have to be taken into account and fully understood before a correct decision can be made. If such a situation should arise, do not hesitate to refer to the law book. The principles both outdoor and indoor are similar in that both sets of laws recognise the fact that disturbance of the head before any displacement occurs is a valid action. However, subtle differences can arise in the options available to skips in what may appear to be relatively simple mistakes made by players. Both sets of laws should be read meticulously to make sure that you can fully understand what the correct application is.


OUTDOOR Law 33.4.2: If a marker moves the jack with his/her equipment whilst measuring, opponents should agree the original position of the jack. Failure to do so gives the marker ultimate authority.

INDOOR Law 39 (c): The marker may restore the jack to its original position and does need the opponents to agree.


OUTDOOR Law 34.2.2: The umpire can warn a player who delivers a bowl before the previous bowl comes to rest. And 35.3: The umpire has additional powers to intervene and warn players who annoy or distract opponents in possession of the rink.

INDOOR Law 41: Governing the transfer of possession of the rink and includes the interference or annoyance of players.

NOTE: Umpires also have powers to warn players in relation to foot faulting in both sets of the laws.


OUTDOOR Law 36.2.2: The law forbids straying onto an adjoining rink, even if unused.

INDOOR Law 22: Specifically forbids a player from encroaching on an adjoining rink where play is in progress.


OUTDOOR Law 37.1.7: The skip is required to maintain and record the scorecard.

INDOOR Law 43C (i): The second player in all games is required to maintain and record the score, and the skip is required to sign the card.


OUTDOOR Law 37.1.8: The law allows the use of only one scorecard (loser of the toss) plus the score board (winner of the toss).

INDOOR: No provision in the laws, therefore two scorecards must be kept by the second players.


OUTDOOR Law 40.2: The law confirms no wedging of any bowl if the 30 second law applies.

INDOOR Law 44: Wedging of leaning bowls is recognised only when the 30 seconds law has elapsed and the measuring process is then started.


OUTDOOR Law 47.3.2: The law permits the use of a different set of bowls when a game is continued on another day.

INDOOR Law 53C: No change of bowls allowed (unless damaged or subject to an objection).


OUTDOOR Law 47.4.1: The law confirms that if the shot process has commenced, rights are lost if there is failure to play a bowl whether accidentally or otherwise.

INDOOR Law 53D: Provision for failure caused by neglect or omission.


OUTDOOR Law 56: An umpireโ€™s duty is to measure distance markers on the green.

INDOOR Law 59: Sole requirement limited to width of rinks measurements.