Tournament Tips


Following are some suggestions to “spice up” your club Tournaments………………

 Play More “Short” Games

  • Around Australia, the most common game of bowls is “three bowl triples”. In many clubs they play this every week. A draw is done and then the whole day consists of 20 or more ends against the same opponent. If your team goes down by a lot of shots early in the day, player interest in the day declines.
  • In many clubs there are two games of perhaps 11 ends with prizes for the overall winner, and for the best single game winner. This keeps up the interest and is good for a regular social game. However, for an occasional day you can spice it up by playing more games. A good tournament for three bowl triples can have four games of 5 ends.
  • When you have more games, the speed of the day is determined by the slowest finishing rink. It’s important you must have no dead ends, and the jack placed on the “T”. If you play four or more games in an afternoon tournament, your afternoon tea break will get all games back on time.

The draw for a multi end tournament is easy to do.

  • Divide the total number of teams by the number of games you are playing and put them into groups. For example, in a five game competition with 30 teams, you would have 5 groups of 6 players. With 26 teams you have would have 4 groups of 5 players, and 1 group of 6 players.
  • When group A plays group C this means each member of group A plays a member of group B. If A plays A, this means that each member of group A plays another member of group A.
  • Three game (1) AvB CvC (2) AvC BvB (3) BvC AvA
  • Four Game (1) AvB CvD (2) AvD BvC (3) Avc BvD (4) AvA BvB CvC DvD
  • Five Game (a little more complicated)
    (1) AvB CvD EvE (2)AvE BvC DvD (3) AvC Dv E BvB (4) AvD BvE CvC (5) BvD CvE AvA
  • Six Game First five rounds is a six team round robin followed by group playing internally in the last game.

You have to be aware of the following matters…….

  •  The draw is done by allocating rinks to each team. Alter the orders of the rinks allotted to each group so that patterns of the draw do not develop. For example, if after the first game if group A plays on rinksteams 12346 and group E plays on rinks 11,12,13,14,15,16, the next time you put in those rinks use 561234 and 14,15,16,11,12,13
  • Where groups have different numbers of teams you have to take care when drawing the odd teams that a double up does not occur. This is not difficult as you do not have to check very many games.

Powerplays are Powerful

In the English Premier League bowls shown on Foxtel, the game consists of two powerplay sets of five ends of singles.

The powerplay works like this

  •  Each player/team can nominate one end of each game or set as his/her/their powerplay end.
  • On this end, the nominators score is doubled while any score by the other player remains the same.
  • The powerplay can be declared at any time from the completion of the previous end until the first bowl is delivered. (ie can be after the jack is rolled).
  • In a short game the powerplay usually keeps both teams in the game right until the last end.

 Use Sets Play and Finals

  • You see sets play on television, but most bowlers have never had an opportunity to play this exciting form of the game. Sets play has the disadvantage for a multi-game one day event in that the whole tournament cannot wait for a couple of games to complete their tie-breakers. It is certainly good in a two or three game events with finals.
  • Draw and Scorecards for Sets Play are here.

Play Finals

  •  A one day tournament can have a final at the end of the day. For example you could run a one day fours competition with six games of five ends followed by a final of two sets of five ends (plus tie-breakers). You would play two games, then morning tea, two games then lunch, and two games after lunch. All players would come in, and the finalists would be announced and other prizes given. The final would then be played. This would encourage other players to stay around to watch the final, increasing your bar takings!

Use Different Scoring Systems

Most tournaments are scored using some variation of one of these two systems;

  •  Games won plus shots up where the winner of the day is the side which has won all games (or the most games) and has the most total shots up.
  • Points for games won and for ends won where a team is given perhaps 20 points for a winning game plus one point for each end won, and sometimes an extra point for any end scoring 4 or more.

Both of these systems have the same major flaw. Half of all teams will lose interest in the day after the first game because a team which loses its first game has very little chance of winning the tournament.

One Day Singles

The Concept – in a full day tournament each bowler plays six games of six ends of singles and marks three games.

  • Singles are not popular with clubs. When the state association gives you singles, you usually get about 16 players who do not provide any revenue, and you have to find markers for 24 games
  • Most players get few opportunities to play singles. In many clubs they can enter no more than two singles events per year. Many players only get two games, and few get more than four.
  • In a one day singles tournament, the participants get to play six games and mark three. You can have three times as many players as you have rinks.


  • You have six qualifying games of six ends in nine time slots.
  • Quarterfinals and semifinals are of eight ends, and the final is two sets of five ends (with a three end tie breaker). It might be better to just play four finalists.
  • All games and sets include a powerplay. In every set each player can choose an end for the powerplay. In that end, the score for the end is doubled for that player. The powerplay must be declared before the jack is rolled.
  • You can have 3 players for every available rink. For example, 36 players and use 12 rinks.
  • Scoring is 10 ponits for a win, five points for a draw, and one point for each end won. If you have six games and only 36 players, three players who lost two games can still make the quarterfinals. Even if you have 20 rinks it is very likely that all those who lose only one game will make the quarterfinals.
  • Pick the top 6 players as ‘seeds’ and place them in the same group (if the draw has six groups of six players). This means that every player in the tournament meets only one of these top seeded players in the qualifying games. It is probably better not to do this unless you have a good knowledge of the ability of all the entrants.
  • Cards can be printed for every player using word merging. These cards have space for 6 games of 6 ends and show nine timeslots with the rink played on, or the marking requirements at each slot.
  • Scores can be placed in a spreadsheet, which is kept up to date by having those marking handing in their cards, and all cards are to be handed in at the lunch break.


  • Allow 35 minutes per six end game.
  • Ring a bell exactly 30 minutes after the starting time for each game, and no new end can be started after the bell. No dead ends are allowed – the jack is re-spotted
  • The game starting times are 9.30AM, 10.05AM, 10.40AM, 11.15AM, 11.50AM – Lunch is 12.25PM until 1.00PM. Games resume at 1.00PM, 1.35PM, 2.10PM and 2.45PM. The quarter finals start at 3.30PM, the semifinals at 4.15PM and the final at 5.00PM.
  • An important factor in timing is that you only allocate a rink for markers for the first game, and after that the marker reports to a green and finds players waiting for a marker. This means that players can normally get on with their game as soon as both are ready, and one delayed finish does not cause three late starts in the next game. Also, no matter what time a game starts, no end can begin after the bell.

Download files can be found here.

The Swiss System 

  • This is a way of organising teams during a short tournament, usually a week-end or a day.
  • The first round is pre-drawn. In the subsequent rounds, the teams are sorted from the top down on points and shot-margin and 1st plays 2nd, 3rd plays 4th, etc.
  • If teams have already played each other in previous rounds, the tournament organisers may decide to mix that pair with the pair just below them – i.e. 1st plays 3rd, and 2nd plays 4th.

Skins Tournaments

In a skins tournament, after qualifying, the top two teams play a “Skins Final” to determine how much of the prizemoney each team receives. For example, if the prizemoney for 1st and 2nd totals $600 and they play 5 skins ends, $120 is allocated to each end. On the first end, a team which scores 2 or more wins the $120. Otherwise, it jackpots to the next end. On the last end the winner of the end gets the current jackpot.

Here are the instructions for a very successful skins fours, half day tournament held at Brighton Bowling Club. In this tournament the top eight teams played off for the prizemoney, and the others for eight $5 bar vouchers.

General Instructions

  • The draw is made by assigning a random number to every team, then sorting by the random numbers, and finally allocating rinks.
  • Each team plays their first two games on the same green, and their third and fourth games on another green.
  • Players may practice between 11.45AM and 12.20PM, but not on the green assigned for their first game.
  • We suggest that teams take a break for beer after the first two games.
  • Scores must be reported at the end of the second game. At the end of the fourth game, scores must be reported as soon as possible.
  • In the event of a rain disruption in the middle of an end, the bowls should be left in place, and the end completed as soon as possible.
  • If a rain disruption is extended, the organizer may declare that games with scores as at the last end are completed.
  • If rain makes completion of the skins section impossible, any unallocated prize money will be shared between the two teams.
  • While the organizers have ensured that an even number of teams have entered the tournament, if a team does not appear, then the tournament will proceed with an odd number of teams. The teams drawn to play the absent team will receive a forfeit and 9 points for that game. Players may practice on the allocated rink if they wish to do so

Qualifying Games

  • Four games of 5 ends.
  • Scoring is 5 points per win, 3 points per draw, and 1 point per end won. After each game the “second” should write the score (out of 10) on the card, and get the opposing skip to sign it.
  • Since the second and fourth games are on the same green as the first and third, these games can start from the bank where the first and third finished.
  • In the event of a tie in the total points after four games, shots up then least shots against, then last ends win.
  • No dead ends, the jack is replaced on the half rink mark on the 6 foot line (on the side it goes out on).

Skins Play

  • All teams play off for prizes. If two teams score equal points, the team with the higher number of shots up will be ranked higher.
  • The higher ranked side has the choice of whether to take the mat (or not) on the first end.
  • Teams ranked 1 to 8 play 5 ends, others play four ends. Equal prize money per end.
  • On the first four ends (or three), the prize is won by a team scoring two or more. If the team winning the end scores 1, the prize jackpots to the next end.
  • On the last end, the remaining jackpot prize is won by the winning team.
  • In skins, competition dead ends are re-played.

Tiger Bowls Skins Scoring

The Tiger Bowls tournaments in Hongkong use this innovative scoring system which kept the interest of all 72 teams to the end of the two day fours tournament

  • On the first day they played six games of eight ends (of fours)
  • In each game after 3 ends, two points were allocated to the team scoring mosts shots (or one each for a draw).
  • This was repeated for ends 4 to 6 and for ends 7 and 8.
  • The team winning overall was given an additional two points.

Hence for each game, the teams shared 8 points, so that the maximum score for the day was 48.

  • The scores for the first day are totalled, with ties being separated by shot difference and then percentage.
  • On the second day the top 36 teams play for the Tiger Cup, and the remaining teams played for the Tiger Plate – again playing 6 games of 8 ends with the same scoring system.
  • The top four in each then play eight end semifinals, with the finals held at a central venue.

Alternative Scoring Systems 

  • First end: To save time in a short competition, eliminate the use of “roll-ups”, but allow the team scoring on the 1st end (and possibly the 2nd end) to only pick up 1 shot. 
  • Skins (points): 1 point each end that the team scores + 4 points for a win overall (or 2 points each for a draw) = 25 points per game. 
  • Skins (money): Each end has a certain amount of money allocated to it, usually less for the first few ends and more later in the game. The team scoring the most shots in that end wins the money. If more than one team has the same number of shots, then the money is carried forward to the next end, until there is a clear winner. 
  • Skin-sets: Teams scoring the most shots every 5 (15 end game) or 7 (21 end game) ends, pick up 2 points; 1 point each if the number of shots is the same; + 4 points for a win overall (or 2 each for a draw) = 10 points per game. 
  • On-the-Perch: Instead of awarding a point for every end scored (see Skins above), a team may only earn a point if they scored the previous end as well.

Distribute your “Club Prize Money” more evenly

Most clubs distribute any available prize money to 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th. Generally, the prize winners will have a drink, and then quickly walk out the front door with a pocket full of your clubs cash. It is a much wiser idea to spread the prize money amongst as many bowlers as possible, and for the following good reasons;

  • It keeps bowlers coming back. Even if a bowler collects a little bit of cash, they will consider it a successful day out. Bowlers will be motivated to come back next time to see if they can win something. The less bowlers that leave your club “empty handed” the better. Nothing worse than walking into a club tournament, spotting the “pot hunters”, and resigning yourself to the fact you are only there to “make a donation”. If you can “make the cut” for the finals (even if you lose a game), you are still in “the hunt”. Win a few ends, and at least you get some cash back.
  • If a lot of bowlers win a little bit of cash each (say $30 or $40), then they are more likely to spend it in your club on drinks, poker machines or Keno. If a couple of bowlers win a lot of cash (say $500 or $600), your club is unlikely to see much of it (if any) returned in sales.
  • In a “Singles Tournament”, have the marker hold the cash up above their head, and at the conclusion of each end, hand the cash to the winner. In a “Pairs Tournament”, have the “Skippers” hold up the cash, and hand it to the winning “Lead”. WHY? Because you want patrons and spectators at the club to see what’s going on. It’s a subtle marketing technique to get non-bowlers to want to get involved in the sport. You would be stunned at the number of people who don’t know you can actually “win money” playing lawn bowls. They just see the guys wearing “white” on the green and think they are playing a game for lack of anything better to do.

Following is a suggested way to distribute $1,000 in tournament prize money. Clubs can vary this depending on the format and total prize money available.

  • Run your preferred tournament as 2 X 12 ends before lunch, and 1 X 12 ends after lunch.
  • Progress the top 12 players/teams (6 rinks) through to the “Cash Play-Offs” in the afternoon.
  • Finalists rankings based on Win 10 points + margin.


1st vs 12th (Rink 1) – $5 to the winner of each end

2nd vs 11th (Rink 2) – $5 to the winner of each end

3rd vs 10th (Rink 3) – $5 to the winner of each end

4th vs 9th (Rink 4) – $5 to the winner of each end

5th vs 8th (Rink 5) – $5 to the winner of each end

6th vs 7th (Rink 6) – $5 to the winner of each end

Top eight GAME WINNERS (as per score card – Win 1 point + margin) through to the Quarter Finals

QUARTER FINAL – TOP 8 PLAYERS/TEAMS (Six Ends to be played)

1st vs 8th (Rink 2) – $10 to the winner of each end

2nd vs 7th (Rink 3) – $10 to the winner of each end

3rd vs 6th (Rink 4) – $10 to the winner of each end

4th vs 5th (Rink 5) – $10 to the winner of each end

Top four GAME WINNERS (as per score card – Win 1 point + margin) through to the Semi Final.

SEMI FINAL – TOP 4 PLAYERS/TEAMS (Six Ends to be played)

1st vs 4th (Rink 4) – $20 to the winner of each end

2nd vs 3rd (Rink 5) – $20 to the winner of each end

Top two GAME WINNERS (as per score card – Win 1 point + margin) through to the Final.

FINAL – TOP 2 PLAYERS/TEAM (Six Ends to be played)

1st vs 2nd (Rink 4) – $40 to the winner of each end

$100 Bonus payment to the game WINNER.

If you wish to keep more bowlers/spectators hanging around for longer, make the final 12 ends, and pay the winner of each end $20 (instead of $40).

Club Handicap Fours Competition

A handicap fours afternoon is a good method to bring your club together at the end of a pennant season.This is how to run such a tournament.

  • Call the day the “Past Presidents Handicap Fours”, and ask your past presidents to make contributions towards some small prizes
  • On the last week of pennants ask the side managers to tell players about the tournament. Ask bowlers to play in their pennant team and if there are absentees, try to fill a team from within the side.
  • The afternoon consists of three games of seven ends and each team is given a handicap which is to be their starting score in each game.

The allocated handicaps are;

  • 0 – top open side
  • 1 – second side, top ladies side
  • 2 – third side, second ladies side
  • 3 – fourth side, third ladies side
  • 4 – fifth and six sides, 4th ladies side, teams from Social Bowls (bare foot bowlers allowed to play)

Medley – Fours and Pairs

This is the tournament to play if full greens of fours results in too many people for your dining area or kitchen.

  • The day starts and finishes with games of fours – ten or twelve ends (depending on the length of the day you wish for).
  • After the first game two members of each team go in for lunch, the others play a game of pairs. Six or eight ends of three bowl pairs, five ends of 2-2-2-2 pairs, or 6 ends of 2-4-2.
  • The players change places and the other two eat lunch.
  • Scoring is fairest if the points for each pairs is half that for the fours – for example, 20 points for a win, and 1 point for each end won for the two fours games. For the pairs, 10 points for a win and 1 points for each end won.

Medley – Triples and Pairs

This is an interesting variation of the medley to make a popular triples full day tournament with full greens.

  • The day starts and finishes with games of triples – 14 or 16 ends of 2 bowl, or 10 or 12 ends of 2 bowl ends (depending on the length of the day you wish for).
  • After the first game, you play 90 minutes of 3 bowl pairs, while one member of each team at a time goes in for lunch.

 A summary of useful FREE files to download……….

The above software comes with easy to understand “Video Tutorials”, all thanks to Geoff Graham.

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