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Short Mat Bowling For Beginners


The short mat game began in Ireland and was later introduced into this country. There now exists the English Short Mat Bowling Association, which is supported by regional associations.

The game has its own set of rules, and any new player would do well to be conversant with them before playing the game proper.

Short Mat Bowls Rules

As the title implies, the game is played over a much shorter length than the flat green game. The carpet is between 40-45ft (12.2m – 13.7m) and 6ft (1.8m) wide. At both ends, there is a fender, and 1ft (0.3m) in from the fender there is a white line, representing the ditch. There are other white markings on the carpet but players would be best appraised of the reasons for such markings by studying the rule book.


Equipment to be used is the same as that for playing on the larger indoor or outdoor surfaces. There are regulations as regards the weight or size of the bowl to be used but, in the main, those who have the necessary equipment for playing the outdoor or full-length indoor flat green game would be correctly set up to play the short mat game.

The basic skills required for playing the short mat game are exactly as those for playing the flat green game indoors and outdoors. These are, of course, line and length. Any short mat player must practice and perfect both as far as possible. They must develop a good ‘eye’ for the line and a good ‘feel’ for the weight he needs to bowl a correct length.

The fact that normal-size bowls can be used will also assist the player in developing his individual grip. He will also learn that it is essential to get the body as close to the playing surface as possible, and he will certainly learn the importance of the speed of the arm coming through to enable him to bowl the required length.



Short mat offers the extra bonus that the carpet can be taken up, rolled and stored away at the completion of the games, thereby enabling the hall to be used for any other function.

It is yet another advantage of the game that players can be protected from the weather and are therefore reasonably sure that they can play their game at the date and time arranged.

As well as the reduced length, the short mat game has also introduced a block. This block is 15in (4.6cm) long, 3in (7.6cm) high and not more than 3in wide, and is placed at the centre and across the mat. Any bowl that touches the block on its course across the carpet is declared ‘dead’ and removed. It also has another purpose. Over such a short distance, it would not be too difficult for a bowler to use a heavy bowl to disturb or break up the head.

The block can effectively prevent this from happening and, therefore, the majority of shots that will be played will be drawing shots. Of course, if a jack has been moved off the centre line, a player of some skill could still use the heavier bowl to gain an advantage but the use of the block has certainly influenced players to think of the drawing shot as being the most important shot to learn, which is a positive point as it is basic to the playing of the game, no matter what length of carpet or rink is used.