The game of lawn bowls is played on a RINK (lane) within the GREEN. A green is 125ft square and markers are used to define the active rinks. Each rink is 14ft wide and they are layed out in different directions on different days to protect the grass. Multiple rinks, and hence multiple separate games, can be live at the same time.
BOWLS come in sets of four and each set has its own unique emblems engraved on the sides. Bowls are perfectly smooth and round in one direction, but slightly flattened in the other. The bowls are also weighted (or tapered slightly) in the direction of the small emblem, causing the bowl to curve in that direction when rolled. This is known as the BIAS and allows you to curve your bowl around others. Bowls come in different sizes,
weights, colors and biases, and last for 30 or more years.
The objective of the game is for each team member to roll their bowls closer to the JACK (a small white marker ball). A player may roll their bowls however they like, as long as one foot is on (or above) the MAT at the time of release. After all players have rolled their bowls (completion of an END), points are determined based on who is closest to the jack. Any bowl that goes too long (and into the ditch), or comes to rest outside a rink boundary marker, is DEAD and is removed from play. If the jack is knocked or moved by any bowl, it is still LIVE as long as it is in the rink, including if it is in the ditch.
In a PAIRS game, to start an end, the LEAD player of one team places the mat, rolls the jack and then signals their SKIP to center the jack as needed. The lead players take turns rolling their bowls into the HEAD (as the developing arrangement of bowls is called). When the leads are finished, they cross to the head, and the skips take turns bowling until all bowls are rolled. In triples, there are also VICE SKIPS, commonly just called VICE.
Games typically consist of 14 ends (social) or 18 ends (competition). The sport is easily learned, but can take years to master. Different greens and rinks are all different challenges, in addition to all the millions of jack and bowls combinations in the head. Club members may be 18 years old (or younger) or 81 years old (or older) and still compete against one another!
Thanks to the Palo Alto Lawn Bowling Club for this great description!