If you’re playing regularly you’re likely want to buy your own set of woods, and there are some other pieces of equipment useful for competitive play.

You don’t need much to start bowling. In fact, apart from flat soled shoes, the club can provide you with the only other thing you’ll need – bowling balls, and opponents – for at least your first few sessions.

The good news is that, compared to many sports and hobbies, bowling is relatively cheap! And most things, once bought, will last you a lifetime (or until you lose them, or someone borrows them and forgets to give them back…)

A set of bowls

If you don’t have your own set of bowls you can never be sure what set you’ll be playing with. Woods vary both in size and weight but also bias (degree of curve), so it’s better for consistency if you have your own set and play with them as often as possible. It’s also virtually essential if you’re playing in any external competitions.

You can buy second-hand bowls on sites like Ebay for under £100, or buy a set new for around £300 plus. As bowls vary so much, for a beginner it makes much more sense to buy some “cheap” to work out what kind of bowls you prefer.

A bowls bag or holder

Bags and holders come in a number of types. The simplest, the holder, is also the cheapest, and is fine if you’re going to transport bowls inside another bag, or only carry them from locker to green.

Next up is an enclosed carrier, which gives them a bit more protection:

And finally you can buy a full bag, of which there are many kinds and which will have room for shoes, measure and anything else. Overkill if your bowls stay at the club all the time, but useful if you play a lot of away matches.

Bowling shoes

On the synthetic green at Walthamstow you can get away with any shoes that are reasonbly flat, but for playing at other clubs you’ll need special bowling shoes with flat soles.

Make sure to get lawn bowling shoes, not ten-pin bowling shoes… And although the rules on colours are loose, you’re safest buying all white shoes. They should cost a bit over £20 and could be laced or velcro (as pictured below).

Whites and Greys

Whites are white tailored trousers or skirt with a white collared shirt or polo shirt. Greys are similar, but with grey trousers or skirt. Tailored shorts are also allowed now, but those three items are the minimum for playing in local matches. A club shirt is a bonus and can be bought once you’re a member.

County matches may have other requirements such as blazers and badges, but that’s a bridge to cross if you ever want to get that far.

A measure

When the seconds or thirds can’t decide which wood is closest they measure. A bowls measure is retractable string, with a pointer, such as one of these:


A stick of white chalk will generally do for marking any wood that strikes or touches the jack (as a result of it being bowled). For times when a bowl is at an angle and drawing chalk on it might disturb it there are spray chalks (pictured below), but for roll-ups and even most local leagues regular chalk is fine.

Bowls Cloth

When playing on damp grass, or even sometimes on the synthetic green, your bowls can become damp or even muddy. At those times it’s useful to have a cloth to give them a wipe before taking a shot to improve grip.

You could use any kind of cloth, like an old flannel or small towel, but why not pay more for one with a logo on it?

The non-essentials

If you’ve got all the above and feel like getting the complete set, there are a few other items that are useful but certainly not critical:

  • Bowls polish
  • Calipers, for measuring very small distances
  • Wedges, for propping up woods whilst measuring
  • A long tape measure, for making sure the jack is at least 23m from the front of the mat