Play competitively to sharpen your bowling skills

Bowler Q&A


Why is raisin bread served at tournaments?

We’re not sure why, but raisin bread is one of the morning snacks at almost every tournament. It’s one of many quirky pleasures of lawn bowling culture. 

I’m a new bowler. When should I start entering tournaments?

Once you feel comfortable bowling in jitneys, we encourage you to consider entering a tournament. But choose wisely. There are tournaments geared to new bowlers, such as our novice tournament in August, and others that require a novice member on each team; those are good choices for your first tournament.

The atmosphere and expectations can be quite different than at a jitney, and tournaments are a great learning experience for all bowlers.


How long does a tournament last?

Most tournaments are one-day events, usually starting around 9:30 a.m. and finishing around 5 p.m., but there are also some two-day and even three-day tournaments.

In a one-day tournament, you’ll usually play three games.


What kinds of tournaments are there?

Cosburn holds both in-club tournaments, which are open to Cosburn members only, and inter-club tournaments that any Ontario Lawn Bowling Association member can enter.

Many other clubs hold OLBA tournaments that you can enter. The OLBA publishes an online listing of tournaments in Ontario and the OLBA Annual, a printed book of tournament listings and other information for bowlers.


Do I need to form a team to enter?

Not always. There are a few tournaments, including Cosburn’s novice tournament, that you can enter as an individual. In those tournaments, the tournament organizer creates teams, much like the drawmaster does for a jitney.

Most tournaments, though, require you to enter as a team. Each tournament will specify the gender mix, number of players, and often the experience level required to enter. You’ll see these terms on the tournament listing:

Men’s: a team of all men.
Women’s: a team of all women.
Mixed: a team that includes both men and women.
Open: a team with any combination of genders.

Pairs: a team of two players.
Trebles or Triples: a team of three players.
Fours: a team of four players.

Novice: a player who has been an OLBA members for five years or less. Some tournaments may require all novices; others require a minimum number of novices on a team. The OLBA extended novice status during COVID, so there are a few novices now who have been bowling for seven years.

Often the team requirements are abbreviated in listings. For example, “MP” is Mixed Pairs; “OT” is Open Triples.


I’ve put a team together. How do I register for a tournament?

Tournament listings will include registration instructions. Some clubs, including Cosburn, offer online registration, but most clubs require one member of the team to contact a tournament organizer by email or phone.

If you register a team and one member is unable to play, you may substitute another player who is eligible for the tournament. If the whole team must drop out, you must contact the tournament organizer as soon as possible so another team can enter in your place. If you don’t cancel your entry and don’t show up at a tournament, many clubs will blacklist you from future tournaments.


Are there tournaments for new bowlers?

There are tournaments geared to novices; they’re a great way for new bowlers to learn about tournament play.

In a novice-only tournament, the organizers usually provide more detailed instruction about the tournament because many of the players are completely new to tournaments. And although everyone wants to win, these tournaments can be more focused on having fun than on competing at a high level.

Other tournaments combine novices and experienced players in each team. These are great opportunities for novice bowlers to learn from other players. Skilled novices who enjoy tournament play are in high demand for these events. In your online Cosburn roster profile, you can let other members know that you’re available for tournaments.


Do I have to stick to novice tournaments until I’ve played for five years?

No. You can play in any OLBA tournament as long as you meet its eligibility requirements.

Tournaments with more senior bowlers, however, may have a more serious, competitive atmosphere, and you will be expected to be familiar with lawn bowling rules and gameplay.


What usually happens at a tournament, aside from the games?

First thing in the morning, you’ll need to sign in; be sure to arrive at least 15 minutes before the tournament start time. When all of your team members are there, you can sign in and pay the entry fee (in cash). Some tournaments require you to show an OLBA card to prove eligibility.

Bring whatever you’ll need for the day, including bowls. (Cosburn members can borrow club bowls for a tournament.) Check the forecast and be prepared for changes in weather; we suggest bringing a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, and rainwear.

Many bowlers arrive early to warm up before the games start. You may throw practice bowls only in a direction perpendicular to the tournament play—it’s an unfair advantage to practise in the direction of play.

Tournaments usually include three games, with a break between each game. One of the breaks will allow extra time for everyone to eat lunch. Bring your lunch, unless the tournament description specifies that lunch is provided. Many tournaments provide light snacks and soft drinks between games.

Your opponents for the first game are determined by a random draw. In subsequent games, you’ll usually play teams with a similar record as yours (winning teams play against winning teams, for example). 

You are expected to stay for all three games, even if your team is not playing well. Leaving a tournament early is very inconsiderate. Polite bowlers also stay for the announcement of the winners at the end of the tournament. Many tournaments draw for a random prize among the teams that didn’t win, so you may be lucky.


Do we need a team uniform?

For most tournaments, you don’t have to wear the traditional all-white uniform, but it is customary to have a team uniform. For most teams, “uniform” just means “a similar look.” Usually your tops are a similar colour, and your shorts or pants are also a similar colour. They don’t need to be identical: two shades of grey, for instance, are fine. Tournament organizers may check that your footwear is flat.

Tournaments at the provincial and national level have more extensive rules for uniforms. The OLBA publishes its rules here.


Are tournament games the same as jitney games?

Yes, tournament games are very much like jitney games. Before the tournament, the organizers will announce how many ends will be played, how tie games will be resolved, and what happens if bad weather interrupts the tournament.

In general, teams play more seriously and competitively at tournaments, and lawn bowling rules are followed more strictly. If there’s a disagreement about rules or scoring and the skips can’t agree, most tournaments designate an umpire who will resolve a dispute.

Even in tournaments, most bowlers are friendly and helpful, but occasionally players will try to throw off opposing players by disputing scores, slowing down or speeding up the play, or just generally being unpleasant. Ignore them, stand your ground, and play your own game. If you believe another player’s behaviour crosses the line from annoying to inappropriate, tell your skip.


What are “the districts” and “the provincials”?

There are special tournaments, called “districts” or “district playdowns,” which allow players to represent their district at provincial competitions. (OLBA clubs are organized into 16 districts; Cosburn is in District 10.) Some district playdowns are for novices only; others are open to all bowlers in that district. Usually, there are district playdowns for pairs, trebles, singles, etc.

By entering district playdowns, you are committing to continue (if you win) to the provincial competitions. Before entering, be sure you are willing and able to travel to the provincial events. Similarly, if you win at provincials, you are expected to go to the Canadian national championships. To offset travel expenses, Cosburn offers a modest subsidy to players who win at the district and provincial level.


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