Is Bowls A Sport? | A Complete Guide

  • By: Reece Williams
  • Time to read: 4 min.

Many people think that for something to be a “sport” you must be gasping for air by the end of playing. This can make it difficult to justify lawn and indoor bowls as a sport. But is this true?

For a game to be taken seriously it needs to be considered a “sport” in the eyes of it’s audience. Whilst I’m sure there are folks you would like to watch competitive past times – such as bridge or dominoes – the general public won’t as its not a sport.

This puts games such as lawn bowls in a tricky spot, should it consider itself a sport? Lets take a closer look.

What makes bowls a sport

Yes, both lawn bowls and indoor bowls are sports. By any objective measure they meet the measurements in skill, physical exertion and competitiveness. defines a sport as “an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess”.

To add to this, the Oxford Dictionary defines a sport as:

“an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or a team competes against another or others for entertainment”. 

So it is understood that for something to be a sport it needs to require:

  • skill
  • physical exertion
  • competition


Lets look at the first requirement of a sport – skill. Bowls is a great game as its easy to pick up and get started, and anyone can play a winning shot. On the face of it, this could show that there isn’t a lot of skill needed to play the game.

However, the real skill of the game is consistency. To be able to play those winning shots again and again throughout a game requires a great amount of skill.

This is why bowls is easy to get started, but very difficult to master. For this reason bowls does show it requires a great amount of skill to play well.

Physical exertion

Some people confuse “physical exertion” with “getting out of breath”. This isn’t true – physical exertion simply means there is a physical element to the game.

This is true for bowls as a bowls delivery requires a good deal of physical excertion. It is effectively a low, slow, controlled lunge.

Just like the skill element, physical exertion doesn’t come from one delivery, but the consistency required to play the full game.


Bowls can be played can be played at a variety of levels.

You can play bowls without competition – such as playing a friendly between clubs. However bowls can be played as competitively as you like.

From local leagues, through to national competitions, and for some internationally, bowls has a huge competitive aspect to it.

Why do some not consider it a sport?

Some don’t consider bowls a sport for a couple of reasons:

  • not enough physical exertion
  • not competitive enough

Not enough physical exertion

Some people believe bowls isn’t a sport because it doesn’t require physical fitness – or at least a fit physique – to play.

How can a game played by older, and often overweight, players be a sport?

Alex Marshall may not have an athlete’s physique, but is a great lawn bowler

The issue with this view is that it misses the point of the Physical Exertion element. A sport doesn’t require you to be out of breath to be a sport.

In fact some of the best sportsmen in the world are noted for not needing to get exhausted to be the best. For example Andre Pirlo is considered one of the best footballers ever, yet his skill allows him to not need to run and get out of breath, this is why he is great.

Not competitive enough

Some believe bowls isn’t a sport because it isn’t competitive enough. This may be partly because most see bowls played in a friendly environment, or because when it’s played at the highest level, the bowlers don’t show much competitiveness between each other.

Firstly, bowls isn’t always competitive, some players play friendlies for the fun of the game, however that doesn’t mean this is the only way to enjoy the game.

As I pointed out above there are many layers of competition suitable for any level.

Finally, bowlers at the top level don’t show emotion to each other mainly because of the etiquette to respect your opponent.

Bowlers at this level are incredibly competitive, but they don’t show this to remain calm as they play.


Bowls (both indoor and outdoor) is considered a sport. This is because it requires skill, physical exertion and is competitive.

The main reasons why people think it isn’t a sport are often a lack of knowledge of the layers of the sport, or are misunderstanding of the requirements of a sport.

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Get The Complete Lawn Bowls Drill Pack

The Jack High Bowls Drill Pack is available now for instant download.

Perfect for beginners and improving players looking to be more consistent and win more games!