Lawn Bowls Rules When The Jack Is In The Ditch | A Complete Guide

  • By: Reece Williams
  • Time to read: 3 min.

The game of bowls is pretty simple. Just roll your bowls towards the jack and the closest one wins. However there are some common lawn bowls rules that beginners need to be aware of – many of which are around the jack, and how it affects what is in play.

Lawn Bowls Rules When The Jack Is In The Ditch

In this guide I’ll go through the common questions about the jack, and cover what happens when the jack goes into the ditch.

Can you hit a jack in bowls?

Lets start with a simple one! Yes, you can hit the jack in bowls.

The jack can be knocked anywhere on the green and the ditch, so long as it stays within the rink edge markers. These define the width of the playing area, and if the jack is knocked beyond them the end is considered “dead”.

What happens when the jack goes in the ditch?

If the jack ends up in the ditch a marker is placed against the bank inline with the jack and the end continues as before.

Once the jack is in the ditch no other bowls can be marked as “touchers”. If a bowl hits the jack in the ditch it is considered “dead” and s removed from play.

When the end is completed shots will be won based on what is closest to the jack in it’s final resting spot in the ditch.

How to mark a jack in the ditch

So, the jack has been knocked into the ditch. How do the bowlers on the mat know where it is? This is where the rink markers are used.

When playing games you will often notice a small pot or container with a bunch of different coloured circles – these are the rink markers. When marking where the jack is you’ll want to use the yellow circle.

The marker is then placed on the back edge of the ditch directly inline to where the jack is. This is then used as a “mark” for any bowler about to take their turn.

What bowls are in play when the jack is in the ditch

The rules of what’s “in play” doesn’t change once the jack is in the ditch. All the bowls on the green are still considered “in play” and can be measured to the jack in the ditch in it’s final resting spot.

The same is true for a “toucher” in the ditch. If a bowl hits the jack whilst on the green, the bowl is considered a toucher – it s then marked with chalk. If this bowl goes into the ditch it is considered to be “in play” still. This is true regardless of whether the jack is in the ditch or not.

How to measure a jack in the ditch

There is very little difference when measuring either a jack or a bowl in the ditch.

Essentially the measure will extend over the edge of the green and you will measure from the nearest point of the bowl/jack in the ditch.

Here is a helpful video from World Bowls to show you how it’s done.


A jack in the ditch is a very common scenario in bowls, but many beginners don’t know the basic rules around what happens next.

I hope this has answered many of the standard questions I hear when a bowler encounters a jack in the ditch for the first time