What is Short Mat Bowls?

You've probably seen bowls on television or at a local outdoor club although you may not have seen the short mat version of the game.

Short mat bowls is played indoors on a 45 foot long by 6 foot wide mat and has basically the same rules as other formats except that there is a pesky wooden block across the centre of the mat to prevent "straight down the middle" firing shots..

Putting the pizzazz into bowls

Short mat is to bowls what 20Twenty is to cricket. It's a shorter version of the game, not just in the playing surface but also in the number of ends played. Games typically consist of 8 to 12 ends. Because a lot of bowls can finish close to the jack, a wide variety of shots are played and the results can be quite spectacular.

An Old Man's Game ?

Definitely not. It is a game that can be played equally by all ages and both sexes. It is ideal for people looking for a great social environment where they can meet new and old friends while taking part in a dynamic sport. Most competitions and matches are mixed (any combination of men and women). For the younger bowlers, there is an England Under-21 side to aspire to and the ESMBA run a National Under-18 Championship.

It's a Mickey Mouse Game!

This tired old comment is often heard from bowlers of the more traditional formats who think it's just a bit of fun and a way to while away the out of season months. Of course you can play just for fun but, if you like your sport a bit more competitive, there are plenty of opportunities to test yourself. There are competitions at club, county, national and international level right up to a World Championship held every couple of years. There is also a thriving open tournament programme run by the Short Mat Players Tour.

What Equipment Will I Need?

If you are an indoor or outdoor bowls player you already have all the equipment you will need. The game is played with standard bowls and footwear. The one thing you won't need is your waterproofs.

If you've never played, most venues will have sets of bowls you can use. After your first couple of sessions your club may expect you to wear bowls shoes to protect the mats (pay-to-play venues tend to be more relaxed).

How Much Does It Cost?

Compared to other sports, short mat bowls is relatively inexpensive. Clubs charge a modest annual membership fee plus a session fee each time you play which is typically in the £3 to £5 range. A pair of bowls shoes are similarly priced to street shoes. If you choose to purchase your own set of bowls, a second hand set will cost from £40 and a new set will be £150 to £250 but they do last forever.

Where To Start

There are plenty of places where you can try the game. There are a number of short mat bowls clubs that are affiliated to the Hertfordshire County Bowling Association and you can see if there is one near you by visiting our Registered Clubs page.

Registered Clubs

If you are retired and are no longer in full time employment, the U3A offers short mat bowling at Wodson Park, Ware on three days of the week. For more information, visit either of the websites below;

Hertford U3A Ware U3A

There are a number of venues where you can just turn up and play.  These include Hatfield, Welwyn Garden City and Broxbourne.

In addition, a number of outdoor bowls clubs provide short mat bowling during the winter months.

Take A Look

To see the game being played, take a look at the video below. In this example, Alex Marshall, five times World Indoor Singles Champion is taking on his equivalent from the short mat world.

If you would like to see more of this series of matches, click on the link below.

Greengauge Challenge

Now Get In Touch

If you would like to know more about getting started with short mat bowling, please contact Margaret Regan.


Go on, you know you want to!