The origins of the game of Short Mat Bowls are lost in the mists of time but it is thought that the game was first played by two South Africans living in South Wales, who, fed up with the wet climate and not able to play bowls outdoors, simulated the game indoors. They later moved to Northern Ireland and introduced the game there.
This is similar to another version of the origin in which the game is reputed to have started in the 1920s in Northern Ireland when an outdoor team had their bowls match rained off and took refuge in their local church hall. To pass the time they started bowling on the bare floor until someone suggested it would be easier to bowl on a carpet.
The first record of a club is that Ballymacarret Presbyterian Church which has a photograph dated 1929 showing the Minister bowling on a 3ft wide mat through a hoop. Other references to that past period mention playing with no fenders or touchers and even a flat multi-sided wooden jack which is still in existence.
One of the biggest benefits of Short Mat Bowls today is its flexibility. The equipment is portable and only needs an area large enough to take a mat 6 foot wide and 45 foot long. It is played in village halls, community centres, social clubs and leisure centres. The game is played by all ages, sexes and abilities who can all compete together – a real family sport
SHORT MAT BOWLS
WORLD SHORT MAT BOWLS COUNCIL
Rules of play