Barefoot bowling is a sport that engages the whole body in a swing that sends a ball rolling across a lawn to a white target called a jack. This sport has its roots traced back to the 13th century in London. The ancient version of modern-day barefoot bowling was referred to as jactus lapidum.
During the reigns of King Edward III and King Richard II this game was banned. The King feared that the game would become more popular than archery which was a prime sport in those days. Apart from being a prime sport, archery was also very important during battles which were the order of the day in those days. Even when archery ceased to be used in battle, the ban was still in place and a hefty fine was imposed on any person caught playing the game.
In 1511, King Henry VIII reinstalled unlawful games but only for a few select groups of people. Servants, apprentices and laborers were not allowed to play this bowl during the year with the exception of Christmas day. Even on Christmas, these people were to play the game under supervision or in the sight of their masters.
Opening up of courses and greens happened much later on with a bias to the rich and upper class folk. In fact, anyone who owned large tracts of land in London and other English states was allowed to play as a private green. Anyone else had to play bowling within their compound or face hefty fines for going against the law.
Before the first book on this game was published, people used a different set of rules that were not as defined as the ones used today. Different parts of England had different versions of the game and the rules they used were different. However in 1864, a cotton merchant called William Wallace Mitchell wrote the first known book on bowling, Manual of Bowls Playing. This formed the basis of bowls as we know it today. In fact the rules he put down in that book are the foundation of the rules used in the game today.
There are two main versions of this game all over the world. The main variant here is the pitch or lawn. In the first variation, the pitch is likened to a golf course with an uneven surface. The player can throw the jack anywhere on the green and the field of play is big. This version is called crown green bowling and play sometimes goes up to 21-up. However in larger competitions, play can go up to 31 or 41-up.
Another version that is common all over the world is played on a flat pitch. This green is rectangular in shape and well manicured with real or synthetic grass. The field of play is divided into circles with the jack in the center of play.
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