Rules and Terms


A 28 ounce iron and steel cannonball  the size of a tennis ball (a “bowl”or “bullet”) is hurled down a country lane. The player or team with the fewest shots to the finish line wins.

A “road shower” stands ahead of the thrower, feet apart, to show the best line or path in the road.

The thrower runs to the throwing mark and, in the Northern or County Armagh style, extends the arm and bowl behind him as he runs. At the throwing mark the arm is snapped forward by arching the back and shoulders, releasing the bowl underhand before stepping over the mark.

In the Southern or County Cork style, as the thrower runs to the mark the arm and bowl are lifted up and back, then whirled downward into an underhand throw, releasing the bowl before stepping over the mark.

Wherever the bowl stops (not where it leaves the road surface), a chalk mark is made at the nearest point on the road and the next throw is taken from behind that mark.

Over tight curves, or corners where two roads meet, the bowl may be thrown through the air (lofted). The loft must strike the road or pass over it. If the loft fails to reach the road, it counts as one shot, and the next throw must be taken again from the same mark.      

If two players or teams approach the finish line with equal shots, the winner is decided by which throw goes farthest past the finish line.

Irish Terms

A Score – a match. (Years ago, players were given 20 shots each, the winner determined by who went the greatest distance.)  

A Shot – a throw.

Bol~Chumann na hEireann – Irish Road Bowling in Gaelic

Bowl of Odds – when one bowler is one full shot fewer than his opponent, i.e., when a bowler is equal to or farther in distance than his opponent, but has thrown one less shot. 

Bowl or Bullet – the 28-ounce small cannonball used in Irish Road Bowling.

Bullets or Long Bullets – the County Armagh term for road bowling.

Butt – the throwing mark on the road. To step over the mark before releasing the bowl is to “break butt.” 

Clear the Road – to get spectators out of the road in front of the thrower.

Corner – a sharp curve in the road or a corner where two roads meet.

Faugh a Ballach! – traditional Irish battle cry (Clear the Way!).  

Get Sight or Open the Corner – to throw so deeply into the curve that the next throw is a straight shot out. 

Kitter-Paw – a left-handed thrower. 

Loft – to throw through the air.

Sop – a tuft of grass placed in the road at a spot where the bowl should first strike the surface. An experienced bowler can “Split the Sop.”

Stylish Bowler – a bowler with a smooth well-coordinated delivery.