All Summer One Sport: Lawn Bowling

No Front Lawn Required

“An easy sport to learn, but it takes a lifetime to master.” - Mike O’Riley, president of Calgary Lawn Bowling Club.

Not good at learning new sports? No excuses here as lawn bowling only takes a few minutes (five for me) to learn the basics. Think of the sport as a mix of curling and bowling on grass. What better way to get a tan and make some new friends?

When I first set up my trial of lawn bowling, I expected the group to be me and a collection of senior Calgarians. Nonetheless, I embarked on my journey over to be put in my place by Mike O’Riley, president of Calgary Lawn Bowling Club. When I first arrived, I didn’t think I was in the right place, the building looked like something out of the pages of Architect Magazine. Where was the outdated clubhouse that I was supposed to play at?

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So how are you going to become the next Ryan Bester (current Canadian superstar)? The game is simple: you just need to get the bowls as close to the jack as possible. The jack is a small white ball that you try to get the bowls closest to. The bowls, on the other hand, are the balls that you use. They are a bit smaller than a cantaloupe weighing the same. The jack doesn’t always go in the same spot but is bowled at the start of each match by a player.

It wasn’t hard to find Mike. He was already out on the greens getting a morning practice in. It looked like I was on a golf course, or at least what I imagine a golf course looks like (I’ve never been to one). The grass must be in tip top shape for the bowls to get maximum speed, complete with a sand moat to stop the bowls. Their grounds keeping team is clearly doing something right, as their greens are the fastest in Canada!

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While it may seem like a simple task getting the bowls as close to the jack as possible, it is not. If you are expecting the ball to be perfectly round, expect again. The bowl is not perfectly round causing a curve when you bowl (photo below). I finally experienced what it must be like to score from a corner kick in soccer - or as close as you can get without any skill.

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Not a fan of long drawn-out sports? If so, I’ll know where to find you, since lawn bowling only lasts an hour and a half for recreational play. Games go until 21 points in singles, earning points on how close you can get to the jack. If you want to play on a doubles team, the game goes for 18 ends; an end is when all the bowls have been thrown in one direction.

Another great aspect of lawn bowling is that no advantage is given to age, sex or ability! One shining example of this is the President of the club himself. Mike began bowling just three years ago and just qualified for nationals! The main trick to the sport is consistency. If you are looking to express your inner hulk, you should keep looking for another sport.

Why should you give lawn bowling a chance?

It is the perfect sport to play while bonding with your friends. As it is a very relaxed game, you don’t have to worry about breaking a sweat or pulling a hamstring through the game. My number one tip is to get nice and low to the ground, as if you are getting on one knee to propose, turn 15 degrees away from where you want the bowl to land then release the ball. The first time I bowled I put a lot of power into my bowl, which subsequently caused it to roll right past the jack and into the moat.

Who plays this sport?

It’s no secret that most bowlers are over the age of 50. The big secret, however, is how addicting and fun this sport is. It is the perfect sport for families to play as the green knows no age. Unlike many other facilities that have many rules pushing kids away from trying their sport, the Calgary Lawn Bowling Club welcomes them. The only pieces of equipment you need are a set of bowls and a jack, which the club provides.

Where is this sport headed?

If the Calgary Lawn Bowling Club has anything to do with it, more Calgarians will come down to the Spruce Cliff Community Association. One way they plan on doing this is by encouraging date nights at the club. It is completely free for the first time you try (and beer is only $3).

Want to watch the sport before you try it out?

From September 11-15, the Calgary Lawn Bowling Club is hosting the Bowls Canada Boulingrin Canadian Senior Triples Championships.  Sixty men and women from across Canada will be competing.  The event is open to the public for spectating.

To try it out or learn more, click here


Check out some of my other recent All Summer One Sport adventures:

1) Sledge Hockey (Para Ice Hockey)

2) Pickleball

3) Flying Trapeze


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Walter Woodroffe-Brown