The first time Elaine Huber tried lawn bowling, she admits she didn’t know what she was doing, but managed to throw a near perfect shot.
Huber picked up her first bowl (a black biased ball) during an open house at the Victoria Lawn Bowling Club, located outside the Cook Street Village in Beacon Hill Park.
Most of the other beginner bowlers had only managed to get the bowl halfway down the green. When Huber was up, she aimed it slightly to the right and strategically threw it towards the white ball, known as the jack, which was sitting several metres away. To her surprise and the surprise of many other bowlers, she hit the jack on her first try.
“Everybody clapped, that was lots of fun,” said the now 80-year-old Victoria bowler, who was hooked after that.
Lawn bowling, which can be played in singles, pairs, triples and four-player teams, involves two teams rolling biased balls, known as a bowl, to see which player can get it closest to the jack. Players take turns bowling and the opposing team is able to knock that team’s bowl out of the way as well. When all the bowls have been played, a competitor or team gets one point for each of their bowls that is closer to the jack than the opponent’s closest bowl.
It’s a sport Huber has learned to love over the past 14 years. She’s learned to perfect her skills on the green, bowling roughly three to four times a week at the club. She also competes in tournaments against other clubs on Vancouver Island during the season, which runs from April to September.
But lawn bowling isn’t just about rolling the bowl and hoping it stops close to the jack. There’s strategy involved, said Huber, who uses lawn bowling to stay active and keep her mind sharp. Whenever she steps up to the green, dozens of questions run through her mind. Does she have to throw the bowl straighter or wider? Should she throw the bowl harder?
“Bowling really takes skill. I think a lot of people think you throw this bowl down the green and you don’t have to do much, but it takes a lot of practice, a lot of skill to be a good lawn bowler,” said Huber, adding she also enjoys the camradarie and being outdoors. “It’s really been a great time … it’s kept me young.”
The changing conditions of the green also forces bowlers to adapt. For example, if the green is hot and dry, the bowl will roll much faster than if the green is wet. It’s that challenge 77-year-old Fairfield resident Jim Galenza enjoys.
“It’s not as easy as it looks. It is a challenge,” said Galenza, who joined the club last year and continues to play three to four times a week. “It’s the changing conditions that are a challenge and trying to get the weight and align … If you’re playing further down the lineup, you have to think of what your opponent will be trying to do.”
Now, Huber and Galenza, along with the club’s roughly 80 members, are hoping to introduce more people to the sport. The Victoria Lawn Bowling Club is hosting an open house this weekend, where residents can learn about the basics of lawn bowling or croquet. The open house takes place Saturday, April 8 and Sunday, April 9 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. For more information visit victorialbc.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are a number of lawn bowling clubs in Greater Victoria, including the Canadian Pacific Lawn Bowling Club in Cridge Park, the Vic West Lawn Bowling Club and the Burnside Lawn Bowling Club.