Lawn bowling has been an English sport for centuries, and all the former English colonies have clubs that organize and promote the sport.
But I’d never had a chance to try lawn bowling myself until I found myself in Queenstown, New Zealand. Queenstown is best known as the adventure capital of New Zealand. Bordering a long, deep lake and surrounded by tall mountains, the town attracts hikers, mountain bikers, bungee jumpers, paragliders, parasailers, jet-skiers, snow skiers, snowboarders and more.
But for me, the biggest thrill was lawn bowling. The English (as well as Kiwis, Aussies, Scots, Canadians and Indians) just call it bowling. But as an American, I’ve got to call it lawn bowling, to distinguish it from the bowling that we practice indoors, which involves attempting to knock over ten pins.
Bowling, for the uninitiated, is a bit like bocce, in that the object is to get your balls close to the little white ball at the other end of the lane. However, the balls you’re rolling aren’t perfectly symmetrical; as they roll, they want to curve a bit to one side—sort of like the stone does in the sport of curling, which we watch in the Olympics every four years. Which brings up the question of why curling is in the Olympics and not bowling, and which I won’t attempt to answer.
Bowling is a sport for all ages. The physical exertion is minimal. And if you wish, you can partake of your favorite adult beverage at the same time, as we did.
For our purposes, the Queenstown Bowling Club, which recently celebrated its 100th birthday, was an ideal place to learn the basics, including the policy of keeping your adult beverage on the beer bench and not carrying it onto the green.
Interestingly, the green in Queensland was artificial, and smooth as a billiard table.
Here’s a video of my wife demonstrating fine bowling form.
But a few days later, we had a chance to play on natural grass (the shortest flattest grass I’ve ever seen) at the St. Clair Bowling Club in Dunedin. Both were wonderful.