Bowls was never high up on my to-try list because, like you no doubt, I thought it was for those of us trying to socialise in the twilight of life. What I found though was a sedate game that nearly anyone can play. The exciting part is, it could be something we all start playing over a beer and a chat with friends within the next few years… I’m serious!
In my hometown, there aren’t many quirky sports to try so I decided to call my friend’s mum, Sheila, for a mid-week game of indoor bowls. Sheila’s certainly not old but has been playing bowls for around eight years and that is authority enough on the sport to give me a quick lesson.
I showed up in the standard uniform of a white top, grey trousers and socks. The sexiest part was yet to come. Sheila opened up a box of her new pride and joys – bowls shoes. They were my size. She egged me to try them on then let out a wild laugh at my ridiculous attire. I’m ashamed to admit I wore these lace up leather loafers in mid-grey for the entire session, but honestly – they felt like I was wearing slippers – and who doesn’t love slippers?!
She taught me about how to play in a singles match. Essentially each player has
four bowls, also known as woods (I hope she wasn’t joking about that part). Player 1 rolls a jack towards the end of the green and each player will then take it in turns to roll their bowls towards the jack. The bowls are weighted on one side which helps the ball to curve towards the jack and hopefully win points against an opponent. I thought it would be a simple ‘drop-and-roll-it-in-a-straight-line’ situation, like it is at the bowling alley; instead it’s a matter of ensuring the bowl is the correct way round, ensuring one foot stays on the mat and rolling the ball with some weight behind it. The complexities.
My first attempts weren’t bad, though I overestimated the effort needed to move the bowl along; often resulting in overshooting the jack by a sizeable amount.
Although I didn’t expect to come out of bowls thinking I’d be heading back anytime soon, I can certainly see the appeal. Sheila loves playing because it’s one of the only chances in the week where she gets to do something purely for herself and it’s likely there are many others who’d like that opportunity too. For that reason I’m not dismissing bowls, but I am proposing that we controversially borrow a game from Australia by introducing ‘barefoot bowls’, which thrives on a lack of shoes, beer and banter with friends. So if anyone reading this fancies setting this up with me in the UK – I’m all ears!