Like the game of life, the game of lawn bowls is not a straight trajectory. It is all about curveballs.
In life, curveballs like the COVID-19 pandemic are unexpected. But in lawn bowls, players know that curve is built into each bowl, which is biased, with one side cut shorter than the other.
“Lawn bowling is a lot like golf cutting. It’s a very tactical game,” said Santa Clara Lawn Bowls Club President Michael McClintock, a San Jose resident who traded in his golf clubs for a set of bowls in 2018. “Each bowl has its own bias to control. A big bias curves more.”
The object is to score team points by rolling the bowl so that it stops closest to a smaller bowl called a “jack.”
“I love the way the bowls move,” said McClintock’s daughter, Katie, new to the game. “It’s so cool with the bias.”
“It’s a fun and easy game to learn, but it takes years to master,” said McClintock.
The Santa Clara Lawn Bowls Club, located in Central Park between the library and the swim center, has a reputation for welcoming players of all ages and combining sociability with low-key, competitive fun.
Karen Law discovered lawn bowling when she moved to Santa Clara in 2018, finding the club “friendly and welcoming.”
“Bowling has been a nice break during this challenging time,” said Tom Freitas, a Santa Clara resident who turned to lawn bowling when the pandemic closed the Senior Center woodshop he monitors.
“The sport provides the exercise and the social interaction we all need. I’m so thankful the city has allowed this activity.”
Anyone can try lawn bowling for free, including lessons from certified coach Jerry Taylor and loaner bowls, which start in weight at about two pounds four ounces.
“Since taking up lawn bowling, I’ve learned how to relax and just have fun and not worry about whether I win or lose,” said Larry Hayes from Campbell. “To my surprise, the game is challenging and provides easy walking exercise.”
His wife talked him into trying bowls.
“The best part … is that it is something my wife and I can share together.”
The Santa Clara Lawn Bowls Club (http://www.santaclaralawnbowls.org/), currently with about 40 members, meets Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 10 a.m., Sunday at 1 p.m., and in spring and summer, Thursday at 6 p.m. Other local clubs visit for friendship games in June and July.
Typically, 12 to 16 players turn out at any one time for a game, which lasts one-and-a-half to two hours. Call (408) 499-5423 for information or just drop by.
Club membership is $50. A set of four molded plastic bowls costs upwards from $100 used.
“It’s a sport that challenges you to try something new every time. It doesn’t get old,” said McClintock about the ancient game that was so popular that English royalty banned it off and on in the late Middle Ages, fearing royal archers would neglect archery practice.