Love at first toss
Local woman waxes enthusiastic about lawn bowling
By Sunny Glessner 04/03/2014
Live jacks and dead bowls? No, it’s not a casino or a weird pinball machine. Perhaps you’ve driven by the Wilson Senior Center on C Street in Oxnard and seen people dressed in whites. It may look like a wedding, but it’s really a game of lawn bowling. I drove by for years until one day I saw an open house notice. Free lessons — what a deal. I went in and tried it. It was love at first toss.
The history of bowls goes back to the ancient Egyptians. They likely played with stones, perhaps leftovers from building pyramids. Bocce, a kissing cousin, seems to be better known, perhaps because no formal court is needed for playing. Curling, also a descendant of lawn bowling, was probably less well-known before it became an Olympic sport.
The Romans brought the game to Europe, and in 1209 the Southampton Old Bowling Green Club, still in operation, was established in England. Windsor Castle’s bowling green has been home for bowlers as far back as Henry VIII, the first Princess Elizabeth and later Queen Victoria. Anne Boleyn was a bowler, but don’t worry about losing your head when you bowl in Oxnard.
The Oxnard-Joslyn Lawn Bowls Club, begun in 1986, has players of all ages. Our oldest player is Edith Dowsing from Camarillo. She joined when this club began, but she started in Canada in 1948. “It’s great exercise,” she says. “The Oxnard group is the grandest club and there’ve been no fights — yet.” Actually, lawn bowlers are so genteel that referees aren’t needed.
No need for steroids, either. You don’t have to bench press 150 pounds. Just lift a grapefruit-size “bowl” that weighs around 3 pounds. Unlike a couch potato, you’ll get light exercise on the 120-foot grass court. Rather than noisy, indoor lane bowling or the newer sport of Wii bowling using a TV set, you’ll be outside enjoying our amazing Southern California weather. One of the advantages bowling has over golf, another outdoor sport, is that you don’t have to worry about losing a ball or hitting other people.
The bowl is weighted off-center to give it a “bias,” which means it rolls in an arc rather than a straight line. You don’t aim directly at the target, and there’s the fun as well as the challenge. The goal of the game is to roll your bowl closest to the “jack,” which is about the size of a golf ball. Like all beginners, I occasionally rolled a “wrong bias,” earning some good-natured ribbing but no penalty strokes.
Lawn bowling is easy to learn and easygoing. Yet, it can be highly competitive for those who like to be tested. This comes from visiting other teams and taking part in tournaments. Our Oxnard Club members come from all parts of Ventura County while contests occur all over Southern California. There are even international tournaments.
Amador Martinez, long-time member and manager of the green, says, “I thrive on the competitive pressure of tournaments. It brings out my best bowling.”
Additionally, lawn bowlers are very social and welcome newcomers. Even though perfection isn’t expected, it’s certainly appreciated. Holidays provide an opportunity for more social play days, which include variations on the usual rules plus delicious food.
You’ll notice the players wave to each other. Information is being sent, such as who’s ahead or how close your bowl is to the jack. The hand signals mean you don’t have to yell from one end of the court to the other. It’s not quiet though, because people are giving encouragement, razzing or congratulations. Play takes place daily except Tuesday and Thursday. Come to enjoy the company, competition and camaraderie. You might find a new love in your life.
For more information about the Oxnard Lawn Bowling Club, visit www.oxnardlbc.com or call 385-8034.