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Lawn Bowls: A Silver-Friendly Sport That Challenges The Mind (But Not The Joints)

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Lawn Bowls: A Silver-Friendly Sport That Challenges The Mind (But Not The Joints)
A grip strong enough to hold a 1.5-kilogram ball, a well-manicured lawn and a friend are all one needs to get into lawn bowls, an accessible, low-impact sport with high entertainment value.
Also known as lawn bowling, the sport is suitable for all ages – silvers included – as it doesn’t make undue demands on ageing joints and muscles.
What’s required, however, is a keen eye, a good sense of judgement and plenty of patience – the slow-paced game, which has a history in the United Kingdom and its former colonies (and some say, the ancient Egyptians), can last between two to three hours depending on format.
There are singles, pairs, triples and fours, depending on how many friends you have.
SilverStreak gathered a group of kindred spirits raring to try out a sport new to them. They were guided by a trio of seasoned lawn bowlers from the Lion City Lawn Bowls Club, an activity group formed less than two years ago amid the pandemic.
Lawn bowling rules
Lawn Bowls: A Silver-Friendly Sport That Challenges The Mind (But Not The Joints) - Jack and Mat
The game itself is fairly simple: Players stand on a mat, bend low to the ground, and roll a ball, (known as a jack) toward one end of the lawn. The jack is now the target for a second, larger ball, called the bowl, which you aim to get as close to the jack as possible.
The key to rolling both balls smoothly is in the delivery.
Hold them in an underhand grip, swinging your arm like a pendulum and releasing while your hand is near to the ground to prevent tossing or lobbing them.
The trick is in accounting for the curve of the bowl, which is always made asymmetrical with indentations for better grip.
The bias of the bowl, coming in varying sizes and weights depending on brand, always goes toward the smaller ‘logo’, meaning it always curves in that direction (see picture below).
Lawn Bowls: A Silver-Friendly Sport That Challenges The Mind (But Not The Joints) - Ball
Accounting for varying target distances, depending on how far the first player rolled the jack, is part of the game too. Often, the motion of the arm is sufficient to propel the bowl to the target without applying any extra strength.
Overdoing it might send your ball out of the lane, or into a ditch. In both cases, that ball will be deemed out of play, which means zero points. Deciding whether to aim for the jack or to nudge your opponent’s bowl out of bounds is part of the strategy.
After every bowl, points are tallied based on the number of balls you have closer than your opponent.
You then walk to the other end of the turf, reset, and play again, until a certain number of points or rounds (known as ends) has been completed. (there are 21 points, 18 ends?)
Safety tips
Lion City Lawn Bowls Club member Joshua Tan, retired at 65, was one of the bowlers coaching the SilverStreakers. He opines that the sport is ideal for silvers due to several reasons.

"You spend most of your time walking up and down at your own pace, chatting with your friends in the outdoors."

Vice President of the Lawn Bowls Association for the Disabled (Singapore), lawyer Ganesh Ramanathan, 58, who was one of the coaches, concurs, “I picked up the sport of bowls at age 46. I was living a sedentary lifestyle with no consistent sporting activity for about a decade. I could not go back to playing active sports, due to a ligament tear and knee issues. I came across the low-impact sport of lawn bowls. It is slow paced but has sufficient body movements. With a game lasting two hours or more, it is good enough as a form of exercise and to sweat it out.
The sport is also suitable for players with mobility issues or visual disabilities. In the latter case, they will need a guide to help them zero in on the target.
There are accommodations for players with pre-existing ailments. Silvers with trouble bending over due to chronic back or knee issues can use a lifter to pick bowls off the floor, and a lawn bowling arm to help get the bowl close to the ground for rolling.
The main safety consideration for lawn bowls is in handling the bowl itself. As it gets slippery when wet, wiping it off with a dry cloth can make handling the bowl safer.
When it comes to stopping a bowl rolling toward you – “never use your hands, and be very careful with your feet,” says Joshua.
Silver stamp of approval
Lawn Bowls: A Silver-Friendly Sport That Challenges The Mind (But Not The Joints) - Group Shot
As a whole, the SilverStreakers had a ball of a time.
Luxury travel specialist Monica Alsagoff says, “I realised that lawn bowls takes a second to learn, but a lifetime to master. It is a fun way to spend time with friends and family, and to relax and chill, for both the young and young at heart.
“Having had a brief encounter with lawn bowls many years ago, I was keen to see if there was still any spark. The session did not disappoint. There was definitely a frisson – playing bowls with a group of super-agers was so much fun. Here’s to more!” says resident horse rider Khadjia Mackenzie.
Retiree S. Rani Pillai notes, “What a fun session it was. So much excitement. Although all of us were new to the sport, we were game to give it our best, and we did. Our coaches were patient and most of us took to it like ducks to water. We were like a bunch of schoolkids, screaming in excitement, cheering each other on when we scored, and chuckling when someone’s bowl ended up in the ditch. It was so much fun that when the session ended, some of us decided to try and make it a regular event. Not bad for a bunch of 60-somethings – though if you watched us play, you would not have guessed it!”
Where to play lawn bowls?
Lawn Bowls: A Silver-Friendly Sport That Challenges The Mind (But Not The Joints) - Location
While you might’ve seen videos of lawn bowlers clad in stuffy all-white outfits, that is a relic from the sport’s days as a game for the gentry.
Now, anyone can play in any get-up – just wear something sensible for Singapore’s weather, and flat-soled shoes that won’t mess up the turf.
Speaking of turf, there are various facilities scattered around the island dedicated to lawn bowls (find the list here).
Beginners who want to try out the game for free should book a lane at the Singapore Sports Hub’s lawn bowling pitch, as both pitch and equipment rental are complimentary.
Otherwise, you can always join interest groups like the Lion City Lawn Bowling Club to find a like-minded community of lawn bowlers.

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