A game for all ages, all seasons


LAGUNA BEACH Calif. — When Scott Roberts delivers a bowling onto the immaculate playing green, he does it soft, slow, the movement of his legs and bowling arm always sliding straight ahead.

He fell in love with the game, which shares similarities with curling and pétanque, 12 years ago. His wife, Linda, was looking for a birthday present and decided to become an annual member of the Laguna Beach Lawn Bowling Club.

What do you want to know

  • Lawn bowling is a low impact game in which seniors are often tied with younger players
  • Laguna Beach Lawn Bowling Club, prized for its views and roughly 400 members, costs $250 annual dues
  • The club, located at 455 Cliff Dr. in Laguna Beach, offers free lessons to nonmembers interested in the game.
  • Laguna Beach club members can also play for free at most other clubs

It was the start of an obsession that won him new friends, scratched a competitive itch, and offered plenty of exercise opportunities. Moreover, he lives near one of the oldest and best-known clubs in the country.

“It’s one of the most sought-after clubs not just in the country, but in the world,” Roberts said.

Located at the water’s edge with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, the club is one of the largest and most famous in the country. More than 400 members call it their home club, nestled along the coast in one of Orange County’s affluent suburbs.

Fans of the game proudly talk about its accessibility. Gentle on the joints, it can be played by all ages. The size and weight of the balls is up to the individual player, and every throw has to do with feel and little to do with force. Men compete equally with women, with the young having little or no advantage over the old.

Club dues are also inexpensive. The Laguna Beach club offers free lessons for anyone interested in learning the game. Full-year memberships cost $250 and allow members to play at most other national and international clubs.

Even used equipment can be found at low prices.

“You can get a set of lawn balls that will last a lifetime for the price of a driver,” Roberts said.

It is also gentle on the body. Lawn bowling does not have fast twitching movements that put excessive pressure on joints or ligaments. Players don’t bend the bowls, it’s a result of their weight. The goal is to get the most lawn bowls near the jack, a white ball slightly larger than a golf ball.

Players can block and protect the jack from throws by other players. A common strategy is to send a bowl of grass behind the jack in case a player knocks the little white orb back. Missing short is no good and a regular subject of self-reprimand among players.

“It’s a very easy game to pick up, but it’s very hard to get good at,” said Sunday regular Greg Mech.

Roberts has held various managerial positions for the club and has been a willing promoter of the virtues of the game. He doesn’t train as much as other players, but he likes to believe he can surpass them.

“It’s not just the physical aspect,” Roberts said. “It’s also the tactic. What do I want to do here?

On Sunday mornings at 8 a.m., Roberts has the window to play a few matches, sometimes one-on-one, or with a partner, or three separate pairs competing against each other.

Another regular, Pat Gallis, discovered the game in the 1970s when he was still playing basketball and volleyball for exercise. About eight years ago, in his early 60s, he threw aside his high-top shoes and took up bowls. Now he is addicted.

Players also like to indoctrinate others, adding new players seemingly as important as winning games. And they love to repeat that lawn bowling is for everyone.

“Anyone can play this game,” said Robert’s wife, Linda. “You can be young, you can be old, you can be fat, you can be skinny, you can be disabled.”


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