Lawn bowling: ‘Chess on Grass’

For nearly a century, folks have gathered to test their skills at the oldest sports facility in Chilliwack.

The Chilliwack Lawn Bowling Club is the oldest sports facility in Chilliwack.

The Chilliwack Lawn Bowling Club is the oldest sports facility in Chilliwack.

One hundred years ago, the wealthy people of Chilliwack — local doctors, dentists, and prosperous merchants — would gather on pharmacist Harry J. Barber’s lawn, on Yale Road east of Victor Street, for a game of lawn bowling.

It was quite an exclusive club.

In 1922, about 10 years later, the Chilliwack Lawn Bowling Club was formed. The club is much more inclusive, and welcomes people of all ages and walks of life to join its club.

The members are warm and friendly.

“You have the time on the green to socialize with others,” says Carol Bell, club president. “It’s very pleasant, probably because it’s played in the summer months.”

A sport that’s very gentle on the body, lawn bowling can be played by just about anyone. There is no strenuous physical activity involved, but it does keep one limber.

“I’ve heard it described as being similar to chess on grass. It isn’t the rough and tumble sport of alley bowling,” says Bell.

The club is at about 20 members, mostly in their 70s and 80s. They would love to see their numbers increase.

At $160 a year for membership, it’s a fairly inexpensive way to stay active and social, says Bell. For those wanting to give it a try before committing to a membership, there’s also the option of a $5 drop-in fee.

Lawn bowling season runs from May to October and the club is open seven days a week. Bowling takes place at 9:30 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays; 6:45 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays; 10 a.m. on Saturdays; and 2 p.m. on Sundays.

The Chilliwack Lawn Bowling Club is located at 9350 Edward Street (corner of Princess Avenue). There is no club phone number, but guests are welcome to drop in during the above-mentioned times.


The terms:

Bowls – The biased balls used in lawn bowling are called ‘bowls’. The bowls are weighted on one side, so instead of rolling in a straight line, they curl towards the weighted side. They come in different sizes, from double zero (116mm in diameter, and 1.31kg) to size seven (131mm, and 1.56kg), to fit a player’s hand accordingly.

Jack – Also known as a ‘kitty’. A smaller white ball which acts as the target.

Green – The 110×110-foot play area. The length of grass is similar to that of a putting green. The grass is cut on an angle so as to not affect the line of the bowls when they are rolled.

Rink – The green is made up of eight rinks across, each about 14-feet wide.

End – A segment of play in which both teams or players roll or ‘deliver’ all of their bowls to the other end of the green. Normally, 12 ends make up a game.

Hog line – A line indicating the minimum distance which the jack must be rolled for the end to be valid.

Runner – When a player throws a bowl to scatter several opponents’ bowls. It’s similar to a break shot in a game of pool.


Four types of games can be played:

Singles – Each player delivers four bowls, for a total of eight bowls rolled per end.

Doubles – Each player delivers four bowls, for a total of 16 bowls rolled per end between the two teams.

Triples – Each player delivers three bowls, for a total of 18 bowls rolled.

Fours – Each player delivers two bowls, for a total of 16 bowls rolled.


The game:

Lawn bowling is similar to curling. The objective of the game is to get your bowl as close to the jack as possible.

At the beginning of the game a coin is flipped to determine which team starts by delivering the jack. Once in play, the jack may be knocked by a bowl to a new position.

Once the jack has been rolled (by Team A), it is centred within the 14-foot rink. A mat is placed on the green, opposite the jack. Standing with one foot on the mat, Team A bowls first. The bowl is delivered with the weighted side on the inside, so the bowl curls inwards and towards the jack. Team B goes next, then back to Team A, and so on.

Once all of the players have delivered their bowls, there is one point scored for each bowl closer to the jack than the nearest opponent bowl.

The players then move to the opposite end of the rink and bowl back.

On the next end, the team who won the the previous end goes first and also delivers the jack.

Games typically last two hours.