Frequently asked questions
The mysteries of lawn bowling revealed.
I’ve never bowled. What happens when I get to the club?
If you’re coming for one of our open-house nights (check the calendar), we'll be expecting you. If we're not holding an open house, don’t worry; we're happy to bring in new bowlers on any Wednesday evening during the season. (It's helpful if you contact us first, but it’s not essential.) Don’t forget to wear flat-soled shoes.
On your first Wednesday night, we’ll help you find a set of bowls that’s the right size for your hands—the club has bowls you can use, in sizes ranging from Donald Trump to gorilla paws. We'll ask you to sign a visitor’s waiver, so you can’t sue us if you drop a bowl on your foot.
One of the club coaches will work with you and any other new bowlers who come out. Your coach will go over some of the basics of the game, including how to hold and roll the bowl, how to throw the jack, how to score, and the basic rules. You’ll practise your delivery, and we’ll probably play a few practice ends, but you won’t get in a full game on your first night.
What’s a jitney?
“Jitney” is a Canadian lawn-bowling term for a pick-up game. Whoever wants to play gives his or her draw card to the drawmaster, who sets up teams of triples or pairs. With jitney-style play, you don’t have to belong to a team, and you’ll play with different people every time.
I want to join, but I’ll be away for two weeks in July. Is that a problem?
No problem at all. That’s one of the reasons we prefer jitney-style games to a league with fixed teams; even if you miss a week, you’re not letting anyone else down or forcing your teammates to find a spare. We do track wins and losses in July and August; the bowler with the most points wins a prize at the end of the season. But if the cottage is more important than lawn bowling, we understand. Well, sort of. Really, the cottage? With all those bugs?
Can I only bowl on Wednesdays if I join Rainbowlers?
Rainbowlers can bowl at any of the regular Cosburn club games—you're a full member of the club, like anyone else. There are jitneys on most evenings through the week and afternoon games on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. You’ll find the jitneys on other days operate the same as Rainbowlers games: put your draw card in with the others and the drawmaster will set up teams.
If you’re worried that you’ll feel out of place with the non-Rainbowlers members, don’t be. We’ve always found them to be fun and welcoming, and with about 150 members in the club, every game has a different mix of people. It’s not like trying to break into the cool kids’ clique in high school. In fact, the other members generally think that we’re the cool kids. Rainbowlerz rule, straight bowlers drool!
Isn’t lawn bowling for senior citizens?
No! Most Rainbowlers are in their thirties, forties, and fifties. Many top competitive bowlers, especially in Australia, are in their twenties. Because lawn bowls requires precision and strategy more than strength, it is a game that you can continue to play as get older. But it can also be a game of endurance, and certain shots demand both strength and coordination; in those situations young players often have an advantage.
How long is a typical game?
In Rainbowlers, we play ten ends, which usually takes about two hours.
Should I buy bowls?
No, we suggest you start by using “club bowls.” Cosburn Park has about 50 sets of bowls in various sizes, which you can borrow for the evening (they stay in the club for others to use). For first-year bowlers, bowls rental is free; for others, it's $25 for the season.
Avid bowlers often buy a set of bowls—it improves your bowling because you learn exactly how your particular set rolls. You can buy used bowls (often on Kijiji for less than $100) or new bowls ($400 and up).
We recommend you stick to club bowls for at least the first year. You should try bowls of different sizes and draws (that’s the bowl’s curved path) to discover what works for you.
Is Rainbowlers a social league or a competitive league?
It’s very social. We have fun on the green, and no one worries too much about winning. It’s even more social after the game, when we head down the street to the patio at Sophie’s Sports Bar & Grill.
Although we're not fiercely competitive on Wednesdays, we know that many bowlers get frustrated if they don’t see improvement. That’s why we give new bowlers orientation sessions to help understand the game and learn basic bowling skills. Many of us also take part in more advanced skills and strategy workshops held at Cosburn throughout the season. Tournaments are another way to improve your bowling skills; there are tournaments (many for novice players) every weekend at various clubs in the GTA.
How long does it take to become a good bowler?
You can easily become a competent bowler in a season or two and a good bowler in a few seasons. Graduating to expert bowler? Well, that’s a goal you can work towards for a long time.
In your first season, you’ll probably throw several wrong biases, bowls that curve in the direction opposite to what you intend. You’ll struggle with your weight, tending to deliver the bowl very long or very short. But you'll also get some great shots in, and you'll notice significant improvement in your aim over the season. And you’ll learn all the rules you need for most games.
Getting the weight right is hard for many new bowlers; it's a skill that generally just takes time and practice (weight control is a muscle-memory thing). Often bowlers in their second and third years work on weight and see gradual improvement. We can show you drills and techniques that can help.
Understanding the strategy of a game also takes time. In your first season, concentrate on getting as close to the jack as you can. When you can do that with some confidence, work on putting the bowl close to the jack and a little behind or to one side or the other, as the situation demands (and as your skip asks you to do). Some bowlers never learn strategy; they just try to do what the skip asks. But you’ll bowl better and be able to skip or vice effectively if you can see which shot is the smartest option.
How do I make the bowls curve when I throw them?
First, you should never actually throw a bowl—that”s called “dumping the bowl” and it damages the green. When you roll, or deliver, a bowl, it will always follow a curved path, but it does that on its own. Unlike bocce balls or five-pin bowling balls, lawn bowls are not perfect spheres. They’re slightly lopsided—they have a “bias”—and like an egg rolling on a kitchen counter, they will always roll in a curve.
Players take advantage of the bowl’s curved path to get around obstacles (other bowls) on the green.
Do I need any special equipment?
No, the only requirement is that you wear flat-soled shoes to avoid damaging the greens. Sneakers and most running shoes are fine.
Should I wear white?
Depends—does it flatter your skin tone? For bowling, there’s no need to wear white, especially not for a Rainbowlers game. If you enter a tournament, your team should dress similarly, with everyone wearing, say, navy shorts and red shirts. Even then, you don’t have to match perfectly.
Is lawn bowling dangerous?
There is one hazard all lawn bowling clubs take very seriously: lightning. At the first sign of any, the game will end, and we’ll call you back into the clubhouse. This is the only OLBA rule we never bend.
Tripping over bowls is another risk; for that reason, you should always rake the bowls back to the same side (the bowler’s right).
Sunstroke and heatstroke are risks at tournaments but not at our evening games. The clubhouse fridge is well stocked with soft drinks ($1 each); please stay hydrated.
If I practise, will I realize my dream of lawn bowling at the Olympics?
Not yet. The IOC has generally snubbed lawn bowling, although there is a lobbying effort to have it included. But you can bowl at the Commonwealth Games—the next ones are on the Gold Coast, in Australia. Some Canadian bowlers also play professionally down under and make a good living doing it.
In the tournaments that we usually play in, you can win “tens of dollars,” as one Rainbowler quipped. But the real prize is bragging rights; just imagine when everyone on Scruff sees that you’re the new Dentistry in the Beaches tournament champion. Woof, indeed.