Lawn Bowls - what you need to get started

Bowling is one of the easiest sports to get started with. Yes, you do need to buy a few things, but you don't need everything at once. You will also find that it is a LOT cheaper than golf! So what are the essentials?

1. Somewhere to play

Bowls is often referred to as Lawn Bowls to distinguish it from that game played in bowling alleys that is closer to skittles than anything else. You therefore need a lawn. The top picture above is of the bowling green at my own club, Barlestone Bowls Club, Leicestershire, UK. It is a perfectly level, close-cropped square of grass that takes a lot of work to get it that way. This is what you need in order to get the bowls to run true.

You are unlikely to have grass of this quality in your own back garden, so you need to join a bowls club. You probably don't live close enough to my own club (2nd picture above) to join it, but there are clubs all over the British Isles, and the game is played throughout the English-speaking world.

Membership fees vary from club to club, but my own club is not alone in offering free membership to new members to cover the first year. After that, annual fees can be anything from £40 to £100 (double these figures to get a rough equivalent in US dollars).

2. Something to play with

Namely a set of bowls. These come in several sizes and weights, and you should only play with bowls that you can handle with comfort. As you can see from the third picture above, they also come in a variety of colours, although most players still prefer black. There are four bowls in a set, although you will normally only use all four when playing in singles and pairs matches.

A set of new bowls will cost upwards of £100, but there are plenty of second-hand sets for sale, on eBay and elsewhere, so you may well be able to find a perfectly good set for around £50. Your club will have its own stickers for identifying your bowls, but these are very cheap (£0.50 for a 4-bowl set at my own club)

The other pieces of kit, such as jacks and mats, will be held at your club, so are not something that you need to buy for yourself.

3. Something to wear

Before you are allowed to step onto the green, you will be required to have correct footwear. This means that you shoes must be perfectly flat, with no heels. This is so that you do not make indentations in the green when you walk up and down it. Most clubs will allow beginners to try out the game wearing trainers, but this is only on a temporary basis. You may also be able to borrow shoes from the club before you are able to buy your own. However, they are not expensive - £20-30 probably.

When playing in matches, standard dress in the UK is white above the waist and white or grey below the waist, depending on the type of match. Many clubs now have their own T-shirts, which you would have to order via the club.

In a more traditional club, men wear a club tie, and ladies a club cravat. You will also need a blazer-style jacket at some time, and a club badge to go on the pocket. At my club, the tie costs £6.50 and the badge £5.00.

So, what's stopping you?

It's not really a lot of money, is it? You don't have to spend it all at once, and you can probably find some of it second-hand, possibly from other club members. Compare these costs from those involved in taking up golf, and you'll see that bowls is well within most people's budgets.

Sorry - must rush, I'm playing a match this afternoon!

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