Sun City Lawn Bowls Club Has Fun in the Sun, on the Green


First, the lead sets the jack, then throws the first three bowls. Next, the vice takes a turn, trying to control the bias. Finally, the skip takes a turn to complete the end.

If you don't know what we're talking about, you need to head out to the Sun City Civic Association facility. Look for the wide, nicely manicured patch of green with the ladies and gentlemen dressed in white.

Meet the members of the Sun City Lawn Bowls club -- 85 strong and always room for more.

Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday at 1 p.m., they enjoy the sport of lawn bowling, or "lawn bowls" -- a centuries-old game that is sometimes associated primarily with senior citizens, but in reality is an activity for people of all ages. Although most of the participants in the Sun City club's events meet the association's over-55 requirements, the "younger crowd" is welcome to show up on a guest pass and roll the bowls (balls) toward the jack (little white target ball).

"We'd like more people to come and give it a try," said Joe Rahm (right), 86, who bowled competitively with the club for more than 20 years "until I got too damn old." A club that once had 260 members remains very active, with members playing practice "ends" (rounds; usually 12 or 14 per game) throughout the week and representing their team in tournaments in the Citrus League, one of five leagues of the Southwest Division of the U.S. Lawn Bowls Association

Various formats of play can be used, but the basic concept is this: Players compete on three-man (or woman) teams. In each "end," the lead (first bowler) first throws the jack to the far end of the green, which is 120 feet long. Then he or she throws three "bowls," with the object to get the bowls to stop as close to the jack as possible. The team's other players -- the vice and the skip -- each throw three additional bowls. Their opponents try to do the same thing, at the same time trying to knock the other team's bowls far from the jack.

Combining the theories of croquet, horseshoes and shuffleboard, lawn bowls is good exercise, yet not too strenuous for those whose mobility is limited. But although some of the Sun City bowlers use a cane or move slowly to the mat to take their shots, they are deceiving in their ability to master the game's technique.

"The trick is to figure out what the curve is," said Alan Moore, who has been playing with the club about 16 months. "Everybody's bowl has a certain bias, or arc, it takes when you throw. There are different weights and biases to the bowls."

Unlike Bocce, where the balls are slightly smaller and perfectly round, the bowls in this sport are not spherical. They look slightly "smushed," with one side weighted to create a bias that results in a curved shot. Imagine a bowler in your local indoor lanes with a sharp hook to his delivery. Lawn bowlers can make their bowl curve either direction, depending on how they position the bias mark of the bowl in their hand.

Troy Alexander, whose wife Micky is president of the club, said the key is for a player to get comfortable with the type of bowl he or she chooses to use.

"You have to get the feel of the weight of the bowls," he said. "Mine are rather heavy. You can get good at it if you spend enough time practicing. Get a good instructor."

Jim Semanek, one of the club's officers, said Southern California is a hotbed for lawn bowls. The Sun City club competes in a league with clubs from Redlands, Riverside and Hemet, but there are many other clubs throughout the Southland.

"The key to the game is finesse," he said. "Strength is not an issue. In this game, the men and women play equally. It's a nice social sport."

Visitors are welcome to come out to the bowling green Tuesday through Saturday at 1 p.m. to join the group. Soon, nighttime competition will take place at 6 p.m. at the center, located at 26850 Sun City Blvd. For more information, visit the club's website. 










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