“Roll, roll, roll your bowl, gently down the green. Getting close to the jack certainly is your dream.”
Norma Gee smiled. She’s getting excited for the lawn bowl season to start.
Gee, who is president of the Collingwood Lawn Bowl Club, sings this song at the start of every game and when she is teaching children or beginners how to play.
“Because you don’t throw the bowl, you rolllll the bowl,” Gee smiled.
Nestled between the YMCA and the Curling Club of Collingwood, the Lawn Bowl Club is celebrating its 36th anniversary this year. Gee calls it an “undiscovered gem with unexpected charm.”
“Lawn bowling is a great outdoor sport,” said Gee. “You get to experience this open-air setting, on grass, soaking up the sun and feeling the refreshing, cooling breeze coming off Georgian Bay.”
Gee was elected president last summer, but she has been a member of the club for over a decade.
The objective of lawn bowling, also known as “Bowls,” is to roll a biased ball down a grass “rink” and get it as close as possible to a smaller ball on the other side, called the “jack.”
The game is typically played on a large, manicured grass arena that has been divided into several rinks. It’s kind of like a mix between regular bowling and bocce ball.
The sport is known to be very inclusive and is generally played in good spirit. Even at the highest professional level, it is not uncommon for participants to celebrate their opponents’ successes.
“Like many sports, lawn bowling is in stages of renaissance,” said Gee. “Our club encourages inclusivity, social interaction, accessibility and most importantly, community connectedness.”
The Collingwood club is always transforming and modifying how the game is played in order to meet the needs of the community’s changing lifestyle and demographic.
“We challenge experienced people who like to compete, while at the same time we welcome all seniors and all who would just like to come out to be social and get exercise,” said Gee.
The club holds jitneys on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, with Wednesday mornings reserved for seniors and beginners. The season runs from May 30 until September 30, every year.
Gee is also one of many coaches and holds lessons for beginners on Wednesdays.
In a normal season, the club has around 80 members, but the numbers dropped significantly last year due to COVID-19. Gee was just happy to be able to play at all, and she said by the end of last season they had several new inquiries.
“It was very difficult to operate last summer. I can understand, some didn’t want to risk coming out,” she said. “Fortunately, lawn bowling is easier to play safely than other sports. You can always stay six feet apart.”
Gee is already gearing up for this season. There is a fee for membership, which hasn’t been decided yet because of COVID-19, but people can come out three times for free first before deciding whether or not they want to join.
Gee is hopeful more previous members will come back this season, and she is excited to see new members join as well. The Lawn Bowl Club also welcomes other clubs to come out and use their green. In the past, they have hosted everyone from Probus and Rotary Clubs to church groups and family celebrations.
Anyone over the age of 10-years-old can come out and try the sport. The club’s oldest player, Betty, is celebrating her 98th birthday this spring.
“Believe it or not, she is better than a lot of us. She is a real pro,” smiled Gee.
Following suit from the curling club, the Lawn Bowl Club is now also offering modified games for seniors. On Wednesdays, the jacks are closer, the games are shorter, and there are launches available to help send the balls down the rink, allowing everyone to enjoy the game safely.
“It’s great for fitness,” said Gee. “Experts prescribe this low impact sport for enhancing mobility, self-esteem, balance impairment and healthy aging.”
“It also boosts your mood and gives you an overall feeling of happiness,” she added.
What Gee loves most about the sport, though, is the community aspect.
Prior to COVID-19, Gee called the club more of a “lawn bowl and social.”
“We would sit around after and play cards and things like that,” said Gee. “You get to know the people and you become friends with the people.”
For more information about the Collingwood Lawn Bowl Club or to sign up for a membership, visit the club’s website.