Tricky sport bowls us over

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Almost every day of the week, Penrith Bowling Club’s greens are full of seasoned bowlers, rolling their bowls this way and that, up and down the green.

It may seem like a game of luck but bowls is actually a highly technical game requiring a good deal of mind and memory power from each player – well, each player that wants to win.

Having never stepped foot on a bowling green before, to stand in front of a group of men with 20-something years of experience was daunting, at the least for the Western Weekender team, who had a bowling lesson from columnist Mick Gilfoyle on Tuesday this week.

“See that little kiddy, the jack, right down there,” Mr Gilfoyle said, pointing toward the opposite end of the green.

“The idea is to get as close to that as you can.”

Easy enough, we thought, until he dropped a bombshell: “The thing is, these bowls are funny because they don’t go straight of course”.

Bowls are built with a special weight in one side, marked with a small circle, causing them to arc when bowled down the green.

“If they went straight ahead it would be ten pin bowling wouldn’t it? There’s no skill,” Mr Gilfoyle said.

“Every time you get on the mat, you have to think. This is a mind game.”

After our first few tries, it became clear that the mental part of the game is the most important – particularly the memory.

“Each time you step on the mat you have to remember what you do so that the next time you can either put a little bit of weight on, take a little bit more grass or make adjustments as you are required,” Mr Gilfoyle said.

In addition to remembering the details of every bowl, part of the skill comes from reading the conditions of the green – the length of the lawn can impact the speed at which the bowl travels – and adjusting your technique accordingly.

Mr Gilfoyle himself is a senior with more than 30 years of experience, just like the majority of bowlers at Penrith Bowling Club on Tuesday afternoons.

“It keeps seniors from sitting on the sofa, doing nothing. 90 per cent of the men here, their wives play too,” he said.

Bowls can be played by all ages, socially and at competition levels as well.

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