Lawn bowling: A game of skill, competition and history - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Topstory

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Lawn bowling: A game of skill, competition and history

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Posted: Tuesday, December 29, 2009 12:00 am

The most popular competitive sports of today may have larger-than-life athletes, who hit baseballs out of the ballparks and tackle other players with a fierce veracity, but at the Ahwatukee Recreation Center the several thousand-year-old sport of lawn bowling has a loyal following that fosters a refined competitive spirit.

Art McMaster, a member of the ARC’s lawn bowling roster, has been playing the sport for more than 50 years. Over the years McMaster has come to appreciate the sport for the skill and competitive spirit it demands.

“You walk about a mile in a regular game so it’s good exercise, and you meet a lot of nice people,” McMaster said. “It’s also really good competition.”

The object of the game is to score points by getting one’s ball, called a bowl, closest to a small white ball, called the jack. The catch is that the bowls have a degree of bias, which means that they are deliberately lop-sided.

McMaster’s wife, Helen, is also an avid lawn bowling player.

“It’s a fun game, and it’s good exercise,” Helen McMaster said. “It’s a refined game in that people are polite and kind. You compliment your opponent when they receive a point.”

The game remains exciting until the last round of rolling the bowls, which are called ends.

“You don’t know until the last end who’s going to win,” Art McMaster said. “Weather is also a factor. If it’s too wet or windy you can’t be sure what the bowl will do.”

Part of the fascination with lawn bowling is its colorful history. Perhaps the most famous lawn bowling story goes that when Sir Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh heard of the impending assault from the Spanish Armada, Drake insisted on finishing the game before sailing out to fight the Spaniards. Even Walt Disney was an avid lawn bowler.

“There is a certain camaraderie among lawn bowlers that is not found in any other sport,” Art McMaster said.

While the McMasters appreciate the rich history of lawn bowling, it is not the focus of their daily lawn bowling games.

“When we first started the history of the game was interesting, but now we think more about winning and getting the bowls closest to the jack,” Art McMaster said.

The ARC lawn bowling club currently has about a dozen active members, but is looking for new members. To join you must be a member of the ARC.

“We give free lawn bowling lessons, and you can use other people’s bowls so you don’t have to buy your own,” Art McMaster said. “We bowl Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 9 a.m.”

The ARC is located at 5001 E. Cheyenne Drive. For more information on lawn bowling at the ARC, call (480) 893-2549 or visit

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