Forget bocce ball.
I predict the next old-school sport to catch the attention of hipsters everywhere will be lawn bowling.
Not only is Vancouver home to some of the most beautiful greens in the province, the players are clad head-to-toe in white and the clubhouses I've seen are totally vintage.
I had the opportunity to visit with members of the Vancouver Lawn Bowling Club at Queen Elizabeth Park last Saturday, April 21, while they prepared the green and surrounding landscaping for its annual open house. The club is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and the members are inviting the public to check out the Queen Elizabeth Park clubhouse on Saturday. This was my first visit to the club, which is almost invisible to the casual visitor to the park. (I parked by the rose garden on the south side of the park off West 37th Avenue and then followed the path that starts directly next to the pitch and putt entrance.)
I sat down with past club president Isaac Farn, president Elmer Morish and board members Pat Lam, Lynn Manrell, Kay Sasaji and Donna Chan who attempted to explain the nuances of the game, which as it turns out consists of a lot more than tossing a ball down a green.
For starters, I discovered the "bowls" as the wooden balls are called, aren't completely round and instead are flattened slightly on two sides. The game itself looks like a mix of bowling and curling and needs a set of skills and strategy I was told can be learned with practice, which the members are more than willing to teach. And while the sport is as famous for its etiquette as it is for its all-white uniforms, at the Queen Elizabeth green the members are known for their competitive spirit.
The game has a reputation for being played mostly by seniors and retirees, but that's something members of the Vancouver club are trying to change. Chan told me when a friend first invited her to play she declined because she assumed the game was strictly for seniors. But she was lured to the green on the promise of lunch and once she arrived and tried the sport, she was hooked. Today the youngest member of the club is in their early 50s, while the oldest is 92.
And while the Vancouver club members are of a variety of cultural backgrounds, the game itself is steeped in Scottish culture. During the annual men's tournament, a piper plays to open the event and each member enjoys a wee dram of Scotch whisky.
Prior to visiting the green Saturday, I received an email from Vancouver club member John Schwermer who wrote about how while the sport requires strategy, it's a great stress reliever. "After lawn bowling for seven years," Schwermer wrote, "I have recognized the reason for seeing so many elderly people joining this sport is their wisdom of having no stress in their lives to keep healthy and happy for longevity_ I have learned more from lawn bowling about the meaning of life than from any of the other sports I pursued_"
All ages are welcome to attend the open house at Queen Elizabeth Park, which starts at 1 p.m., April 28. Bowls and instruction will be provided, but you have to wear flat shoes. (Even the tiny heels on my loafers weren't allowed.)