Good Times on the Greens

By Willa Wick in Community, Health & Fitness, Places, Events, & History


The greens are right in the heart of Harriston and could provide fun for all ages. Unfortunately, lawn bowling is usually associated only with seniors. Yet, lawn bowling isn’t just a retirement activity, it’s a sport for everyone and provides exceptionally good exercise
The Harriston Lawn Bowling Club was formed in 1890 and a picture of an early group shows in excess of 50 bowlers. Interesting to note that in early days the women all wore long dresses.
As suggested by the name, lawn bowling is done on turf. The ‘greens’ are well manicured and kept smooth and short. That’s all volunteer work – the lawn is rolled in spring and the grass is cut with a special mower (the shorter the better). Watering is done by an individual system hooked to the adjacent river.
A gutter runs the length of the green at either end and a mat is placed six feet out as a take-off pad when a player launches the ball. Pads are removed when play shifts to the other end.
The original location of the Harriston club was at the corner of Maitland and King Streets and the cement wall and iron railing are still on that property. The current lanes are located on Arthur Street and were acquired in 1908. The white building was moved there and used for storage and a club house. Renovations and an addition were completed in 1985.
Lawn bowling clubs are one of the best places to meet people, enjoy competition, participate in social events, and most importantly have fun. It’s a sport for all ages as long as one has a certain level of mobility. The best part is there’s no expensive equipment – all one needs is a comfortable pair of flat soled shoes.
The sport has a history that can be traced back to ancient times where a variation of the game was played over 3,000 years ago. The local court contains 10 lanes. Two players make up one team and two teams are assigned to a lane.
Playing the game is like curling on the grass without sweeping. The three-pound balls are weighted on one side for curvature when throwing. Each participant delivers four-balls trying to get as close as possible to the “kitty” (a white marble ball) at the other end. Individual score cards
record the points.
The Harriston Club, like many organizations with dwindling numbers, no longer belongs to the Ontario Lawn Bowls Association. They just bowl for fun.
For clubs in the association there are tournaments, and teams can participate all over the province. Protocol for tournaments is “dress in white”, but during regular play ordinary casual clothing is worn.
Years ago when Harriston hosted a tournament, conveners would go to the local Hardware Store for prizes such as mixing bowls, Dutch ovens, electric kettles, irons etc. As times became more affluent the prizes changed to money.
It’s hard to alleviate the stereotype that lawn bowling is for seniors, but one of the best bowlers around is a young lad from Hanover who’s only in his twenties, and already is a world champion.
While the Ontario Association is strong, many of the smaller community clubs have had to disband because of declining membership.
The Harriston Club is currently encouraging new members. They meet Monday and Wednesday evenings at
7 p.m. Couples or individuals will all be welcomed, and each person will be given a one-month free trial.
In-house tournaments are held each year complete with pot-luck lunches. The main fund raiser for the club is the annual luncheon – to be held at the Club House this year on Wednesday, June l5th from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
So next time you pass by the greens, remember, lawn bowling is an official, organized sport complete with training sessions for coaches and umpires and a healthy game for all ages.