Fun and friendly competition in the grassy game of lawn bowling

Fun and friendly competition in the grassy game of lawn bowling

Sports leagues in Tacoma aren’t just for the young – just ask any of the senior bowlers of the Tacoma Lawn Bowling Club (TLBC). While the recently reborn bowls club has one of the youngest memberships in the county, age isn’t a requisite for bowling – or competing at a high level.

So what’s lawn bowling, or bowls, as it is often referred to? Think a combination of bocce and curling. Standing on a mat, you roll something similar to a bocce ball that curls either to the left or the right without any need to learn a special delivery outside of what you would do in a bowling alley, and attempt to be the closest to the target after all bowls are delivered. A simple game for all ages to learn and play.

And all ages do come out. In 2018, the green (the name for the grass playing surface) at Tacoma’s Wright Park, the home venue for TLBC, saw bowlers ranging in age from 14 to 84. Many tried the sport for the first time, and nearly all came back for more.

In 2019, in partnership with Metro Parks Tacoma, the club is offering a seven-week course to give new bowlers the skills and confidence to compete in a formalized setting. There are two options to sign up for: A spring program on Tuesday evenings, and a summer program on Wednesday evenings. A series of progressively challenging lessons, facilitated by club coach Michael McKinley and lead instructor Rick Walker, can have participants ready to enjoy a challenging and fun game.

If you already know how to bowl, there are league options, as well.

“I bowl for the community, the fun, the beautiful surroundings, and people of all ages from all walks of life,” said Gene Ankli, himself a septuagenarian. “With an atmosphere of friendly competition, it’s good exercise with good, fun people, and it keeps a spring in my step.”

Information on how to get involved, including signing up for instruction through Metro Parks Tacoma, is available at

TLBC, now in its 90th year, was started in 1929, and its green was completed in 1936. Club members also compete at Jefferson Park Lawn Bowling Club in Seattle, Portland Lawn Bowling Club and King City Lawn Bowling Club in Oregon, and in Spokane.

Kane Tobin, who wrote this article, is a member of Tacoma Lawn Bowling Club.