Hidden in plain sight, lawn bowling is one of those sports that most people never look twice at. However, the Coronado Lawn Bowling Club has proven that the sport is meant for all ages.
Lawn bowling is played on a perfectly flat surface, and the balls players roll are called bowls because they are weighted on one side. This weight allows the bowl to curve towards the target: a little white ball called a jack. The object of the game is to accumulate as many points as possible by getting your bowls as close to the jack as possible. Lawn bowling can be played with up to four people on a team. An “end” is going back and forth across the green, and there are about 14 ends in a match.
Established in 1935, the Coronado Lawn Bowling Club has its roots entangled with the history of Coronado. To this day, the non-profit club continues to provide locals with opportunities for social connections, fun, and competition for all comers young and old.
The historic green was built in the West Plaza adjacent to the Coronado Public Library, and annual dues in 1940 were just $6 for men and $3 for women. During World War II, the club suspended its operations and after the war, fees were $2 a year for more than 40 years. In 1999, dues increased to $40. In 2010, the Coronado Public Library expanded its establishment and the traditional grass bowling green was torn apart in the process. In March of the same year, the City of Coronado constructed a world class artificial tournament-quality green, which is now home of the Coronado Lawn Bowling Club and located on the corner of 7th Street and D Avenue.
In 2015, the Coronado Lawn Bowling Club (CLBC) celebrated its 80th anniversary in conjunction with the City of Coronado celebrating its 125 years, and in 2016 the Senior Center Facility was reconstructed and officially named the John D. Spreckels Center and Bowling Green. Now, the Coronado Bowling Green is officially called the Spreckels Bowling Green.
Berie Grobe became president of the CLBC in 2011 and has since served three separate terms in her position. Grobe is also one of ten club members who recently completed training and are now Bowls USA Certified Club Coaches.
The club boasts 92 active members who participate in two kinds of tournaments: club and social. A yearly schedule of club tournaments is established for the CLBC specifically, and members are also a part of Southwest Lawn Bowls, which encompasses the entire state of California. For more competitive players, there are tournaments nearly every weekend. For those who are just looking to have a fun time, social tournaments include noncompetitive rounds and barbecues. There is a space for everyone in lawn bowling!
“Lawn bowling is a sport for all ages,” Grobe shared. “We have small bowls for little hands, and a kid just needs to be old enough to have a little coordination, be able to hold a little ball, and have some thought process.”
Just to show the diverse range of ages, the CLBC held after-school classes for second graders through sixth graders at one point in time. On the other end of the spectrum, the oldest member of the club is currently 97 years old and still actively bowls.
The age range of members of the club is an astonishing 81 years. At just sixteen years old, Angel Gomez is the youngest certified coach in the nation. He began lawn bowling with his family when they were introduced to twilight bowling and enticed by the unbeatable cost: free.
“Angel is so good that he plays the role of the captain of the team, which we call a skip,” Grobe shared. “When you have a 97-year old bowling against a 16-year old, sometimes the scores are very close. Age doesn’t really play a factor.”
When asked why Angel loves lawn bowling he shared, “My favorite aspect of the game is that each game is different. Each rank is different and each opponent is different. I think what I really like about it is how the games turn out. You can be down a whole bunch of points, but then all of a sudden you come back with a whole bunch of other points and then you go out in front.”
As a certified coach, Angel has undergone the training and preparation to efficiently teach others the basics of lawn bowling. He hopes to spread his love of the sport with others and pursue this passion of playing and teaching when he grows older.
For anyone considering learning how to bowl, here is the process according to Grobe: “One of the coaches will be assigned to a person and they’ll make an arrangement to meet them here and go through the whole process of teaching them to lawn bowl . What we do then is we give them 30 days where they can come and keep bowling and practicing with our equipment to see if they like it. If they like it, they can join the lawn bowling club and have the benefit of all of our social bowling and tournaments!”
The Coronado Lawn Bowling Club offers free lessons for San Diego County residents. Anyone interested in bowling can call the CLBC at 619-319-5509 to make an appointment.