Why I Gave Up Golf for Lawn Bowling

In which a heretic denounces “the ancient and honorable” and explains his wooing of the kitty on the green

ROBERT STEAD July 15 1929

Why I Gave Up Golf for Lawn Bowling

In which a heretic denounces “the ancient and honorable” and explains his wooing of the kitty on the green

ROBERT STEAD July 15 1929

Why I Gave Up Golf for Lawn Bowling

In which a heretic denounces “the ancient and honorable” and explains his wooing of the kitty on the green


TO THE habitual golfer the idea that normal people can prefer another game comes as a rude shock and demands elaboration. It is as though someone were to suggest that the world is square, or that the law of gravitation is due for an early amendment. Golf, to the golfer, is an integral part of the existing cosmos, and could not be removed without serious complications in the planetary system. Besides, if such a heresy should become general, what would happen to all the capital now invested in golf courses, and of what advantage, either social or financial, would be the hard-earned skill of the golfer?

If golf should cease to be “the thing,” the effect would reach far beyond the links and the membership rolls. It would touch, directly or indirectly, almost every individual.

I do not suggest that golf is on the wane or in immediate danger of eclipse. But the fact that a devotee here and there is being deflected to another game is significant. Is it possible that we are to see a change in sport fashion which may result in golf courses being converted into public parks or reverting to the homely but honorable uses of agriculture? Or is it their destiny to become parking places for the airplane fleets of the future? Fashion brought golf into popular favor, and what fashion gives she also has a habit of taking away—sometimes on short notice. Ask the man who used to manufacture hairpins or cotton stockings. The alacrity with which the modern public transfers its enthusiasms must give pause to all who regard any situation dependent upon public favor as permanent.

“A Commonplace Game Played Under Uncommon Disadvantages”

"pOR all its ancient ancestry, golf, as a game of the masses, is of comparatively recent growth. Although of humble origin, it spent its adolescence in the lap of luxury, where amid exclusive surroundings it acquired a tradition of culture. Envious proletarian eyes were cast upon it, and a generation which has deprived the rich of nearly all the perquisites of wealth, was not slow to appropriate their special variety of sport. The supposed exclusiveness of golf and its fame as the pastime of the leisured classes made it irresistibly attractive to modern democracy.

Stripped of these illusions, golf is found to be a rather commonplace game played under uncommon disadvantages. As one who has been in it, and out of it, I am moved to suggest that in lawn bowling it has a rival already growing in popularity, and with much to recommend it to a still wider acceptance.

I like bpwling better than golf. As a sport it has many things to commend it, not the least of which is its convenience. Golf, in the nature of the game, requires for its performance a good-sized farm, and even that diversion of agricultural area from the purposes which Nature intended, accommodates only a limited number of players. Any city of pretensions is surrounded by a dozen or more golf

courses, occupying many thousands of acres. And as land is one commodity which can neither be contracted nor expanded, the golfer is forced farther and farther afield. The advent of the motor car to some extent has offset this handicap and placed the game within the reach of the average citizen, but the waste of time in getting to and from the place of play is a serious one, becoming worse as our cities grow and the popularity of the game increases. Although one of the virtues of golf in this high-pressure age is that it is a somewhat leisurely game, the business of getting to and from the course is anything but restful. With a car it involves driving for anywhere from half-an-hour to two hours, usually in heavy traffic. If the journey is made by train or trolley, to the exhilaration of travel is added the rush for seats or the zest of standing for an hour or more in a crowded conveyance on a sultry afternoon.

Arrived at the course, the golfer must placate fashion by getting into the clothing she prescribes, regardless of any humiliation it may impose upon his self-esteem, and await his turn to play. The finer the day the longer he may expect to wait. If he be one of those solid citizens who still give their business or profession precedence over their golf, the chances are that the shadows are lengthening before he drives his first ball. Very soon the game which was to refresh his soul, let down the tension of his nervous system, and give him an opportunity to commune with Nature, becomes a race between darkness and the eighteenth hole. Then the whole weary business of getting back home again.

Bowling a Social Game

BUT consider bowling. It is played on a green the length of an average city lot. Wherever two or three moderately level lots can be found, a green can be established. The bowler may reasonably expect his club grounds to be located within walking distance of his home. He is not obliged to transfer the high pressure in his nervous system from business to sport.

He can‘let down.’

A light meal at his home or at the club, and a stroll to the green, and he is ready for play at seven or seventhirty. The approach of darkness does not

hurry him, for the game can be continued by artificial light until the argument is settled. Indeed, in the warm summer evenings the most pleasant hours for bowling are after the golfer has been driven from his course by darkness. Then a stroll home again and so to bed,the need of body and soul for exercise, change of environment, and social contact fully satisfied.

The social side is important.

Man, and likewise woman, are social animals. Perhaps the worst charge that can be laid against golf is that it is unsocial. Golf is unique in this. By its very nature it is unsocial. In the other leading outdoor games groups of players come into close and frequently physical contact with each other. Even if the physical contact sometimes leaves its mark, as in football or hockey, it also tests the temper and reveals the self-control of the player. Firm friendships grow out of the bumps of our manly games Continued on page 70

Why I Gave Up Golf for Lawn Bowling

Continued from page 19

and among the players a camaraderie is developed which has social values of the highest order.

There is none of this in golf. It is a solitary game, a morose game. Its solitariness might have value,were it not that, as has been well said, it is the means of spoiling a perfectly good walk. The golfer plays by himself. The one or three others required to make up the twosome or foursome are usually friends selected in advance, and even they may be beyond earshot at different stages of the game. Such contact as occurs either on the fairway or the greens is casual and incidental. There is no getting to grips, either physically or mentally. And those

outside the two or four might as well be in another world; better, indeed, because if there is contact at all they only hamper the game.

Bowling, on the other hand, provides the background against which friendships are naturally and readily developed. The four players on each team are engaged in close contact with their four opponents. On a green of six rinks fortyeight players take part at the same time, all in an area no greater than two or three city lots. In progressive competitions each team plays every other team in the course of an evening. After each player has delivered his bowls there is a period of rest until his turn comes again, and as

the opposing players have the same period of rest, there is every opportunity for the development of acquaintances. And you can take your wife along just as you can in golf. And you can keep your eye on her, as you can’t in golf.

This matter of friendly contact is one of the most attractive features of the game of bowls, and one which naturally draws unto it those in whom a liking for the social amenities is well developed. Notwithstanding this fact, bowling is comparatively free from the man who plays in the hope of establishing “contacts” which he can use to his own advantage in a business or professional way—a gentleman not unknown on some of our best golf courses.

It is true that bowling does not provide the player with a set of clubs which he can smash in a fit of chagrin, and that bowls are too large and obvious to be thrown into the rough—which doesn’t exist. This disadvantage will score heavily against it among enthusiastic golfers.

The Last Problem

THEN there is the financial side. Among golfers it may be bad form to admit that expense is a consideration, the presumption being that all who golf have time and money to burn. But there is ground for the suspicion that this is presumption only. Golf, always an expensive game, becomes more and more costly with the competition in grounds, clubhouses, and equipment which seems inseparable from it. Except where municipal courses are provided, the demands which golf imposes, directly and indirectly, may fairly be said to present a drain upon the average man’s time and money. For a while he may pay the price, as being the popular thing to do, but the gradual discovery that another game offers so many advantages at a fraction of the cost is bound to have its effect. The time and expense involved are handicaps which golf cannot carry successfully in competition with such a game as bowling.

The elaborate equipment, and proportionately elaborate bills, which go with golf need not here be enumerated. But

for bowling all you require is two or four

bowls as the case may be— many clubs arrange to lend these without charge to beginners—and a pair of lawn shoes. That is all the equipment you need, and the bowls, at least, will last a lifetime. The trick is to roll the bowl to the other end of the green and make it stop where you want it. Skill? Well—try it. As much as golf, and something which golf does not demand. Strategy. Anticipating, checkmating, frustrating your opponents’ designs; planning your defence or attack. There is none of that in golf.

“But,” says someone, “there’s no exercise in bowling. It’s an old man’s game.”

An Old Man’s Game? Pouf!

T-TOW long is it since we heard that same

-*■ strain about golf? Any game is a young man’s game if young men play it. And young men are beginning to bowl. The inherent virtues of this good old British game are becoming known among them. Its appeal is to all ages and both sexes. Mixed bowling is common, and the women are as enthusiastic over it as the men. And with women taking so large a part in the sport life of the Dominion, any game over which they become enthusiastic has a future before it.

Keep your eye on bowling. It is not a new star on the horizon, but an old star coming into its own. For at least six centuries it has been a popular game in England; during part of that period, indeed, it became so popular that laws were passed to suppress it. It is significant that Sir Francis Drake considered his game of bowls too important to be interrupted by the visit of the Spanish Armada. The Spaniard had to wait. Afterwards Sir Francis, having finished his game, attended to certain little matters of his profession which have made the British Navy mistress of the seas for five centuries.

Bowling has a parentage and a patronage not inferior to golf. It is destined to be of growing importance in the sport life of this country.