“There’s no quarter given when you are out there,’ laughs Sean Reilly looking out over the green swath of Century Bowling and Sports Club’s playing rink.
“I always thought bowls was a genteel game played by people in jackets and white flannels, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s very competitive, people play to win and there is hardly a blazer in sight.
The rink’s fabric surface is flat as a billiard table and is viewed with trepidation by the club’s rivals who play on slower traditional grass rinks.
The bowls or ‘woods’ are engineered to give a certain cadence and curve with the winner having the most woods nearest to a small yellow ball called a jack.
“You have to stay calm and relaxed to play your best game, especially if things aren’t going your way. There is a lot of strategy to it and people can be quite ruthless if you start to wobble.”
The sport’s most famous exponent, Sir Francis Drake, showed just such sang-froid when he insisted on finishing his game of bowls before going out to dispatch the Spanish Armada in 1588.
Henry VIII restricted the playing of the game to ‘noblemen and others having manors or lands’ because of widespread gambling associated with the game, while Shakespeare name-checked it in several of his plays.
The UK also produced one of the game’s greatest players in the shape of the late David Bryant who won six indoor and outdoor world titles.
Bowls is commonly associated with retirees and club secretary Sean says it plays an important community service by giving people a place to meet and socialise as well as exercise.
Sean added: “It does have a rather staid image which is a shame because it is a great game. It is popular in Australia with people of all ages where they play a version of the game called bare-foot bowls.
“We’re a friendly club and are always looking for new members regardless of age. If you haven’t played before we offer taster sessions and tuition.”
For more information, see www.centurybowlsclub.co.uk