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Bowls is back

If you thought bowls was an activity for the retiring and retired – it’s time to think again. Bowls is attracting younger players in increasing numbers1,2. Bowls, its Italian version, bocce, and its French version, pétanque, are enjoyable, sociable activities that welcome people of all ages and levels of fitness3-5.

In bowls, bocce and pétanque the goal is to land the bowl as close as possible to the target ball, the ‘jack’3-6. In bowls and bocce, the ball is rolled over a smooth lawn or relatively smooth surface, whereas in pétanque the hollow steel ball is thrown onto a surface that can be quite rough6.

Lawn bowls is a low impact sport3 so pressure on joints is low, making it suitable for people with Osteoarthritis7. Bowls and its variations offer a number of health benefits, including3:
– improved fitness
– improved coordination and skill development
– community connectedness and support.

If you’re interested in trying your hand at this, ‘barefoot bowls’ (when lawn bowl clubs open their doors to paying customers) can be a great introduction8. Bocce and pétanque have clubs in Australia and there are pétanque clubs in New Zealand. To find out if there’s a club near you visit or or

Joining a club will also give you access to experienced players and/or coaches who can help with technique; this is important as poor technique can lead to injury8.

As with any new activity, take it easy to start with; it’s important to warm up before play and cool down afterwards3. After a while you should get into the swing of things.

  1. ABC News. Bowls comes of age for the young. Nov 2, 2012.
  2. Turramurra Bowling Club Limited website.
  3. Victorian Government, Better Health Channel. Lawn bowls – health benefits.
  4. Bocce Victoria, Sports-boules focus. 19 May, 2013.
  5. Pétanque Federation Australia, Developing Player Skills and Confidence.
  6. Wordpress. All about Pétanque.
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Physical Activity and Arthritis Overview. February 2015.
  8. Victorian Government, Better Health Channel. Lawn bowls – preventing injury.
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