With 376 Active Members, the 92-year-old Club is the Biggest in America
Take a stroll along Heisler Park on any given day, and you’ll likely see a gathering of lawn bowlers enjoying the greens at the Laguna Beach Lawn Bowling Club (LBLBC). Established April 29, 1931, the club sparked interest early on with 74 registered members – making it the largest lawn bowling club in Southern California at that time.
Fast forward to 2023, and the Laguna Beach Lawn Bowling Club is still going strong. So strong, in fact, it’s now the biggest club in America with 376 active members. With the sound of crashing waves in the background, its pristine grounds and ideal weather, the club’s location attracts a variety of local and regional bowlers, recreational to competitive, young and old.
“This is the only sport that I’ve been a part of that is really gender and age-neutral. I think that’s quite unique,” LBLBC coach and event committee member Trish Soto said. “We had an Australian father and son team at the US Open we held recently. It was wonderful to see. We’ve got 20-year-olds all the way up. We don’t have as many young people we would like, and I think that’s the misconception, is that lawn bowling is perceived as being physically easy.”
Despite being a fairly simple concept – roll a large, biased ball, meaning one side is shaped differently than the other, called a “bowl” as close as possible to a “jack,” a small white ball, to earn more points than your opponent – the sport can be technically and physically challenging in way that makes it similar to golf or tennis.
“The intensity of play can be quite different. You can have those informal days – where we call our social bowls, and it’s not physically strenuous, or you can take it on as a competition sport and put as much athletic energy into the game as you need to deliver your bowls and win a series of games,” Soto said. “You get out what you put into it at whatever level you choose to play.”
Heather Stewart, a recently retired nurse, said whenever she had a bad day at work, she would come to the club, bowl for a couple of hours, and leave transformed.
“You’re outside, you’re interacting with people. There’s a huge social aspect, and you’re always thinking. Every bowl you play you have to change your mind. There are a lot of benefits to lawn bowling,” said Stewart, a 30-year LBLBC member and past president of Bowls USA.
US Open Tournament
Along with organizing club social events, tournaments and group outings, LBBC recently welcomed more than 200 accomplished lawn bowlers from around the world during the prestigious US Open.
The event, organized by Bowls USA and hosted by the Southwest Lawn Bowls Division, is the largest lawn bowling tournament in North America. The event spanned seven days and featured elite bowlers from Australia, England, Ireland, Kenya and Pakistan, among others.
“For me, it was phenomenal,” Soto said. “I loved the international feel it brought to the community and the club. We had our clubhouse and patio buzzing with people, sharing their enthusiasm for lawn bowling.”
This year’s US Open held special significance as it marked the event’s return since the 2020 COVID pandemic and commemorated Bowls USA’s 50th anniversary.
“It was a big deal for us at LBLBC, and it brought a lot of people to our outstanding club and into the beautiful City of Laguna Beach,” Soto said.
To learn more about the club or information on membership, visit www.lagunabeachlawnbowlingclub.com.