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Short mat bowling good exercise, good fun

Bowling moved indoors Monday at the NOTL community centre and continues Monday and Thursday afternoons.

Lawn bowlers are eager athletes who do not let any time pass between seasons.

Niagara-on-the-Lake’s outdoor lawn bowling season ended Saturday, and the indoor sport known as short mat bowling started Monday at the Community Centre.

Sandi Johnston, who plays both, looks forward to short mat bowling. “I enjoy it, it's good exercise. It's fun, challenging, and you can test yourself,” she said.

In the winter months, she noted, many snow birds, (people who travel S=south for part of the winter), play short mat bowling because they can either pay the $90 membership fee, or pay-as-you-play at $4 per game. Two games are played each day.

“You don't have to commit yourself,” said Johnston, who further explained that when you show up on a Monday or Thursday, your team is decided on a draw. “Every time you play with somebody different, and you can play a different position.”

Short mat bowling uses the same bowls as those used outdoors.  Bowls can be rented for $20 a season. In the game, bowls are aimed at the jack in an attempt to get as many of your team bowls closer to the jack than those of your opponent.

Unlike lawn bowling, short mat bowls have to negotiate a small wooden block placed in the middle of the mat.

Each game takes about an hour. Johnston thinks it’s a good deal to stay active and add some social time into the winter.

“It's $90 for the season, which takes you to 50 games if you play two games on Monday and Thursday. That's pretty good entertainment,” she said.

“Please come out and enjoy it. You're going to have fun, and there's no judgment,” Johnston added. “Some people are competitive in it, but you don't have to be experienced in any sport, and it's something that if you have a good game, it's celebrated. If you don't, then the fact that you're participating is a celebration in itself. It's just about getting out.”

Games are played Monday and Thursdays at 1 p.m., leaving time to get “settled in with your mat and bowls,” before the games begin, said Johnston.

Visit mat for more information, or just show up at the Community Centre on a Monday or Thursday afternoon.

Last year’s club had about 50 members, “but they don't all come out at the same time,” said short mat bowler Paul McHoull.  “We would be swamped if they did.” Thirty-six people showed up for the Short Mat Club’s first bowl of the season. Many are summer lawn bowlers, but some are not.

The short mat bowling season goes until April, when, of course, outdoor lawn bowling begins.