If, like me, you’ve just moved to a new area, or if you’re new to playing bridge entirely, one of the first things you’ll want to do is start attending a great local bridge club. Playing regularly with other players is a great way to both improve your bridge skills and meet new friends.
You can find a bridge club by checking your national directory. If you have several clubs near you, compare the location, size, playing opportunities and coaching opportunities to choose the best one.
Keep reading for the complete guide to choosing a bridge club plus links to national directories of bridge clubs.
How To Find A Bridge Club
The two easiest places to find bridge clubs are Google and the directory provided by your national bridge association. Unfortunately, Google and Google maps can be a bit hit and miss, because many other types of clubs tend to get shown in the results first.
Many national organizations have directories of club in their country, and I recommend you try there first. I’ve listed the ones I’ve found below:
What Makes A Great Bridge Club?
When we moved house to be closer to family one of the first things I investigated were the local bridge clubs. My old club was great, but at a little over two hours drive away it was way too far for regular play! A quick check of the local area revealed six clubs within a 30 minute drive, which was the maximum time I was willing to travel.
I immediately dismissed one of these because it only met on evenings where I was already busy, but the rest looked like good options. I needed a way of assessing them and came up with the following criteria:
How Far Away Is The Bridge Club?
If you love playing bridge it’s likely you’ll want to visit the club at least once a week, possibly more. The distance you need to travel to get to the club has a big affect on the amount of time you need available to play. I decided I was willing to drive a maximum of 30 minutes each way, which could be up to a total of an hour travel time to play a session of bridge. That’s quite a lot, and you may decide that you want to look within a smaller area.
If you’re limited to public transport, the distance you’ll be able to travel within the time you’ve decided will be quite a lot smaller, and you may also want to factor in cost; in many countries public transport is surprisingly pricey and you may well be paying more for your transport than you do for your table fee.
I used Google maps to check the rough distance, but the best way to find out is simply to time your journey when you go to the club and see how long it takes – this is easy as you’ll need to visit anyway to judge it properly!
Do You Feel Welcome At The Club?
In my experience, most bridge players are friendly and fun to play with; I don’t think I’ve ever been to a bridge club and been made to feel unwelcome. However, if you are going to spend a lot of time at a club it is worth assessing how well you’re likely to get on with the people who are there. For a few, this won’t be an issue – it’s the competition that counts – but the social aspect of playing bridge is essential for most players.
When I started visiting clubs I looked out for a few signs that this would be a great place for me:
- People who shared my level of enthusiasm for bridge (and discussing it) – this shouldn’t be too hard!
- People who I had other interests in common with – we could talk bridge all night, but sometimes its nice to discuss the football too!
- People my own age and life stage – in my case I’m married with a small child. It’s good (and easier) to make friends with people who are in the same stage of life.
- People who play the same systems – ask around to gauge what systems are played in the club. If you play Precision and the rest of the club plays 2/1 you might find it hard to form new partnerships (or even find a pick-up partner).
Of course, you won’t meet everyone at the club on your first visit, so you may want to go more than once to assess how much you enjoy the company.
What’s The Venue Like?
The venue is rarely going to be a deciding factor, but it is important for some players. Let’s face it, most bridge clubs venues are best described as adequate – they’re normally a community hall, a school, or a rented room at another club. There are those that rise above the rest (looking at you: Young Chelsea Bridge Club), but we don’t normally expect too much.
I’m a caffeine-fiend so for me one of the essential features is that there’s the opportunity for a good cup of tea. It’s also important that the seats are comfortable because you don’t want to be sitting down for multiple hours on a chair that resembles a medieval torture device! It’s easy to joke but this should be a key consideration, especially if you ever suffer from back pain.
Most bridge clubs do provide disabled-access but it’s always worth checking before you go if that is a concern.
What’s The Standard of Play?
If you’re new to playing bridge, your first few live sessions with other people can be pretty nerve-wracking, especially if you’re being scored. I’ve been there – that self-conscious feeling that everyone around the table knows far more than you – and for some people it can be a barrier to enjoying their play sessions.
Fortunately, many clubs offer different sessions for different experience levels, including beginner sessions, casual sessions, and assisted play – where someone is available to look over your shoulder and help you in those first tough decisions. Some clubs will even allow you to ‘rewind’ the bidding or play in these sessions (but don’t try it in a standard session!).
Personally, this factor did not enter into my decision-making process because I’ve been playing for many years, but this could be worth considering if you are either a beginner yourself or hoping to bring a friend or spouse along to start playing for the first time.
What Coaching Opportunities Are There?
Let’s face it – bridge is hard – but that challenge is a big part of what makes it so fun to learn and play. We can’t learn it all by ourselves though: I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t matter how many books I read, a lot of it just doesn’t sink in!
That’s where coaching comes in. A good coach can help you learn far quicker than you would on your own, especially if you are just getting started. You don’t need to opt for one-on-one expensive coaching though because most clubs offer group teaching sessions for beginners and intermediates.
If this is something you are interested in make sure you ask about coaching opportunities. In some clubs these may be provided on an ad-hoc basis with no formal program, and you won’t know unless you ask.
What Competitions Can You Get Involved In?
If you have a national bridge organization you should already have access to competitions just by being a member. But you may also get an opportunity to