The comments below are not those of Jack, however he thought it would be a good discussion point. Jack does agree there are some valid points, however he would also like to note there are points he does not agree with and will comment on his thoughts underneath the Post.

There can be no doubt that, in keeping with many activities today, the sport of lawn bowls is in decline. One does not have to be a genius to project the numbers forward to the point in about 4 years time that the levels of club membership will be below critical mass and the sport unsustainable. Yet most bowlers seem comfortable with the way things are - resisting change and bowing to the inevitable. Perhaps they think the sport will out-survive them? A defunct bowling club is a very sad legacy to leave future generations after the enormous effort of their predecessors who fought to build those facillities. So what is wrong - why is this happening? The answer from this juinior bowler is simple - not enough young people wanting to play bowls. This has a most unfortunate outcome in that it produces an image looking over the fence of a lot of old people standing around all day playing outdoor marbles. Hardly dynamic and entertaining. And why is that one might ask? Well- there are a number of obvious answers. Firstly, the demographic has changed markedly over the last 20 or 30 years. Males are no longer the sole breadwinner selfishly spending their entire weekends re-creating by playing bowls. Time is exceedingly precious to the average working couple today. What, with shopping, home maintenance, and running the kids round to their precious activities, there is simply no time for these people to play bowls in the traditional formats. The sport has to change to a format that these people can participate in. It must be short, sharp and entertaining. An entire match in the writer's view must be no longer than one and a half hours tops. Secondly, the timing of events is wrong. Competitions must be run when people have discretionary time available. Interestingly on early evening week days there are absolutely no bowling events when prospective bowlers do have time available. What all this indicates to me is that synthetic surfaces are the way of the future. But not stopping there. Covered and lit surfaces that can be played on all year and at any time, subject of course to appropriate resource consents. The potential utilisation of facillities would increase from the appalling under utilisation traditional grass greens currently receive. A side benefit of this is that a synthetic surface remains absolutely true after they are laid. The writer predicts that unless clubs provide a quality synthetic surface for bowlers they will cease to exist in 3 years time. Thirdly, the public profile of bowls is under the radar. A top game of bowls is a facinating spectacle - particularly in a short duration format like "Jack strike". But even top matches struggle for TV time. Certainly club matches run over a weekend are never going to attract a large audience but much can be done to make it more attractive. For example who ever would have thought the sport of darts would attract such enormous crowds. That has come from a back room in the pubs to prime time TV viewing. The anwer is profile. In the case of darts the profile of individuals. A similar thing has happened to netball over the last 20 years. From almost no profile, albeit with a very large participant base, that sport now has a huge profile with televised games - and it did not happen by accident. It was a deliberate ploy by Lois Muirhead to raise the profile by fostering Regional competition. Bowls NZ could take a leaf from Lois's book. Perhaps not with Regional competitions but certainly main centre rep games. Television, sponsorship, and advertising would all assuredly follow. The popularity of Bowls can only be thus enhanced. What is required in conjunction with this are of couse covered synthetic surfaces unaffected by weather and lighting. Doing nothing is not an option. It must start right at the top in Bowls NZ, through the Regional Centres and down through the clubs. Change must be made in a three pronged approach to the format, appeal and facillities. Elected representatives at all levels must take the matter in hand in their committees and resolve to make the necessary changes. The time is nigh. Alarmed Junior Bowler


  1. Jack would like to point out that there is already a programme in place called Mates in Bowls that is almost identical to Jack Attack. It would be silly to introduce an Australian version when the New Zealand version works perfectly well. JACK

  2. As a junior bowler I would also like to agree with some of the points above but would not suggest for one moment that all clubs go out and rip up there grass in favour of synthetic. Yes synthetic does and will in the future have a place in bowls but I think we need to get all our ducks in a row before that could happen.
    I "discovered" bowls 4 years ago after seeing an advert in our local paper for Mates in Bowls. I said to my wife this sounds interesting so we went along. With not much else to do on a Tuesday evening we thought that this is something we can do together, not expensive, and over within a reasonable time. She has suggested though that as numbers last year where down on the previous it was getting a little boring so she may not be back this year. I love playing bowls and enter as many competitions as I can fit in.
    I'm not sure if this is already out there but a suggestion:
    Would all those Hutt Valley clubs and further if they wish who have a Mates in Bowls format running be interested in a 6 week competition ending in semi + final series perhaps held at the Naenae facility. Wouldn't that be a great advert for bowls and the new facility. Obviously it would need the involvement of clubs as well as bowls wgtn but I think with a little thought and cooperation this could work. Bring some club competition to a social event. I think promoted correctly clubs wouldn't have enough rinks to accommodate players. The format could also involve regular clubs players being available as sub's or skips to help promote the game and nurture prospective players. This could be there contribution to help build membership at there club. Come on guys and gals we need to speed this game up because everbodies in a hurry.
    Cheers Peter S

    1. This has already been done. A particular Hutt Valley club, had an extremely successful Mates in Bowls program, they started the regional finals in conjunction with the Bowls NZ CDO at the time. The organisers even provided the trophy. However, once the organisers of the program left the club, so did Mates in Bowls. As for the regionals, that died a natural death after 2 or 3 years as it was not kept going by the local CDO.
      It is one thing having good ideas, which I believe this one is, however, a good idea is only as good as the person behind it. If the person is lazy, the idea becomes lazy.

    2. Thank you for your reply. I think you may have missed the point Anonymous. It's not about one person. It's not about one club. It's about putting ideas out there for discussion. I would expect all clubs who got involved with a competition of this nature to have at least two people responsible for promoting mates in bowls at THERE club so as there could potentially be 10-12 people driving this program to potentially get new members. If one or two dropped out the competition should still continue until those positions are filled.
      Very rarely would you get people walk off the street and join a bowling club without first having some experience of social bowls first. Or am I wrong here? If we as participants in this sport are not able to work collectively toward building membership at bowling clubs then we are all lazy. If there is any club out there that has increased it's membership over the past 2-3 years please publish your ideas so we can all hop on.
      Could you explain to this junior what CDO is and does anybody know where the trophy is.Cheers
      p.s Don't be afraid to name the club if you know it. That could be the starting point

    3. Thank you I have found what CDO means. Is this person from a club, Bowls Wgtn or Bowls NZ?

    4. I think you missed my point Peter, I wasn't making those suggestions. I agree if you have at least 2 people responsible then you have a shot at making it work, the problem is finding those people. It is easy to run such an event, not so easy to organise and recruit participants though.
      You're naive if you think people don't just walk off the street and join up....of course they do, this is how most clubs get their members as they certainly don't do any self promotion or recruiting. So yes you are wrong on that point! Mates in Bowls rarely gets new members Peter and it's not designed for that. So you should really investigate the whole purpose of casual bowls first.
      I'm not aware of any clubs in the Wellington region that have significantly, by way of recruiting and promotion, increased their membership. Even if there was, what works for them doesn't mean it will work for your club. This is the problem, everyone needs to be shown ... "......publish your ideas so we can all hop on" If you read Bowls Wellington newsletters you would see their are ideas constantly flowing. However the problem doesn't lay with lack of ideas, it lays with lack of members ready to put in the hard yards to make them work.
      At the end of the day, clubs as we know them are a thing of the past. Casual Bowls is taking over and clubs just turn their head and pretend it's not happening.....I can see at least 1 more club in Lower Hutt vanish within a couple of years. In 5-7 years there will be only 2 clubs in the Hutt Valley.

    5. Hi Peter, the CDO is a Bowls NZ employee.
      Bowls Wellington

  3. anyone who thinks Lawn Bowls is going to get television coverage and sponsorship from upping the profile is dreaming. Darts and Netball have far more participants than Lawn Bowls. Before we get ahead of ourselves, lets get our clubs running to an appropriate level first. If we can't turn a club into a profitable business, then how the heck would we cope with anything larger?

  4. Synthetic surfaces are most definitely not the way of the future. If all surfaces became synthetic, the game would come to an end. You obviously have never played on a synthetic surface as they are not "Absolutely True". This shows the author of this post is ismply plucking ideas from the sky. Synthetic surfaces are just as, if not more unpredictable than grass. They can change simply from the sun hitting them or the sun going behind a cloud. NO, synthetic is not the answer. Yes it most certainly has its place in a lot of aspects, but were all surfaces turn synthetic, this is one bowler that would chuck it in.

  5. Having just read the latest feedback I must say the writer is rather naive to think that things will change and that synthetic surfaces will fix the problem. The best hope for local players is the new complex in Naenae,as long as it is managed correctly. Some close by clubs that do nothing to increase membership and do nothing to further the game will close, that is for sure and this will have to benefit the game as a whole. Signed An Old Bowler

    1. The key points here ..... "managed correctly" Time will tell!

    2. There is no more hope at the new complex than any other club. Just because the facility is new does not mean it will survive. Ultimately, it still needs to be managed appropriately, if not, it will still meet the same demise as others have.

    3. I agree with the Old Bowler.

  6. You are a serious DREAMER if you think Lawn Bowls will get T.V. coverage. Take a long run and leap into this century.
    As for synthetic surfaces, does this dreamer not understand that synthetics can flood also???
    However....keep dreaming, you may dream up something that is actually useful.
    One thing the centre should do is get rid of CHAMP OF CHAMP events. These events just take up space that could be used for events more useful.


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