Lawn bowling has long been associated with elderly men and women tossing colored balls across green lawns – in utter silence. In Australia, lawn bowling enthusiasts are far from elderly but instead, are young, tanned and hip.
The age-old game has been taken over by the country’s twenty-something generation who admit they enjoy walking barefoot, being outdoors and drinking beer. With the vast South Pacific Ocean stretching out before them, players at Clovelly Bowling Club in Sydney have given the game a complete transformation.
With no dress codes, shoes or ridged rules – envision swimming gear in place of starched whites – there are now more than 2,000 lawn bowling clubs across Australia. Some guess part of the popularity increase, which has taken place over the last decade, is due to a low-budget 2002 film called Crackerjack as well as a Melbourne-based television show called, The Secret Life of Us, that aired between 2001 and 2005.
Barefoot bowls, as players jokingly refer to themselves, are out to change the image of the sport. Tony Sherwill of Bowls Australia says that, “For a lot of people the stereotype was that bowls was played by retirees and it was stiff, but those two shows busted the stereotypes that people had.”
Clovelly Bowling Club says it regularly gets more than 200 bare footers each weekend. Most of these folks are walkthrough who don’t become registered members but prefer to pay by the hour, generating a lot of money for the club. The non-members also spend a fair bit of time socializing at the bar, much more than the older generation.