Lighthouse clubs – Buninyong BC
Set in picturesque surroundings beside the Buninyong Botanical Gardens, Buninyong Bowling Club was founded in 1872 and is one of the oldest bowling clubs in Victoria.
Ballarat may be only a 10-minute drive from Buninyong. But like the township itself, the club has a distinct country feel and over recent seasons, has enjoyed rapid membership growth and playing success with three of its five divisions taking out 2014-15 premierships.
The club has now added a second midweek division to its playing ranks, and is targeting further membership growth as a part of its strategic plan.
Membership has grown by over 30% in a five year period and the 2015-16 season has seen a 13% increase, but only a small fraction of the growth has come from player transfers or new residents.
As president Wayne Morgan says: “We have worked very hard to maintain and promote the country feel of the club and engage our members.”
How has this relatively small club been able to grow to have over 100 registered pennant players? The club has developed a range of initiatives designed to enhance the club culture, attract new members and support existing members and these include:
· Conducting a highly successful ‘Corporate Cup’ competition which runs for six weeks and sees 96 mostly ‘non-bowlers’ enjoying the game. As Wayne explains it: “We have a dedicated team who maintain contact with our corporate bowlers, ensure that it is fun event and it has been a primary source of new player recruitment”.
· Appointing a New Member Liaison Officer to ensure that new members feel welcome and enjoy a smooth transition from other clubs or a successful introduction to the game of bowls.
· Appointing a Club Welfare Officer to maintain contact with and assist any members who may be ill or away from the game or not able to get to the club as regularly as they would like.
· Improving communication with members, developing a new club information brochure and member information guides.
· Putting in place more structured coaching programs and
· Developing a Strategic Plan to further grow membership, levels of community engagement and upgrade and expand facilities to secure future success.
· Working with Ballarat Council on funding for the construction of new purpose built club rooms.
The club is currently working with the local primary school to foster the enjoyment of bowls with a younger playing group and would like to eventually add a younger cohort to its playing group.
When asked if he could capture why Buninyong has enjoyed such strong membership growth, Wayne says: “Although we have a good strong, stable board and none of our initiatives or plans are particularly new, it’s all about creating and maintaining a strong club culture that promotes enjoyment of a great game, setting and communicating a clear vision for the club, but most importantly, engaging with our members so that the club is a place where people want to be.”
Perhaps the final word that sums up the atmosphere at Buninyong Bowling Club comes from the other Ballarat District Bowls Division (BDBD) clubs who tell us that the hospitality at Buninyong is legendary.