Top tips for running Barefoot Bowls

by Team BV

Are you looking for a few tips to help create a great Barefoot Bowls program at your club?
Look no further!
Here are 13 top tips for running a great barefoot bowls program.
1.     Create a Fun Atmosphere!
It’s no secret, if you provide a fun and enjoyable experience on Barefoot Bowls night; people will come back for more!
Food, drink, music, a raffle – coupled with welcoming, friendly faces around the club helps with providing a fun Barefoot Bowls experience. Also, rather than wearing your Pennant uniform, wear some casual clothes or a Club polo shirt to make it feel like a more casual atmosphere when you are greeting new bowlers for the first time!

2.    Food and Drink
An absolute must when running barefoot bowls is to have a food and drink readily available!
A lot of bowling clubs that run barefoot bowls nights cook a BBQ or provide other simple catering options. This also extends to having Soft drink/Beer/Wine readily accessible for people to purchase and water available for those who want it! Having food and drink available, whether at a small cost or included as part of a package, can help make barefoot bowls a great fun experience. If you want to turn this into a social event and be the highlight of someone’s week – make sure people have more to do than just put a couple of bowls down!    

3.    Music!
Music is a great addition to Barefoot Bowls, either indoors (club rooms), outdoors – or both!
The idea of having music, just like having Food and Drink, helps create a fun atmosphere and gets people moving! Play some classic hits or be smart about what you play to fit in with the people coming to bowl, or encourage them to bring their own music!

4.    Raffles/Giveaways!
This is a good way to get a bit of excitement and buzz around the Barefoot Bowls Program!
Do you have any sponsors that would be willing to donate something for the program, or even a group of Bowlers from a local business that could help out? Some ideas might include; something from one of your sponsors, a box of chocolates, club stubby holder, bottle of wine, movie tickets or even free venue hire for a function at the club! Be creative and make sure you have prizes on hand to giveaway throughout the night. It might be for a toucher, or for a wrong bias, up to you!

5.    Don’t over-coach, they’ll work it out!
Imagine if you walked into a Bowling Club for the first time looking to put down a couple of bowls and catch up with your mates, would you want to be coached like you’re preparing for the Commonwealth Games?
Running a great barefoot bowls session involves very little coaching (if any!). Find out if they’ve played before, then let them know you’re there to help. A great example of this is the way St. Kilda Bowling Club runs their barefoot bowls. They give a short induction to outline the do’s and don’ts on the green, then if people do want help with their technique, there is someone there to help!  

6.    Be flexible
What would your reaction be if you were expecting 20 people at your Barefoot Bowls Night, and then another 20 people walked in off the street?
It should be “YES! Come in!” – Remember to always be flexible with the amount of people coming to the club for a Barefoot Bowls night, and what you’re willing to offer. Barefoot Bowls should not be too structured and allow for changes to schedules, different catering options and different experiences. Being flexible is particularly important where offering barefoot bowls functions, do what you can to cater to their needs.

7.    Have a regular barefoot bowls night
Pick a night and stick to it!
Friday night is popular for clubs to run barefoot bowls, because it’s a great casual way for people to finish the working week. Having a regular night will mean people in the community know it’s on and you may start to see people regularly popping in, whether it’s to bowl or just have a drink and catch up with friends.

8.    Bring a friend!
Everyone knows someone who’s a bowler!
When you ask someone how they first got introduced to the sport, it’s almost always through a friend or family member. In fact in a recent Member survey, we found that over 60% of current bowlers had were introduced to the game through friends or family. Get club members to bring a friend along to barefoot bowls or have special family nights!

9.    Promote to community groups for various functions throughout the year
Connect, network and speak to people in your area. The more the merrier! Think sporting clubs, local businesses, disability service providers and other community groups.
This might not appeal to your club right now, but it will once you see some more people on your green as a result! Going to and actually speaking to local groups might encourage them to come down for barefoot bowls at your club or another time that suits them. Chances are they could be looking for a way to socialize and be active a couple of times a week their friends – and this could be one of those times!
Another way to approach a local business is to market your club as an ideal place for a function, and this includes peak times e.g.: Christmas period. Just another way to expose the barefoot bowls phenomenon & your bowling club, and get more people in the door!

10.  Offer different membership options
It’s important to not bombard people with forms when they eventually find their way to your club for a bowl.
The easiest way to turn barefoot bowlers off is forcing a membership form down their throat or asking them if they’d like to play pennant. Sure, give them some information about the club and your social membership, but don’t go asking them to play Saturday Pennant straight away if you are struggling for players. New bowlers at your club could become pennant bowlers in the future, you never know – but just focus on providing a great first experience at the club and having them come back, rather than forcing competition on them from the outset!

11.   Be creative
It’s your club’s Barefoot Bowls Night, so how are you going to make it different and more appealing than another social sport?
We mentioned music before, why not have a 90s Music Night, or a Rock ‘n’ Roll Bowls Night? We also mentioned food; could you do a themed food night for Barefoot Bowls to help capture a different audience? It’s about thinking outside the square, and using your location and demographic within your community to your advantage!

12.  Have information about the club ready
You’re getting new people to come to your club, why not have some information ready that helps advertise other aspects of what your club is doing!
This might be a flyer or brochure that they can take with them or a welcoming pack for new members. Contact details of people in the club, social media details, social membership details, operating hours and promoting your club as a place to hold functions should all be included!

13.  Promotion & Marketing
You’ve done all these great things in preparing and organizing your Barefoot Bowls night, but how are you going to let people know about it?
Firstly, you need to understand the demographic in your community. For example, Fitzroy Victoria Bowling Club has a lot of younger people associated with their club, therefore advertising and promoting their events through Social Media reaches the majority of their audience.
Aside from Facebook, Instagram and other forms of Social Media, direct email to people who have visited before or handing out flyers at community hotspots or through a letterbox drop are other methods of reaching potential barefoot bowlers, just make sure it suits the people you’re trying to get involved!
So what’s next? Set up a barefoot bowls program at your local club!
For more information, contact your Regional Bowls Manager or Bowls Victoria on 03 98617100 or email