Lighthouse Club – Highton BC
Even as one of the top five clubs for bowling membership in Victoria, Highton Bowls Club isn’t standing still.
The balancing act of attracting new people to the sport as new members, while keeping their existing members happy, is something the suburban Geelong club is getting right better than most.
“They’re a great example of how clubs should run,” Bowls Australia and Bowls Victoria Regional Bowls Manager Paul Holtschke says of Highton.
“They’ve got fantastic social programs and they’re trying innovative programs. They’ve got a great percentage of female members. They’re a very well run club. They promote themselves well … they’re a nugget of gold.”
Highton uses its size to its advantage, with the load spread among many to keep all at the club happy and those new to the club welcomed.
And it has clever touches, like a nifty undercover area that doubles as a needlepunch four-rink green for indoor bowls. Added to the three existing outdoor greens and a wonderful viewing area for bowls, Highton is blessed in that regard.
Pennant is critical to the club, with six Saturday Pennant teams involved in the regional competition, plus five Midweek sides.
They’d be one of few clubs that have Monday morning practice sessions for their Midweek Pennant teams. Attendance for practice is high, and three of five teams have made the finals, so it’s working.
But Highton recognises that Pennant can’t be its only focus.
They are also in the third season of a Jack Attack program – a pre-season comp aimed at club bowlers, followed by two for social bowlers.
Named Crackerjack after the Mick Molloy movie, the program provides a great access point for new bowlers to cut their teeth without pressure before entering Pennant, or for those who are time-poor and can’t commit to a summer of weekends.
The Wednesday night six-week competition has this season run before and after Christmas. And the club’s Pennant bowlers take it in turns by division to help with the program.
“Our relatively new members go into Jack Attack, and it allows them to get their interest in the sport up without the pressure of Pennant,” club spokeswoman Wendy Ballentine says.
There’s a commercial kitchen, allowing the club to cater for weddings, hen’s and buck’s parties, and the booming business of corporate bowls.
They conduct very successful social programs for members and guests that focus around quality live music and entertainment. Friendly Fridays offer counter meals at a decent price and a great social atmosphere.
Highton is also pursuing increased junior activity through school programs, and also works very hard at recruitment, often conducting stalls at the local shopping centre.
Last year the club conducted a successful program targeting social members in which they signed up more than 100 people all for $10, providing a base for transitioning membership.
Highton regularly conducts member and volunteer nights to keep members informed and recognises the work of its volunteers.
Last year they secured a Sport and Recreation Victoria grant of $5,000 to conduct a strategic review of the club through Leisure Networks.
They have also been leaders in using the Bowls Connect system.
Still Highton has plans. A key plank of their future is having a covered green. They currently have lighting on the greens, which also helps with functions.
But as Wendy says, the community atmosphere of the club is its trump card.
“I think we’ve got a very nice clubhouse, there’s a good feel when you walk into our club.”