Lighthouse Club – Torquay Bowls Club

by Team BV

Torquay Bowls Club – A Case Study 


Torquay Bowls Club was recently named Bowls Australia’s 2017 Australian Club of the Year. 

Recognition as the best club in Australia is a long way from where the Victorian coastal club found itself a little over a decade ago. Struggling for membership and to connect with a changing community, Torquay changed its approach, embraced the community, and introduced a Twilight Bowls program which was highly successful.

Now, Torquay Bowls Club finds itself among Victoria’s biggest membership clubs. 

How Twilight Bowls changed the game 

Twilight Bowls had its origins in a Rookies program started at the club in the late 1990s which was a fundraiser for the club. 

The current Twilight Bowls program was started in 2006-07 by Ian and Maureen Gribble, with about 20 interested bowlers from the Rookies program. 

In Year 2, the club did two things which worked

 Firstly, they took out a newspaper ad for Twilight Bowls and were swamped on their opening night.

 Secondly, the club identified a membership category for Twilight bowlers. Originally, as fully affiliated players, for $70, twilight members could access all Twilight bowls nights. Now, as a Club Affiliated player, Twilight members can play all 16 Twilight Bowls nights, play Pennant bowls and bowl anywhere else in Australia. 

In 2010, changes within the club included the formation of a Twilight Sub-committee, allowing the Twilight bowlers to organise and run their own competition, under the guidance of the Bowls Committee. 

The club now estimates that about 30 of their pennant bowlers started in Twilight Bowls, and importantly 50% of the club’s current board started their involvement with the club through Twilight Bowls. Pennant teams have been strengthened and rejuvenated, it’s easier to fill club positions, and Twilight Bowlers feel an integral part of the club.

Strong, new-look governance structure 

A total reconstruction of all aspects of the Club’s Governance has been a huge contributor to the club’s success.  

2008 – saw a restructure of the club’s board to include Membership, Business and Facilities portfolios for directors, with a focus on improving the club’s image in the community, marketing and the decline in membership. 

2017 – after further review, there are now portfolios of Strategic Development, Compliance, Marketing, Events and more. 

Compliance is a huge focus, with the review of current policies and the development of new policies, responding to the ever-changing needs of the club.  

Improved focus on Member services by – the provision of an EFTPOS outlet to pay subscriptions; online payment of subscriptions; advent of Social Media (via club website; Facebook and Instagram); mail chimp email communication; simplification of membership structures; electronic membership cards; increased amenities and more transparent governance. 

The decision to employ five paid staff has assisted in the management of the club, the operation of the bistro and bar, and the maintenance of the greens. 

The club also holds a mini-board meeting weekly to ensure initiatives are on track. 

50% of the club’s board started their involvement with the club through Twilight Bowls 

Big focus on succession planning 


Tips for other clubs 

Clubs need to respond to the demographics of their communities, and consider how they view themselves within the context of society.  

All directors and committees must work towards one common goal. 

Grasp opportunities when you can and then build on them. 

The Club needs to see itself as a community hub – this is where the community comes to meet and you need to provide something that appeals to the community. For example – increase connections with local sporting clubs and community groups (like Probus and Lions Charity Bowls Day), and encourage them to regularly host bowls events and activities at the club. 

Next Challenges

Improving club communications with members – How do we keep all of members informed when there is so much happening? 

Responding to the growing needs of the club in a timely manner – given that we still rely on a large band of dedicated volunteers who organize and run bowls events; social events; maintain the clubrooms and surrounds, as well as oversee the governance of the club. 

Space within the clubhouse and on the greens – Torquay has almost become too big for its current premises as a result of its success.  They say they’ve outgrown the club in two years and outgrown a recent facilities upgrade. The adoption of a Club Master Plan for future development is planning to address these issues.


Years of innovation in response to social changes within Torquay and the club’s wider environment have completely reshaped the Torquay Bowls Club. 

From a club in decline, separated from its local community by tradition and its status as an enclave for the aged, the club has now reinvented itself by looking hard at its decaying situation and acting in contrast to the increasing number of clubs subsiding into oblivion. 

From a declining membership of 170, Torquay presently has a combined membership of 1009 people compromising 406 affiliated bowlers, and the balance in social members. 

The growth is primarily attributed to the club’s willingness to adapt and change, through influential leadership, strategic planning, governance reform and incorporating a new entry level competition, Twilight Bowls, which brings in some 240 people each week across two weeknight events. 

Through these measures, the club has prospered, with more than 30,000 visitors utilising the club annually, and more than 5,000 barefoot bowlers introduced each year.