Tom Huntley

$1200 just to step on a green - and bowls calls itself cheap

IS BOWLS pricing itself out of players? We keep being told by those who control our game that it's cheap to play. But is it?

To join a club it costs about $100, cheap compared with some other sports. But $60 of the club fee goes to state headquarters in Sydney so clubs have to increase their membership fees to get at least a workable share.

This year's outcry when Bowls NSW slugged every affiliated bowler an extra $14 in state fees indicates many bowlers are hurting financially.

Before joining a club a bowler has to be outfitted: Bowls $550, bowls bag $100, bowls measure $50, club shirt $70, trousers $100, belt $20, jacket $70, raincoat $50, bowls shoes $100, hat/cap $50, incidentals such as bowls wax $7, sunscreen $10.

That's more than $1200 - and the player hasn't stepped on to the green.

To play socially it costs $10 green fees. Another $15 if the bowler has two drinks in the traditional after-game snort with the opponent and one beforehand. The club raffle takes $5. Many bowlers play three days a week - that's $30 green fees, $45 for refreshments, $15 for the club raffle.

It amounts to about $90 a week, not much change from $5000 a year. That's on top of the $1200 or so it costs to be outfitted.

Most of the gear lasts longer than one year but fashion-crazy clubs regard their outfit as out of date if it's a year old and replace it, handing the cost to the bowler.

Additionally, the keen competitor keeps up with ever-changing biases by buying bowls about as often as changing shirts.

Those in charge of our sport should stop bemoaning the decline in playing numbers and work to keep the game affordable.

Perhaps a free day - no green fees - would bring back those who have cut back their play because of the increases.

When the club puts up its green fees from $7.50 to $10 and a bowler prunes playing days from three to one, the club loses.

Instead of getting $22.50 it gets $10 and misses out on two days' clubhouse trading.

If that's sound business, I'll eat my bowls cloth.

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