Once the realm of social seniors in Napisan-clean whites, lawn bowls has been adopted by a younger, bare-footed, beer-sinking generation. Now that Sydney's days are growing longer and warmer, you'll find them taking over greens everywhere. While some get pretty serious about showing off their skills, for others, the bowling bit is just an excuse for getting together with mates, spending a lazy afternoon in the sun and soaking up the views offered by the city's many beautifully situated clubs. Here are our favourite Sydney spots for bowling, beer and barefootedness.
THE GREENS, NORTH SYDNEY
Previously known as Norths Bowlo and founded in 1888, this is the second oldest bowling club in New South Wales. In 2014, the site was snapped up by ex-Grounds of Alexandria couple Lilly and Nathan Fasan, transformed and renamed The Greens. They kept the bowling green, which is back dropped by extraordinary harbour views, and added a casual eatery, bar, cafe and garden.
BONDI BOWLING CLUB
On Boxing Day 2015, this backstreet beauty celebrated her 80th birthday. You'll find her hidden away from Sydney's busiest strip of sand, next to Barracluff Park, in North Bondi. That said, it's the laid back, beachy atmosphere that gives Bondi Bowlo its appeal. Sessions are booked in two-hour blocks and, if you're travelling with 12 or more mates, give at least 48 hours notice.
Another Eastern Suburbs favourite, Clovelly Bowling Club is the most spectacularly positioned club on the list, being perched right on the edge of Clovelly's sheer cliffs. Get a stroll in beforehand, by travelling by the Bondi Beach to Coogee coastal walk. Barefoot bowls are just 15 per person, including a beginner's lesson. Plus, you're welcome to take your own meaty treats and use the club's free barbecue.
MANLY BOWLING CLUB
Add a ferry ride and maybe a dip in the surf to your bowling experience at Manly Bowling Club. For non-hardcore bowlers, the best time to swing by is when Rock 'n' Bowl takes over. This phenomenon was started by ex-Wallaby and all-round entertainer Bruce Malouf. Every session includes all gear, bowling lessons, games officers, music, flood lighting and heating.
MARRICKVILLE BOWLING CLUB
Another inner west institution combining bowling with live music is Marrickville Bowlo. Barefoot Bowls is a super-casual affair here, costing just $10 a go, with instruction thrown in. Should your sweet, sweet victories make you hungry, pop into Danny's Bistro for a $10 special. The gig guide features a stack of varying music, from singer-songwriters to jazz bands to DJs.
One of the inner west's most fun bowling facilities is Petersham Bowlo. Sessions are 10 bucks a go and are on offer anytime during club hours. There's night bowling, too, which goes on between 5pm and 9pm. Inside, there's a busy live music schedule, featuring independent acts, so once you've conquered the green, you may as well hang around for a tune or two.
Another north shore bowlo with water views to inspire your best game is Waverton North Sydney. Just $12 will buy you two hours of time on the green, gear included, and if you're a newbie, an extra $3 will get you a quick starter lesson from an expert staff member. Should you work up an appetite, step into Berry's Bar Brasserie for brekkie or dinner.
THE DIDDY (LONGUEVILLE SPORTING CLUB)
Formerly called the Lane Cove Bowling Club, this institution has been hosting matches since 1938. No one really knows where the nickname 'The Diddy' came from, but one SMH journalist wrote, "The club came to be known as the Diddy-die-Diddy because, supposedly, if an old member hadn't been seen around for some time, other old members would be heard to ask: 'Did he die, did he?'" For 10 smackaroos, you can bowl for as long as you like.
Head further west for a mellow arvo in the sun at Concord Bowlo. Surrounded by bushland, this place feels like it's miles away from the city and has a friendly atmosphere to match. Barefoot bowls are priced at $10 for up to four hours, with gear and a lesson chucked in. Head inside for affordable yet generous food specials.
GYMEA BOWLING CLUB
Ruling the southern suburbs' casual bowling scene is Gymea Bowlo. It's one of the biggest clubs in the Sutherland Shire and there are three state-of-the-art greens, surrounded by leafy gardens. Barefoot bowls sessions are $12 per person, but don't happen every day, so call up before heading along. For a hearty feed, dig into a mega protein hit at the onsite Gymea Grill.