Left to right : Peter Rochester, Faye Lacey, Dave Palmer, Brian Doyle
Like the United States has the ‘twin cities’ of Minneapolis and Saint Paul in the state of Minnesota, New Zealand has the twin cities of Napier and Hastings in the Hawkes Bay.
But unlike Minneapolis and Saint Paul which are connected by bridges across the Mississippi, Napier and Hastings are connected by roads wending their way through the rich horticultural abundance of the Heretaunga Plains, bouncing from one roundabout to the next.
However, a once quiet village in the Bay is crashing the twins’ party, and Havelock North is emerging as a third thriving urban area … attracting Kiwis with its twin digit decile lifestyle.
And the Havelock North Bowling Club is thriving as well.
“We’re verging on 200 members,” says Club President and former High Performance Coach for New Zealand Golf, Brian Doyle. “Almost 150 of those are full-playing members, and the remainder are either casual or social members. About a third of all our members are women.”
“We’re also really pleased that over 40 members are juniors … we’ve had a great membership surge over the last few years as Havelock North ‘loses the quiet’, and we’re expecting our membership to increase even further over the coming years, as the word gets out about what a great place Havelock North is to live.”
“Luckily we have two greens here. And two artificial ones at that, so we can play bowls all year round. You’ll find someone down at the club every day having a roll-up.”
But it’s not just the attraction of Havelock North which is swelling membership.
“We’ve got a wonderful coaching programme here,” explains Club Publicity Officer, Peter Rochester. “Every Sunday you’ll regularly find 20 or 30 members here, getting tips to improve their game. Sure … they’re playing bowls socially, but they also want to be able to bring their best game to the green.”
“We get 75 or so bowlers on club days every Wednesday over summer,” adds Peter. “And we still get 60 or so over winter.”
Havelock North is one of the stronger clubs in the Hawkes Bay Centre. But it’s a centre where the competition is pretty stiff.
“We’ve never won any national titles out of the club,” admits Peter. “Although if the Astrograss Triples count, I was in a team with Tony Mairs and Sue Mairs which won at Kapiti about 20 years ago!”
“John Granger also skipped a team of Bruce Stewart, Graeme Fulford and Dave Palmer to victory in the Taranaki Fours in 2002 … the club was pretty proud of them.”
But it hasn’t always been all beer and skittles at Havelock North.
“Although the club’s been around since 1916, it came close to winding up,” says Club Treasurer Faye Lacey. “But members threw a few quid each into the kitty at the time and saved the club. Since then, we’ve purchased land from the council for the carpark, and brought the old Masonic Lodge building next door which provides a great rental income.”
These days the finances of the club run like a well-oiled machine.
“A number of years ago, we installed 48 bench seats around the greens,” says former Club President Dave Palmer. “48 members chipped in $370 each to have a plaque acknowledging their donation on the back of a seat.”
COVID-permitting, the seats will be well-appreciated by the players in the Club’s signature tournament at the end of August.
“We get 20 teams here for the Men’s Classic,” says Dave. “They play singles, pairs, triples and fours over the two days. The team with the most wins takes out the tournament.”
“It’s always very popular … I think because it’s at the start of the season. Although our Christmas Hams in December is always very popular as well.”
One member in particular has spent years enjoying the popularity of those tournaments : Don Clapperton. Don may well be one of the longest serving club members in New Zealand
“’Clappy’ joined the club 60 years ago in 1961,” says Brian. “On top of winning his share of club titles, he’s also put in a mountain of work at the club … particularly with the greens. Clappy became a Life Member back in 1977 for all the work he had done … and he’s done another lifetime of work since then!”