Kaikoura Bowling Club : Triumph and Disaster


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Mention the Kaikoura Bowling Club and the first question that likely comes to mind is ‘What happened to the club during the Kaikoura Earthquake?’

“Well, the short answer is … nothing,” exclaims Club Secretary Judy York. “Whilst the earthquake was a disaster for our club members (many of whom suffered substantial damages to their homes) and a disaster for the residents of Kaikoura, the township itself, and for the surrounding regions of Hurunui and Marlborough, the list of damages to the club wouldn’t fill a post-it note.”

“We had a bit of cracking of the plaster internal walls of the clubhouse … it wasn’t even worth claiming insurance on. A club member fixed it in his spare time.”

The green was much the same. While liquefaction erupted over the greens of Christchurch bowling clubs after their 2011 earthquake, the green at Kaikoura remained unblemished and un-undulated … quite amazing given that the whole area, including the seabed just a few hundred metres away, was raised upwards of 5 metres. The low tide mark is now where the high tide mark was.

“I can recall us having to do a bit of remedial topdressing,” says Judy. “But that was about it.”

The earthquake may not have been a big disaster for the club itself, but the 1993 flood certainly was.

“I was a member at the time,” recalls member-since-1969, Viv Butcher. “The Kowhai River which flows beside the main street of the township burst its banks, and water flooded through the club and the central business district. We had over 2 metres storming across the green, and a metre-and-a-half going right through the clubhouse.”

“Fortunately, all the memorabilia : honours boards, trophies, framed photographs and certificates were above the flood mark. And when the water had receded, everyone showed up with a shovel to help move the silt off the green. It was surprising how quickly we got up and running again.”

Despite these two disasters, Kaikoura has also had its share of triumphs.

The first triumph has got to be the beautiful, perfect grass green that rolls out from the clubhouse. It looks beautiful. And plays beautiful.

“We think we’ve got the best green in New Zealand,” claims Judy. And she wouldn’t be wrong.

“We have a great greenkeeper in Mike Mansfield,” says Judy. “He took over from my husband, Mick, when he became too crook to continue. He’d been understudy to Mick for a few years.”

“In turn Mick had been understudy to Jeff Stevens, who was a professional greenkeeper. Jeff made sure that we really had a top-notch green. But even he was adding work that he had been done by his predecessor.”

“When I think about it, we’ve always been lucky to have greenkeepers who know what they’re doing.”

And enjoying such an exceptional green, has no doubt contributed to Kaikoura’s second triumph : highly-competitive mens members.

“We had a great result at this year’s Centre Championships,” says Judy. “The men won the pairs, the triples, the fours and the sevens. The women didn’t do so well, but the overall result was not bad for a club on the geographical edge of the Centre!”

It’s also not bad for a club of just 40 members, only 30 of whom are full-playing.

They’re proud to be continuing a legacy of over one hundred years - the Kaikoura Bowling Club is another one of New Zealand’s many centenarians.

“We were formed back in 1914,” says Viv. “Where the Takahanga Bowling Club is sited now. The decision was made in the 1950s to shift the club to where it is today. Some of the members apparently disagreed with the move, and started a new club called Takahanga on the original site.”

“They erected a simple clubhouse on the new site. And in the 1960’s, they sold excess land enabling them to extend the clubhouse to what you see today.”

And what can be seen today is a great club, that has endured through both triumph and disaster.