If you ever make it to Perth, Australia, the one of the ‘must-sees’ for lawn bowlers has to be the Mosman Park Bowling Club.
There’s nothing exceptional about the facilities … although the club does have three greens. But that’s quite common over here. Instead it’s the view from those greens.
The club overlooks the Swan River estuary towards the high-rises of the CBD. It’s a view that residents of the suburb of Mosman Park pay millions for. Literally. In fact the club is known by every lawn bowler in Western Australia as ‘the club with the million dollar view’. And frankly, that may be understating its value!
Although the land itself is council-owned (as virtually all the bowling club land in Western Australia is), it could be worth something north of $50 million.
Of course it’s easy to argue that whilst you’re concentrating on a game of bowls, what’s the big deal about a view. And for New Zealand bowlers brought up playing bowls inside a 6 foot corrugated iron fence, that may be true. But the view effectively funds the club.
The view not only attracts the 130 or so full-playing members and the 1,000 or so social members, but importantly, 350+ functions every year. That includes the more than 500 people who turn up for the spectacular annual fireworks display held on Australia Day.
If you’re breakfasting post wedding, celebrating a milestone anniversary or marking a big birthday, the Mosman Park Bowling Club has become one of Perth’s popular venues. “That all means big money for the club,” explains outgoing Manager, Paul Walker. “Sometimes in the summer we can be having two events a day here, one after the other, and the club members are still able to play on the two reserved greens.”
In fact there’s so many events that Mosman Park has a ‘corporate green’ – one of the three greens is earmarked for use at events. “It’s very, very slow,” observes full-time greenkeeper, Chris McKenna. “Maybe 9 or 10 seconds!!”
The greens have a surface we don’t see in New Zealand. It’s called Greenlees Park Couch. And to the New Zealand eye, looks very dry. It’s a surface you’d expect in Australia – particularly in Perth, a city that is built on sand.
Chris gets 15 or 16 seconds out of the two ‘member’ greens. “Sometimes I’m mowing them twice a day,” he says.
Although lawn bowls in Perth is still concentrated about the summer months, the weather is so kind here that clubs remain open all year round. “We call it ‘social bowls’ in winter,” says Paul, “but that means we’re still playing on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays here at this club.”
Paul is off shortly to manage the North Beach Bowling Club, which is as the name suggests on the northern beaches of Perth. He leaves not only a wonderful view at the Mosman Park Bowling Club, but a club that has just been promoted to the top ‘Premier League’ in the Western Australia Pennants.
Presumably, he’ll now just have to tough it out working near the white sands, azure seas and rolling surf of the Western Australia coast… while in New Zealand we put up with another bowls-less winter!