A Holiday of Bowls

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John McBeth

A bloke treads a dangerous path when he takes his wife on holiday and decides to poke his nose into Bowls clubs along the way. But that’s what I did on a trip this month to the picturesque Fiordland area.

It wasn’t planned and started when we visited Arrowtown, having flown into Queenstown. In 2008 I’d been the guest speaker at the 100-year celebrations of the Arrowtown Bowls Club so decided to drive by and see if much had changed. I was also hoping an old mate and former rugby writer Bob Howitt, who’s a longtime member of the Arrowtown club, would be there.

Parked outside the club were two magnificent Indian Motorcycles which piqued my interest. The owners of the motorbikes were Andy from Wellington and an English friend, Richard, who hails from Somerset. A journey through the South Island was their plan, and their itinerary included playing bowls, darts, and pool wherever they could. For a small green fee they were having a superb time and both were quite keen to get more seriously involved with bowls when their holiday ended. Andy said he’d picked up a few tips while watching Bowls3Five on Sky last year.

Richard – left & Andy – right

Travelling south towards Te Anau, I couldn’t resist pulling into the tiny settlement of Kingston- once famous for the Kingston Flyer train. The bowls club there is adjacent to the Golf club and looks as though it’s mainly for visitors but, like all the clubs I visited, it boasts a magnificent Southern backdrop of trees and hills.

The Te Anau club eagerly welcomes visitors to its superb club and meticulous green. After I’d had a roll up with a local and a visitor from Burnside, I was invited to a BBQ. “ Oh we’ll have about thirty here.” said the local player who was charged with ensuring there was enough to eat. I missed that BBQ- something to do with a wedding anniversary the same day. I couldn’t push my luck too far!

Te Anau Bowling Club

Lots of New Zealanders take part in golf road trips, but there’s a top Bowls trip to be had in South Westland. Starting in Te Anau, I visited clubs in Tuatapere, Orepuki, Riverton, Otautau and Nightcaps. I missed a few others ( there are around 40 clubs in the larger Southland area), but these clubs are all situated in small towns full of friendly folk, top eating and drinking establishments and excellent bowling greens.

This little journey was a perfect reminder that bowls is an important part of rural New Zealand. It also made me enthusiastic about returning with some mates and playing a bowls circuit down there over the holiday period