Waipukurau Bowling Club : A bowling outpost in the Hawkes Bay

August 31, 2021

Everyone’s heard of Waipukurau, or ‘Waipuk’ as it’s affectionately called.  It’s one of the towns that comes to mind when we think of places quintessentially ‘Kiwi’ … a town that is seemingly humble and unassuming.  Just as Kiwis like to be.

Unfortunately, it’s not on many bucket lists.  Even ‘Lonely Planet’ finds Waipukurau too lonely to make a mention of.  Perhaps because it’s right on latitude 40º south, situated in a lonely no-man’s land between Hawkes Bay and the Manawatu.

The Waipukurau Bowling Club also finds itself in a no-man’s land of bowling … the southernmost outpost in the Hawkes Bay Bowls Centre, yet with more in common with the Dannevirke Bowling Club 50km down State Highway 2 in Manawatu – a club it plays a home and away tournament with every year.

It’s the consequence of dividing up the map of New Zealand into ‘centres’.  Someone ends up an ‘outpost’ : Takaka, Turangi, Houhora, Waipukurau and more.

But if the Waipukurau Bowling Club is an ‘outpost’, it certainly doesn’t look like, and behave like an ‘outpost’.

“We’ve got 80 members here,” says Club Secretary, Lyn Duncan, “70 of which are full-playing.  And we’ve got two greens … one grass and one artificial.”

That’s hardly ‘outpost’ stuff.

“We’ve been around since 1908,” chips in Club Captain, Doug Bevridge.  “Perhaps even longer than that.  There’s mention of bowls being played before then, down the road where the Williams & Kettle Seed Stores are … and where the Rose Garden and Memorial Hall are. But the club was formally established on this site in 1908, which also included croquet.”

“The club purchased the formerly leased bowling green and croquet green land in 1916, and a pavilion was built in 1920.  The land for the second bowling green was bought in 1944.”

Despite having all these facilities, a motion to admit women to the club was specifically voted down in 1947.

“Women weren’t allowed to play here until 1948,” says Lyn. “And even when I joined in the mid-eighties, we still had to use what is now the soil shed for a pavilion.  It was fitted with a makeshift kitchen, but no bar.  We were affiliated with the East Coast Women’s Bowling Association.”

“Amalgamation didn’t come here until 2000, when the Hawkes Bay Centre amalgamated.”

Today, a quarter of the club are women.  Most of the club are retired, but with an average age in their early 70’s, with a lot of bowling life in them yet.

“Our membership is probably static,” says Club Treasurer, Sue Coppinger.  “We’re manging to replace the odd member that stops playing or leaves.  That’s probably just a reflection of the Waipukurau population, which is relatively static as well.”

Despite this stasis, it doesn’t mean the Waipukurau Bowling Club doesn’t hold some popular tournaments.

“The Men’s Two-day in December and the Ladies Gala in February always attract full fields,” says Lyn.  “In fact we have to restrict the men’s because we only have a bar licence for 90.”

“Many of them keep coming back for the scones,” observes Lyn tongue-in-cheek.  “We’re famous for our cheese scones.  One year we put on pikelets instead.  We weren’t popular!”

“They also keep coming back to the Ladies Gala for the huge multi-raffle.  There’s 50 prizes …. all donated.”

Of course, out-of-town bowlers who venture to the tournaments at this ‘outpost’ know they’ll also receive good country fare in between games : whether it’s pie, potato and vege, or a change-up to corned beef, potato and vege.

Sounds great.  Why not put Waipukurau on your bowls calendar now.