Victoria Bowling Club is a bowlers’ bowling club.
Nudged into the shoulder of Mt Victoria, the club proudly remains a centre of competitive bowls in Wellington which has sadly seen off other city bowling clubs like Thorndon, Kilbirnie, Vogelmorn, Berhampore, Terawhiti, Hataitai and Wellington.
Sure, the club no longer has 4 greens. The old women’s club greens have been converted by the council into a ‘community garden’. But the two remaining cotula greens are lined by a spectator embankment anticipating the high-quality bowls entertainment that takes place there. The greens are a real treat… thanks to the former greenkeeper who has been lured back to the club.
They need to be. The club’s competitive bowlers expect greens that enable competitive bowls.
After all, Victoria has a record to defend – the Club has won a national title every year for the last 6 years running.
Leigh Griffin was part of a composite team who won the Women’s Fours at Wellington in 2019, Dunedin in 2018 and North Harbour in 2016, as well as winning the Women’s Singles at North Harbour in 2015. She’s won 4 national titles to date.
Gary Lawson and Neville Rodda won the Men’s Pairs at Taranaki in 2017. And Gary Lawson was part of a composite team who won the Men’s Pairs and Men’s Fours at Dunedin in 2018.
Helen King won the Women’s Singles at Dunedin in 2014. And Kirsten Edwards was part of a composite team who won the Women’s Four at Taranaki in 2017. As if that record wasn’t enough, the photos of 13 Centre Gold Star holders adorn the walls of the clubhouse – 7 men : Lou Newman, Wayne Coleman, Richard Corry, Laurie Guy, Raymond Martin, Bradley Down and Tim Toomey – and 6 women : Leigh Griffin (she’s won 30 centre titles), Helen King, Kay Carr, Lisa White, Nina de Munnik and Kirsten Edwards.
The club has a serious bowling pedigree.
Immediate Past-President and Green Superintendent Lou Newman is unapologetic. “I know that a lot of other bowling clubs put an emphasis on the social aspect of bowls … on and off the green. We tend to attract members who want to play competitively … to play against the best. They want to improve their game, and be the best they can. Bowls is no different than any other sport where people are motivated to play socially or to play competitively … or both.”
Victoria has 90 full-playing members – about the number many other clubs have around the country. “The difference is that winning a club title here is probably more difficult than any other club in New Zealand. You’re up against it!”
And winning the Victoria Bowling Club’s big tournament is even more challenging.
“Every year in late September we hold the Victoria Invitation Pairs,” says Lou. “Where 32 teams are invited to play in the tournament. It’s always oversubscribed, so we try to select the best 32 teams we can. The tournament just keeps on getting better.”
Despite this, social bowls aren’t completely forgotten.
For instance, business house bowls has always been popular at Victoria. And for good reason. The concept was actually started here by Lou and his partner-in-innovation, Stu Scott.
The club also attracts a large number of corporate events – whether it is just to use the clubrooms or to use the clubrooms as well as have a roll-up on the green. “It’s a great spot for an event,” says Lou, “People can easily after-party at nearby Courtenay Place.”
However, socializing at the club wasn’t so easy 30 years ago.
“Before amalgamation, the women weren’t allowed upstairs to the bar,” recounts Lou. “They had to get a male friend to buy them a drink and bring it downstairs! We’ve come a long way.”
Next time you’re in Wellington, pop by the club. Drive up Pirie Street, but if you end up going through the Hataitai Bus Tunnel you’ve not only upset the council, but gone too far.
The club’s right there at the tunnel entrance on the left.