Members of the Oak Bay Lawn Bowling club pose with a kiwi statue in Queenstown during their trip around New Zealand.

Bowled over by Kiwi hospitality

31 recreational lawn bowlers from Greater Victoria went on a trip to the land of kiwis, organized by the Oak Bay Lawn Bowling Club.

The fact that lawn bowling kills more people annually than scuba diving – as advertised on the country’s tourism website – did not deter Oak Bay resident Patricia Thomas from a lawn bowling vacation in New Zealand.

Thomas is one of 31 recreational lawn bowlers from throughout Greater Victoria who went on a three-week trip to the land of kiwis, organized by the Oak Bay Lawn Bowling Club. The group bowled in six cities and towns but interestingly, half of the attendees would not have been allowed into at least one of the clubs they visited just a few years ago.

“It was only in 2000 when they started allowing women to bowl in the Auckland club,” Thomas says. “We found out that it was a man’s domain before.”

Lawn bowler Joan Roberts was also surprised with the turf New Zealanders play on, which is different from Canadian clubs.

“A lot of them are artificial and they don’t bowl on grass,” says Roberts. “The natural one is a type of weed that sort of looks like grass and it’s so much faster than our greens. Touch the ball and it sort of goes.”

This was Louise Mason’s first trip to New Zealand and she was also surprised with how fast the greens were, but also how slow the game was to play. The greens in Oak Bay are rated 12 to 14 seconds, while the greens in New Zealand are about 18 seconds. The New Zealanders use narrower bowls and each player bowls only twice, whereas in Canada, each person gets three or four bowls, depending on whether they’re playing a doubles or triples game.

“It’s a hard concept to understand unless you bowl,” Mason says. “I found it slow because for one thing, you only get to bowl twice and then you have to stand around, and it’s not very forgiving because you don’t have a chance to correct. You get two chances to get where you want (the bowl) to go instead of three or four.”

Roberts says the opportunity to bowl and meet locals made the vacation more memorable. Discussions ranged from Aboriginal issues to being an export-based economy and protecting wildlife and nature.

“There are so many similarities between them and us,” says Roberts. “It gave us an opportunity to get to know the people. They were warm and friendly … we had a wonderful experience.”

The group visited Auckland, Rotorua, Wellington, Queenstown, Dunedin and Christchurch between Feb. 20 and March 14. They overnighted on a farm, received welcome receptions at each club and a local newspaper wrote about the visit.

More information about the club can be found at bowlsoakbay.ca.

Did you know?

Important in lawn bowling is the pace of the green – its speed.

The number of seconds for a bowl to roll 90 feet from its point of deliverance to where it comes to rest is defined as its speed. n A speed of 12 seconds is acceptable, but for competitive bowlers, a much faster green is required.

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