Bowlo rescued from the brink

Tamborine Mountain Bowls Club president Rob Tailor
Tamborine Mountain Bowls Club president Rob Tailor

Bowling clubs are as iconic in Australia as meat pies and the mountain’s own Club Tamborine is a popular hub for the locals to gather and enjoy a family get-together or a cold drink with friends on a Friday night.

Weekends see the greens often filled with bare feet and laughter as amateurs try their luck with barefoot bowling.

The Club has a long history since its inception in the early 1920s when Blanche Bayne donated a block of land at the current Club site and set up a croquet club. 

After the war Blanche gifted the land to the Tamborine Mountain RSL Sub-Branch who later transferred the trusteeship of the land to the Council on the proviso the Tamborine Mountain Bowls Club ran the commercial enterprise and house the RSL free of charge.

In September 2019, when Rob Tailor took over the presidency of Club Tamborine, as it is now known, the historic venue was more like a graveyard than a thriving community hub – a far cry from its heyday.

“I found a very rundown club, with unhappy staff and according to some locals some undesirable patrons,” the workplace health and safety executive recalled.

“The playing greens were just paddocks full of weeds and there were only eight bowling club members a huge drop from the large number of members at its height.”

After six months of going there several times a week he thought if he got on to the committee, with his previous knowledge of running his own businesses, he might be able to make a difference. When nominations opened for presidency, he put his hand up.

His first task was to try to increase revenue to address years of trading losses, while he and his board worked on a strategy to turn the business around, increase membership and restore its vibrancy.

“On Australia day 2020 we had pig races as that was the only way to attract people,” he laughed.

Then COVID hit, which ended up being somewhat of a saviour for the Club, along with the arrival of a talented greenkeeper, Damian Bartlett (Damo).

“The first thing Damo said was he can’t fix the greens without water,” Rob explained.

The Club had been getting water from a neighbour’s bore but when that agreement was terminated, they were successful in getting a grant from the Gambling Community Benefit Fund to sink a bore.

“That changed everything, and we had unlimited water. Damo renovated the greens and it started to bring us back,” he said.

Twelve months later the greens were in top shape, the members flocked back and the Club was chosen by Bowls Australia to host the Australian Commonwealth Games team’s practice rounds. It then hosted the Trans-Tasman lawn bowls competition which was streamed live around the world.

Rob’s vision for the club has been unwavering.

“I wanted it to be very much for the community, like a hub,” he said.

“This community is very tourist oriented and locals don’t have a lot of options to get away from the high prices tourists pay for food and beverages.”

After much-needed renovations membership of the Bowling Club bounced back to close to 60 people and the Club is now well patronised with an upbeat family atmosphere.

Rob has made sure the Club focuses on community support, providing water for the rural volunteer and auxiliary fire brigades, supporting the Lions Club Mountain Mates disabled bowlers, the netball club, scouts and the Bush Rats.

As he prepares to hand over presidency he said proudly: “I have achieved what I set out to do. I felt I could make a difference and I believe I have. 

“If I hadn’t put my name up when I did, the members agree that we likely wouldn’t have a Club right now.

“I didn’t do alone though. I had a good and consistent board supporting me the whole way through and the current manager and staff have been fantastic.”

With pennants season approaching the club is looking for new members to join the Bowls Club or the Croquet Club and enjoy the competitions.