About the Club

Sussex Inlet Bowling Club pride ourselves on providing a ‘home away from home’ feel in our club, so that members and patrons feel they are in their own lounge room when at the club, enjoying a meal, a drink or one of our many social and entertainment offerings.

We are your one stop venue for lawn bowls, fishing, junior sport, entertainment and community involvement.

We focus on providing a range of services to our members and the local community.


Our History

February 12, 1955

Dr Ern Smithers purchases land

Dr Ern Smithers purchases three cottages from Guff Glanville. The remainder of his property became Ocean View Estate. Living in one cottage and pulling down the second, Dr Smithers made the third cottage into a club room for the start of what was later to become known as the Sussex Inlet Bowling Club.

February 12, 1955

December 9, 1957

Sussex Inlet Bowling Club established

The Sussex Inlet Bowling Club was established on  December 9, 1957. R Hastings was the president.

December 9, 1957

March 12, 1958

Dr Ern Smithers donates land to bowling club

In 1958 Dr Smithers donated some property to the Bowling Club.

March 12, 1958

October 30, 1966

Clubhouse & greens officially opened

On Sunday, 30th October, 1966 was the official opening of the Clubhouse and Greens.

October 30, 1966

Mission Statement & Values

To create and continue to develop unique, memorable experiences that bring our community, guests and team together, through our diverse entertainment and quality service, in a safe, happy and inclusive venue that is environmentally responsible.

The Sussex Inlet Bowling Club promotes the following values:

Our Board

View the board members, and view our board charter.

Full History of Sussex Inlet Bowling Club

Origins of our Club

Ern Smithers donated the land for the bowling club and greens in 1960s. Ern was the local doctor. Ern and his wife Win had 2 children Joan and Claire who are now in their 70s. Ern’s residence was roughly where the auditorium and restaurant are now positioned. He had a pool between his house and the Club, and a high brick wall separating the pool from the Club. There was a grass embankment down from Ern Smithers’ residence with seats along the bank, Ern looked out onto the green, named in his honour. There was a staircase downstairs leading to between the greens from the back door of the Club.

Ern’s wife Win Smithers & greenkeeper’s mother Marie Orth, Mais Comber and Rene (Irene) Hamilton were on their way to bowls at Gerringong when they were crossing the railway line, Marie and Win tragically lost their lives. There was a photo of the four women on the wall in the airlock of the lady bowler’s bathroom for a long while after that tragedy.

Setting up and Running the Club

Stan Ashard lived with his wife Kath (where Bruce and Marilyn Wood now live). There used to be a house in between the Ashard/Wood house and the Club (where the parking lot now is). Stan was obsessed with bowling. He would personally invite high ranking players into our Club. He had a truck and would cart in the kegs and other supplies for the Club. Stan handmade the upholstered old bar, the bar was situated where the high stools are, in front of the pool table. Stan’s wife worked behind the bar. They had two children Cheryl and Sue.
The greenkeeper’s shed is in the same position now as then, the underground walls thought to be knocked out by Stan Ashard. The other roller door was used as a soil shed, still there at the side gate.

The Club had south facing sliding windows – when the windows were open people used to call out the window to bowlers on the green! In summer, when it looked like a southerly was brewing, patrons would open all the windows and cool down the Club as there was no air-conditioning.

The Bowling Greens

The Bowling greens were built by the community in the early 60s.

The first greenkeeper at Sussex Inlet Bowling Club was in the early 60s, and was Adrian McGuire. Donald Orth became an apprentice in 1967, doing a 12 month greenkeeper’s course by correspondence, then became the head greenkeeper. Greg Arnold worked as an apprentice to Donald. From 1971 Norm Lewer became the head greenkeeper.

Greg Arnold was an apprentice greenkeeper at the newly formed Sussex Inlet Bowling Club from 1968-1972/3. Greg started helping out on the grounds of the Club when he was 15, helping his dad, Barry Arnold.

Greg left for Sydney for 12 months, then returned to Sussex Inlet and became a greenkeeper at the RSL in 1974. His wife Lynne Arnold worked in the Bowling Club’s office when Bob Benjamin was Secretary-Manager. Greg began bowling around 17 years of age. He resides in Cudmirrah with his wife Lynne and is the current Commodore of our local sailing club.

The Ashard green – was made of hybrid bent grass while the Smithers green was made of common couch grass. There was NO town water to water the greens, so behind the Smithers green bowlers and other members built an in-ground water holding tank. The volunteers dammed the natural spring on Lakehaven Drive western side, fencing off the dam and ran a pipeline through the Pacificana Estate via the stormwater drain that fed the holding tank.

George Cornish, the Bowling Club Treasurer used his dog Toby to pull the string line through the underground drains, he would put Toby down the drain and call him a few hundred metres away and up the other drain Toby would come with the string line attached to his collar! The string line was used to then tie to the poly pipe.

Lights on the Smithers Green were installed late 60s early 70s, Stan Ashard made the poles, Barry Arnold did all the electrical, Greg Arnold and others helped erect the light poles. That began a lot of night bowling but playing on dewy greens meant there was a lot of patching up to do the next day!

Successful Socially and Sporting

The Bowling Club was ‘the social place to be’ on Friday evenings. In the main bar area was a parquetry dance floor and there was darts and bowls every Friday evening.

We were considered one of the best clubs in the district and Pennant positions were highly prized.

The Bowling Club 300 Club (held on Fridays), initially called the 100 club, began in 60s.

Host of Coast competition was massive in those days and an annual event held in May.

One of the jobs for everyone on site on Monday mornings (and some other mornings too) was to count the poker machine money. Those involved included – cleaner, greenkeepers, cellarman, any directors and Stan Ashard.

There was a low hedge of golden pines on the river side of the bowling green fence for many years.

Raffles started with Soccer Club when they were up and running later in the Club’s history.

Other Important Characters from the Club's Origins

There are 3 photos in the history cabinet, on the left hand side Phil Martin who was a top bowler, he and his wife Ida managed the motel, Phil became the Greens Director. Next photo, to the right is of Bob Benjamin, he donated some memorabilia, he was a top bowler and was a Secretary-Manager. On the right side of the history cabinet is a photo and some history pertaining to Stan Ashard.

Wilfred Bull – Mitch’s grandfather, was a cellarman for a long time, he left and went to the RSL again working as the cellarman for years. In the early days he was a great bowler, represented our Club at bowls. He was a larrikin, a real character!

Other Facilities Nearby the Club

There was a fish and chip shop at the start of the driveway (where the flats are). On the opposite corner Arthur Strutt lived in that house and there were also 4-5 cabins owned by the Combined Services RSL Club, run and managed by Vic and Myra Geddes.

There was a track near the river’s edge across the front of Seacrest and the Club to the front of what was called Pacificana Estate, a new housing estate where Greg Arnold’s parents lived (their’s was the first house built there!), in front of pre-Lions Park with a wooden bridge across to Alamein Road.

Thanks to Greg & Lynne Arnold for the stories, and thanks to Sally Willmott for compiling this summary.

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