Over recent years Kembla Heights Bowling and Recreation Club has fallen on hard times, facing financial issues that were only exacerbated by the COVID pandemic.
But the three directors and its members hope to see the club nestled below the peak of Mount Kembla revived, and restoring its green is an important part of this plan.
Now greenkeeping students from Yallah TAFE have lent a hand to help the club do just that, thanks to a fortuitous conversation between their teacher Dave Little and his mate, club director Clem Haywood.
"As a struggling little bowling club... the green was in disrepair and needed a good resurface," Mr Haywood said.
This week 14 apprentices, in their second year of the sports turf management course, have been at work at the bowling club, scarifying, aerating, fertilising and top-dressing the green, which should be ready for use in four to six weeks.
Yallah TAFE horticulture head teacher Ben Garnero said the work helped the apprentices meet the outcomes of their course while helping the community.
Mr Little said the apprentices had worked hard and done a "fantastic" job.
The bowling club was built by miners some 60 years ago and Mr Haywood said it had been open ever since, with the exception of COVID disruptions.
"[It's] a little gem in Wollongong that's hidden away," he said.
But the club has fallen on some tough times, losing bowlers and then its affiliation with the Bowls NSW Illawarra zone.
Over the past 16 years it has also had to contend with the long-term closure of Harry Graham Drive and a fire which closed its restaurant.
"It's a struggle getting patrons up here, especially when you don't offer services like food," Mr Haywood said.
But he and his fellow directors, Bryan and Annie O'Keefe, and their members are optimistic.
"It's a slow and steady process, but we'll get there," Mr Haywood said.
With a fresh green, Mr Haywood hopes the club can rejoin the Illawarra zone (zone 16), reintroduce pennants and host tournaments.
Longtime member Bob Upton said he hoped to see pennants played back at the club within two years, once it had strengthened its finances.
The club is also working to attract social visitors: on Sundays people can enjoy barefoot bowls and music, while on the last Sunday of the month they can also tuck into meals from a food truck.
"It's really good, it's a really good family-orientated environment," Mr Haywood said.
"As it stands, our social bowlers are the backbone of our club at the moment, and they do a wonderful job," Mr Upton said.
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