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Bowls Green Performance v Tradition

Performance or Tradition?

Over the years I have come up against a lot of friction when I have proposed that a club stops top-dressing its green with sand laden top-dressing compost.

The reasons for stopping this practice are well documented on this site (recap here) so I won’t go over old ground here today.

My guess is that a lot of greens, especially in the South East of the UK will be seeing some of the performance issues related to this “tradition” coming home to roost this year. The major disruptive force in bowling green maintenance is Localised Dry Patch (LDP) and this is a perfect year for it to show up at its worst. Again, LDP is extensively discussed on the site (recap here).

Another tradition which I suppose first came about for reasons of economy, but has taken a strong hold in bowling green management is the Monday, Wednesday, Friday mowing regime. I recently posted an article about this here and in this post about green consistency we looked at the relative importance of mowing frequency on green consistency.

At all times on the site I have tried to avoid whining about the apparent lack of sense shown by club committees on these issues, but I have had some exasperating experiences where clubs blindly continue top-dressing or even return to top-dressing when the folly of this is laid out before them in a severely damaged, dried out, lifeless green.

The reason for mentioning these two issues today is so that I could demonstrate a little bit of madness to you:

  • Out of 7 days, using the Mon, Wed, Fri mowing schedule the green is not at its best on Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday and is at its very worst for pace and smoothness on Sunday. Sunday is surely a big day for any club as far as bowling traffic is concerned? The main reason for the Mon, Wed, Fri mowing schedule at most clubs is: Lack of funds.
  • Top-dressing is the most damaging tradition in bowling green maintenance in the UK and a typical autumn top-dressing program will involve a contractor applying 5tonnes of sandy top-dressing at a cost of around £1000 for the application.

At times like this, our American cousins have a great phrase:

“Do the math”.


  1. R Hill says:

    The northern boundary of our green is over shadowed its entire length by enormous cedar trees which have a Protection order. Consequently any sown grass seeds or turfing fail to survive, and this year a ‘dust bowl’ for one to two metres has been the result.
    Australian greenkeepers use a couch grass (squitch) when returfing. Do you know of a grass that has a chance of surviving the conditions outlined in middle England?
    R F Hill

    • John says:

      First thing to mention is that no grass will survive in the current conditions so some remedial work will be required to maximise your chances of success.

      As the trees are along the North boundary we can rule out shade from the Cedars as a significant factor in this.

      However, there are a couple of things going on here, both of which need to be tackled to overcome the problem:

      1. The trees are absorbing a lot of the moisture that would otherwise be destined for the 2 metre “dust bowl” area; with regard to this you might want to investigate the potential for some robust root pruning of the trees and the installation of a barrier to minimise re-encroachment. Also it would be an idea to try to build up the organic content of this area prior to re-turfing this time. Replacing the rootzone material to a good depth with a more moisture retentive soil is one way to do this. Incorporation of a granular wetting agent and a thorough soaking prior to and after turfing will get things off to a good start.

      2. The other significant factor which should not be overlooked is the action of Cedars and other coniferous plants on the pH of the soil. If tested this will very probably be highly acidic. Although, not common advice due to the danger of encouraging fungal disease outbreaks, I think in this case the application of lime might be required. However, I recommend a pH test first to get a handle on how badly acidified the soil is at present.

      Let us know how things go

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