2 things in bowling green maintenance annoy me more than anything else. One is the feeding frenzy stirred up and enjoyed by many bowling green maintenance contractors in the autumn, usually driven by an unsolicited sales letter offering “Autumn Programs” sent by someone who has never seen your green!
Many clubs across the country will succumb to this sales gimmick year after year without ever realising that it isn’t necessarily the best thing to do. You see Autumn has traditionally been feeding time for contractors. Its at the end of the season that they get the opportunity to raise a big invoice to clubs for the “back end” renovation works. An invoice that when multiplied by the number of customers they have, more or less equates to their total income for the coming winter months, so they’re going to make the most of it. The really damaging part of this is that it usually involves a minimum of 3 tonnes (sometimes 5 or even 10 tonnes) of high sand top-dressing which can be the most damaging thing many clubs can do t o their greens.
Please make sure that any work being carried out on your green is actually doing some good before agreeing to any program.
And this brings me on to my second pet hate: “Closing the Green”, or the assumption that the green “hibernates” in winter. You see bowls is essentially a game that is played in summer and to achieve a surface anywhere near suitable we have to ask the soil and grass plants to undergo and put up with the most un-natural of processes; we hammer the green to death with foot and machinery traffic, cut the grass to within a whisker of its life and then expect it to miraculously recover over the winter with the minimum of intervention from us.
Yes you might well be familiar with this one too, but again, it makes absolutely no sense to me.
You would be forgiven for accusing me of negativity towards contractors and expect that I am going to sign off this piece as the president of a bowling club. However, it might surprise you to know that I am the owner of one of the most prominent bowling green contracting companies in Scotland. Am I cutting my own throat by saying this? I don’t think so, because I’ve always taken the long term view when it comes to customer relationships. Making sure that my clients get real value for money over a long relationship with my company.
So my advice to club officials is: look out for the unsolicited “back end” renovation quote dropping through your letter box about this time. I simply don’t understand how any truly professional company can make an offer to carry out various options of autumn work, without taking the time to come along and inspect your green.
Secondly I would encourage you to make sure your contractor is preparing a thorough renovation program that stretches right through the winter months and culminates in a green specific Spring preparation program prior to the start of the new season. Anything less simply isn’t enough.
You see, the things we do to produce a surface during the bowling season are damaging to the grass plants and soil. We must ensure a full recovery for the following season and that means winter work.
The main issues to deal with are compaction which needs regular deep aeration right through the winter months; head recovery which again needs specialist work to repair the damage caused by continuous foot traffic; disease management, the winter being the most likely time for a devastating outbreak of fusarium disease and localised dry patch recovery. The winter work is a vital step in overcoming this common but damaging condition.
Please, if you do nothing else this winter have a proper appraisal carried out on your green to make sure the work it really needs is done in time for it to recover fully for next year.