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firm, fast and smooth bowling greens

Firm, fast and smooth bowling greens in 2016

We all want firm, fast and smooth bowling greens, but do we understand the environmental issues that influence green performance and the greenkeeping factors that can help us to achieve it?

When I wrote my book Performance Bowling Greens nearly 5 years ago, I wasn’t prepared for it to be received quite as well as it has been. After it’s release here on Bowls Central it soon became apparent to me that there was a great appetite for change in the way that bowling greens are prepared and maintained. Although, the philosophy of that book was at first somewhat alien to many greenkeepers, it has since grown quite a following and I receive many messages every week from greenkeepers and club officials eager to apply the lessons from it and in many cases to learn more.

One aspect of bowling green preparation that I deliberately left out of Performance Bowling Greens was the mechanics of measuring actual green performance and I did this for a number of reasons:

1. The bowls authorities around the world don’t seem to agree on any particular rationale, equipment or method for performance measurement.

2. The methods that are used are unreliably subjective (and therefore of little value to the wider bowls community) and difficult to replicate accurately (more subjectivity).

3. The equipment that is available to make this a more objective and standardised procedure (and now becoming widely accepted in the golf world) is prohibitively expensive and in my view, if adopted in bowls, would lead bowling clubs into deeper and deeper maintenance black holes that they can’t afford either fiscally or agronomically.

With all of the above in mind I set about writing a guide to help bowling clubs navigate the complex subject of making objective and replicable measurements of bowling green performance.

To do that, I made a promise to publish a guide in late November 2015 that would explain the science behind achieving the ultimate in green performance and then explain how that transfers to the nuts and bolts of greenkeeping.

Then, out of the blue I was asked to deliver two weeks of teaching in China during November and suddenly I was faced with a twofold dilemma. One aspect of that was the fact that I wouldn’t have enough time to finish writing and publish the book on time for the deadline I had promised. In addition to that, I was about to teach a whole two weeks’ worth of classes on the very subject I was writing about, so there was bound to be a huge amount of new material I could bring to the book from that experience.

My teaching work in China is based around the golf industry of course, but all of the work that is going on in golf can be used to inform our quest for firmer, faster and smoother bowling greens too. My students in China are largely post graduates from business schools who want to make a career in the golf industry as either golf course managers or golf club managers and so I took a very “from the bottom, up” approach with them. Taking them from the very basis of fine turf development for golf (and bowls) back in the annals of history, investigating what makes a good playing surface and then digging deeper to see what factors in soils, plants and their habitat eco-systems influence playing surface performance. The result was an invigorating two weeks (at least for me) that saw us go from shepherds hitting stones into rabbit scrapes with their crooks to the very latest in turf evaluation technology and the scientific research that lies behind that.

So, with all of those lame excuses out of the way, the book which has the working title The Tyre Lever and the Golf Ball will be with you in two weeks time and I hope you’ll find it worth the wait.

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