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Performance Bowls Greens and Money Saving

The autumn is traditionally a busy time for bowling green contractors, greenkeepers and club officials as they decide, plan and carry out the autumn renovation works on the green before putting it to bed for the winter.

Now have a look back over that last paragraph; if you didn’t wince at least twice, then it’s possible that you are about to embark on a program of work that will actually harm your green.

It probably won’t be dramatic like the sudden death of your green for ever, but it will probably have a negative impact on the future of your green’s ability to be presented for play consistently well, and maybe even on your club’s chance of survival in these harsh economic conditions.

The points I am referring to are the words “traditionally” and “putting the green to bed”

Traditionally, (well if you can call 30 years worth of blind repetition tradition) clubs will be ordering in up to 10 tonnes (20 tonnes in extreme cases) of “top-dressing”. This top-dressing will contain on average 75% sand; so 10 tonnes of top dressing is equal to 7.5 tonnes of sand being applied to a green that probably already has signs of damage from Localised Dry Patch, excessive thatch, low nutrient holding capability and a severe soil moisture deficit.

This is like driving the wrong way up a one way street; the maintenance program for most bowling greens in the UK needs to be the polar opposite of this.

Then we come to “putting the green to bed for winter”; this is absolute madness as the only time when we truly have the chance to overcome some of the worst excesses dressed up as Bowling Green Maintenance during the late 20th and early 21st centuries is during the winter. The winter must be utilised to overcome excessive compaction at the very least.

There is a very simple answer to this and it is spelled out in layman’s terms in Performance Bowling Greens a practical guide. A word of warning though; it might not be what everyone wants to hear, especially those who follow the well worn path regardless of the evidence against it…

…but here is a sentence you can use to overcome the most vocal of “traditionalists”:

1 tonne of high sand content top-dressing applied to your green will cost on average £150 +VAT; multiply that by the number of tonnes you usually apply. For 5 tonnes it will be £750 and for 10 tonnes £1500, and its just wrong.

In Performance Bowling Greens, a practical guide; the work program you will follow in autumn will cost a lot less and actually improve your green. Into the bargain you will be taking your green on a journey that will arrive sooner rather than later at a state you can truly describe as High Performance.


  1. robert says:

    What do you think about us members measuring the performance, sward composite, thatch depth, root depth etc. of our greens at this time of the year…. and comparing these measurements with the same statistics next year? This would be a great way of promoting the value of your ethos John…. and also we could see what financial benefits can be gained…. maybe more clubs will adopt the more holitic and natural approach to greenkeeping when they read the facts and figures derived from such research? and ease up on the top dressing and chemicals in favour of increased aeration? Just an idea…..

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