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Smooth and fast greens!

As always this season has started off with many greens playing “slow”. The usual reasons apply of course; mowing heights are still above summer level, the frequency of cutting is still low in many cases due to a really slow start to growth in many areas. Many greens are also thatchy and there has been a lot of moss about as we come out of winter, due partly to the excessively wet end to last summer and more significantly to long term Localised Dry Patch problems which are inherently linked to persistent moss problems. Oh yes and of course we are all still adjusting from indoor speeds to early spring outdoor ones!

So do we just sit and wait or can we be getting on with something to improve the situation?

Happily there is plenty we can do to positively influence green speed at this time.

  1. Look at our guides on Green Speed and Green Surface Consistency – you might be surprised to see what the priorities are!
  2. You will see that sward composition (grass types) plays a big part in both these aspects of green management. This is in part due to the upright growth habit of the finer grasses with minimal “nap” or lateral growth. The effects of surface debris and lateral growth can be overcome and green speed and consistency improved with the introduction of regular verti-cutting; at least two operations per month.
  3. Sharp Mower blades are not a luxury, they are essential to the health, speed and smoothness of your green. Having the mower re-ground in the winter is a good starting point, but it must be kept accurately set with zero contact between blade and cylinder and the front face of the bottom blade must be kept sharp all through the season. The difference in grass health will be remarkable and you will make the most efficient use of fertilisers, water and reduce disease incidence
  4. Now that summer is here! we can safely bring the height down on the mower to 5 or even 4.5mm.  Mowing lower than this isn’t necessary or advisable as it can cause undue stress to your turf and irreparable damage to the crown area of grass plants.

Any comments? Questions?


  1. Patrick Smithson says:

    Can more than 1/2″ depth of top dressing be added to the bowling green in one treatment, i,e, to fill in hollows in the turf and make a smoother green

    • admin says:

      Hi Patrick
      1/2″ of top dressing would probably cause a lot of damage to your green due to smothering of the grass and the subsequent decomposition and settlement of the soil and thatch underneath.

      I would need to know a bit more about the green before recommending a course of action.

      Can you let me know what the main issues are and the current maintenance program.



  2. Jim Moulton says:

    I took over the green duties at the start of April last year and some players complained of a ‘slow’ green until about end of May. I have had a new mower in June with a verticutt attachment. Most of the feeding and spiking etc is carried out by a recognised greensman. With the new equipment I have could I expect a faster green. Ps aprt from mowing I have no experience.

    • John says:

      Hi Jim

      Thanks for using the site.

      The biggest sapper of energy (speed) from bowls is excess thatch at the surface. Have a look at this article and the two that lead on from it to see how to appraise your green’s overall condition.

      Let me know what you find and I will try to help further



      • Jim Moulton says:

        Hi John
        Thank you for replying I have read your article on verticutting and it has been helpful. Most members are happy with the performance of the green at this time. I am carrying out the verticutting every 2/3 weeks . Watering system is on most nights and I am mowing at 5mm. However patches of the green are drying up. Obviously one side of the green has large trees which saps up the water. Can I do anything else to stop/slow the bare patches. ie am I verticutting too deep, is 5mm ok


        • John says:

          Hi Jim

          Verti-cutting shouldn’t really break the surface at this time of year. It is intended to slice through stolons and tease up lateral growth ahead of cutting, so you could probably raise the blades a bit until they are just resting on the surface.

          You should cut back or even stop verti-cutting if the weather is very dry for prolonged spells as it can contribute to drying out the surface too.

          If areas are drying out unevenly (in patches) you should be vigilant for LDP and treat accordingly. This should include sarrell rolling/mini-tining, followed by Hydroaid/Aquacept and hand watering. If ares are badly affected, then repeat treatments will be required.

          Let me know if I can help you with this.



  3. alan badgery says:

    Bowls club members rate a green on only one factor – what is the speed of the green and do the bowls finish well. In your opinion what is a reasonable speed (over 90 ‘) by the middle of the season ?

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