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firm, fast and smooth bowling greens

Firm, fast and smooth bowling greens in 2016

I promised a new book on how to objectively measure bowling green performance would be published here in late November 2015, but my work in China got in the way and now the book has grown in stature with much more detailed technical information informed by my teaching in November. The tyre lever and the golf ball will teach you what you need to know to achieve Firm, fast and smooth bowling greens in 2016 and beyond.

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green maintenance

Bowls Green Maintenance

A very general title for today’s article, but it reflects the current industry desire for a fix all solution to achieving a good bowling green.

Most clubs are unhappy to some extent with the performance of their bowling greens.

This leads to an open ended search for solutions where the searcher i.e. the bowling club or bowling club management official simply looks for information from whatever source to help with the perennial problem of the bowling green.

If this is you, if you simply don’t know where to start in your quest for the truth about achieving a consistently good bowling green here is my suggested reading in order of importance. You can click on these links for more in depth information:

  1. Top-dressing
  2. Thatch
  3. Compaction
  4. Green Speed
  5. Green Consistency



Green Surface requirements for high performance.

Performance Greens have specific surface attributes

Following on from yesterdays post on Performance Green Properties, the ideal bowling green then, will be uniform in terms of appearance, pace and consistency of play over the whole green and over the season. We will probably see an increase in pace as the summer progresses, but we shouldn’t see too many fluctuations in this pace during an average season.

This consistency is achievable, but only by first getting the green  into a condition where it has returned to behaving as one living eco system. This means that the green will demonstrate some very specific attributes. Today we will consider the surface properties  of such a green. It will need the following :


The grasses we use to produce the surface will need to demonstrate the following attributes:

  1. Fine leafed with an upright growth habit
  2. Slow re-growth after cutting
  3. Resistance to wear, disease, drought, and cold with a fast recovery rate from wear and damage.
  4. Deep green, uniform colouration

All of the above points us to the finer Bent and Fescue Grasses. So now that we know the kind of surface we need and the kind of grass sward we need in order to achieve this surface we can start to define the ideal growing conditions required by such a sward.


It goes without saying that there should be no weeds in the green surface and by weed I mean any plant life that can disrupt the playing surface. Now, most weeds are obvious because they are broad-leafed and show up in stark contrast to the grass surrounding them. However, there are a few less obvious weeds that can also cause inconsistency on the playing surface such as pearlwort and yarrow and these can sometimes be hard to spot and eradicate, Yellow suckling clover is another difficult weed to deal with.

In addition to the weeds proper referred to above, many greenkeepers who would also consider annual meadow-grass (Poa annua) to be just as bad a weed pest as any dandelion or daisy, but the hard truth is that many greens are so badly infested with this grass that to get rid of it quickly would be to get rid of the majority of the grass sward, leaving the green in a very poor state.

The good news is that the approach required to achieve a performance green outlined in this book will gradually make your green unattractive and unaccommodating to both broad-leafed weeds and weed grasses like annual meadow grass.

Diseases and Disorders

In addition to rogue grasses and weeds the surface can be disrupted by a plethora of different pathogens that directly interact with the grass, usually to its detriment and that of the green surface. These are almost always fungal diseases and some of the more common are fusarium, red-thread and snow mould.

Sometimes confused with diseases are a series of other green defects usually labelled as disorders. These are generally not pathogenic, so don’t directly damage the grass plants, but their effects can be just as devastating to bowling greens. These include slimes and squidge usually associated with acidic soil conditions and the very problematic Localised Dry Patch, associated with thatch, over use of sand and irrigation problems.

Again though, there is nothing to worry about because like we saw with unwanted grasses and weeds in the sward, the conditions required to produce a consistently high performance green will make your green extremely unattractive to these troublesome disorders and diseases.

Green sub-surface requirements for high performance.

The soil we use to support both the structure of the bowling surface and to sustain the grasses required for a high performance surface will require the following attributes:

  1. A strong, stable soil structure that resists compaction and wear.
  2. A healthy, living soil that retains sufficient moisture and nutrients to sustain a healthy sward of fine grass.
  3. A free draining medium able to cope with heavy periods of rain without puddling excessively and which drains quickly after heavy rainfall.

We will keep exploring this and tomorrow I’ll be looking at the sub surface requirements for performance; what goes  on beneath?

Thatch Problems

Rootbreak is a common feature on greens where thatch is out of control

As bowling green maintenance specialists we get lots of questions every week about thatch. So here is a quick crash course on it; what it is, what it does and how to deal with it:

What is it?

Thatch is the name given to the mat of dead roots and shoots that accumulates on the surface of the green. Where moisture, nutrition and cultural practices are optimised for the desired grasses, thatch rarely becomes a problem. However, when soil air content is low, or if drainage is poor and the fertiliser program is not Read more