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Performance Basics-Watering the Green

Irrigation-a vital skill to master for a performance green

The watering of bowling greens is one of those critical issues in bowling that splits opinion across the game.

Some purists would see no artificial watering of greens regardless of how dry the weather gets. Some are in favour to different degrees; some would argue that the green should only be watered enough to keep it alive, while others demand that the green be watered heavily and often to keep it green.

For me the critical issue is as always performance.

We can argue about the right way to water or not water greens until the cows come home, but green performance is the only measure we should really be worrying about and that means we need to deal with individual greens on an individual basis.

Some greens, mainly those that haven’t been subjected to years of sandy top-dressings dry out evenly across the surface. As the weather gets drier, these greens get faster and smoother and everyone is happy. However, there is a point of no return for these greens also and a complete drought will see them go Read more

Break with Convention for a Performance Bowls Green

A high proportion of the bowling greens I see every year are victims of what has become accepted as “conventional maintenance”. I say victims, because much of what has come to be accepted as normal in bowling green maintenance, is anything but, if you happen to be a grass plant or a healthy living soil.

Below you will find a very popular article that was published on this site a while back, which illustrates very clearly the dangers inherent in “going with the flow” or following the herd to put it another way!

The diagram above shows the process that many poorly maintained bowling greens experience over a period of years if 3 basic maintenance issues are not addressed as a priority.

The top 3 issues on all fine turf are Read more

Bowls Green Performance v Tradition

Performance or Tradition?

Over the years I have come up against a lot of friction when I have proposed that a club stops top-dressing its green with sand laden top-dressing compost.

The reasons for stopping this practice are well documented on this site (recap here) so I won’t go over old ground here today.

My guess is that a lot of greens, especially in the South East of the UK will be seeing some of the performance issues related to this “tradition” coming home to roost this year. The major disruptive force in bowling green maintenance is Localised Dry Patch (LDP) and this is a perfect year for it to show up at its worst. Again, LDP is extensively discussed on the site (recap here).

Another tradition which I suppose first came about for reasons of economy Read more

Performance Bowls Greens-the 4 biggest obstacles to success

When I set out to write my book, Performance Bowling Greens, it made me think about the main obstacles to success encountered by many of the bowling clubs I visit and in many ways it comes down to what can only be described as Common Sense versus Commerce. The 4 biggest obstacles I encounter again and again are as follows:

  1. Desperation Mode; or a state of mind that permeates a club when nothing they do seems to yield the results they crave.
  2. Lack of Consistency; which is direct result of the 1st obstacle, and is when the club repeatedly changes its approach to maintenance because it basically has no faith in any of the maintenance models it encounters.
  3. Tradition; although a lot of the traditions in question are not that old.
  4. Greenkeeping Myths.

The reasons for the problems I have just mentioned are mainly to do with the need that exists in every
industry to have companies or people who can supply materials and equipment in order for the work of that industry (in our case greenkeeping) to go ahead. So you see as greenkeepers or bowling clubs we are part of a commercial chain that needs constant lubrication in order to keep going.  The end result of that process is the pressure put on all of us to try new things, new machines, new fertilisers, new chemicals etc. And of course this isn’t a bad thing in itself, because if it wasn’t for this continual process we wouldn’t have any of the tools we need to continue maintaining our green. The trouble comes when laymen or greenkeepers lacking confidence in their abilities are constantly bombarded with new “stuff” by “experts”. This leads to “new traditions” which lead to a lack of consistency, which leads to poor results, which leads to desperation for a solution and desperate people are willing to believe anything, so even myths can take on the appearance of common sense.

In Performance Bowling Greens I will be detailing a more measured and calm approach to bowling green maintenance based on scientific fact, a deep understanding of nature and the interaction between turfgrass and soil. An approach, in fact a full program you can follow to ensure that your green performs to a very high standard at a reasonable cost.

And its there that we will pick up the story tomorrow, as I will be looking at how heavily the future of bowling depends on the ability of clubs like yours to deliver consistent high performance on what can only be described as a shoestring budget.

You can get your copy of Performance Bowling Greens here. Meantime I’ll will be back tomorrow with more news.

For a Performance Bowls Green, start a new tradition!

In less than a week my new book, Performance Bowling Greens will be launched on this site; 15th of February to be precise. In the lead up to the launch we have been looking into some of the obstacles that stand in the way of the average bowling club achieving the performance they desire from their green. Today I want to look at one of those obstacles more closely and that is the obstacle that Tradition puts in our way. The trouble is that many of these “traditions” are really not that old. One of the most damaging of these is the “tradition” of top-dressing our greens with high sand content dressings every year.

Now I should warn you at the outset that this is a long one and you might want to grab a coffee before we get started. The reason for the length of this article is that I don’t just want to discuss the process of top-dressing; I also want to show you how damaging it can be to your green and how damaging it can be to your wallet. To do that I am going to re-present to you 3 of the most clicked on articles we’ve ever published on this site (which shows, I think, that many clubs already understand the problem). So here we go:

At most bowling clubs the end of September is when thoughts will start to turn to the autumn renovation program or the “closing of the green” as many clubs call it. Bowling clubs throughout the UK will take delivery of between 3 and 10 tonnes of very expensive top-dressing compost, which will be applied to the green after hollow tining or some other aeration operation, in the belief that Read more

Tradition and Dissatisfaction.

“Traditional” Mowing Schedules are damaging a lot of clubs

Last week’s post on green-speed has raised a few questions, a lot of them along the lines of

“How can we afford to cut the green 7 days a week?”

In the introduction to my book Performance Bowling Greens I speak about the danger of traditions.

Traditions are funny things, because they don’t actually seem to need to be very old, or for that matter very sensible for them to take hold; they only need a bit of support from a few people and Bingo! They are “new” traditions.

One of the quirkiest? Cutting the green on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, usually early in the morning. Why has this become a tradition at many clubs?

Well it probably boils down to cost mainly and perhaps convenience and possibly a little bit of misunderstanding of the growth pattern of greens.

Following this cutting plan those playing on Monday evening, Tuesday, Wednesday evening, Thursday, Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday are not seeing or playing the green at anything near its best!

That leaves a lot of potentially dissatisfied customers!

So in answer to the question at the beginning, another question:

How can you afford not to?

However, in Bowling Club Turnaround terms remember dissatisfaction can actually be a good thing as it gives you a huge opportunity to move things to a better state and make an overall positive gain from an otherwise negative situation.




Don’t get in the way at Feeding Time!

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 Read more

Club Turnaround Basics-Member Retention

With the continued contraction of overall membership of bowling clubs, it is clear that the clubs most likely to survive and turnaround their fortunes are the ones that have a clear strategy for membership growth and retention.

Growing bowling club membership is a big topic because it doesn’t just include getting more people in to bowl at your club as we might always have imagined. It is now vital that we not only have a clear picture of what a “member” looks like but also that we are very open minded as to what this could or should include. In Bowling Club Survival and Turnaround, I have clearly defined what I think the bowling club of the near future will look like and I go on to define what a member might be.

Anyway, back to retaining the members you already have and first a look at new members and the skill of engendering a feeling of belonging to your club. If a new member doesn’t feel that they belong to your club they will quickly leave and another subscription is lost. Building that feeling is, like it or not, the job of Read more

Can any old Tom, Dick or Harry produce a Performance Bowls Green?


In a previous post I was talking about the 4 barriers to success that I regularly encounter at bowling clubs. These were Desperation (for a good green), Traditions (that aren’t as traditional as we think sometimes), Myths (not dragons and wizards, but greenkeeping myths) and of course Consistency or rather the lack of it.

Well today I want to tell you a story about a typical bowling club. Just for the record this isn’t based on any one club, but is a very common pattern of events. If you are a bowling club member, you might instantly recognise this pattern and think I am talking about your club, but I assure you I’m not. If you are a bowling club member and this doesn’t ring any bells, then I would put money on your green being the best in your area, that you have a thriving membership and everything at your club is rosy. If that’s the case you are to be congratulated. To the story then:

Back in the late 1970’s our bowling club was doing ok, membership was thriving and the green was playing well. The greenkeeper, who we’ll call Tom, was an enthusiastic amateur and up until that point he had the full backing of the membership, he was Read more