Home » What bowls green maintenance should be carried out before a game?

What bowls green maintenance should be carried out before a game?

Concentrate on minimising lateral grass growth for greater speed and smoothness.

OK, so this is probably a bit late for this year, but keep a note of it for future reference.

This has been a popular question on the site.

The readers who searched on variations of this theme were essentially asking, “What can be done immediately before a game to improve the playing surface?”

Green speed is hampered by excessive thatch build up, which saps some of the momentum of the bowl, so although there isn’t much that can be done about this 5 minutes before the match starts, making thatch reduction and control a major part of the maintenance strategy will help a great deal.

The other major problem in achieving speed is the control of lateral grass growth on the green. This is when grass grows along the ground instead of straight up. The grass plants develop this tendency in order to avoid damage from the mower blades. It’s an evolutionary process; the grass plants that grow this way survive to create more vegetative growth.

So we want to discourage this habit and promote survival of the more upright plants.

To do this we can employ regular grooming, brushing and verti-cutting.

Using the groomer set to 1.5mm above cutting height for the cut immediately before the game will help a lot with this. The groomer attachment on your mower is designed to tease up lateral growth just prior to being cut by the cylinder.

If you don’t have a groomer on your mower you can usually fit a static brush just behind the front roller and this can also do a good job of teasing lateral growth to the upright position prior to cutting if set properly.

Regular verti-cutting will slice through the lateral growth and tease up blades that would otherwise not be cut properly


  1. robert says:

    What are your thoughts of turf-ironing to improve green speed John? There seem to be mixed opinions on how this contributes to compaction… and how often would you suggest ironing the greens? how long does the improvement last?? I’d appreciate your thoughts on this… thanks

    • John says:

      Hi Robert

      turf-ironing is a perfectably acceptable practice to carry out before a game.

      If everything else has been taken care of such as mowing at the correct height with a sharp, well set mower; thatch control and lateral growth management practices are followed as required then turf-ironing can give you that little bit of extra pace and smoothness that makes a good green great.

      Longevity wise the effect will grow out in a day due to the natural re-growth of the turf; so its important to do the work fairly close to the start of play.

      Any work that involves the weight of a machine and a man going over the green will undoubtedly contribute to compaction, but in the height of summer, when the green and soil aren’t excessively wet (hopefully) there is nothing here that should cause any long term problems as long as the regular performance green maintenance is being kept up with; especially regular aeration and compaction control practices.

      As the effect will usually grow out quickly, the frequency has to be judged on cost and relative benefit achieved.

      Any experiences from other readers?


  2. robert says:

    What are your thoughts concerning the DIRECTION of turf ironing john? Some people suggest diagonally? but I would think that any feint ‘tram lines’ would effect the woods even more than going directly along the rink? I personally iron across the rinks (ie horizontally to the rink) so the woods roll true to the players intention….

    • John says:


      I don’t think direction will matter much to the speed of the green, so I would stay on the side of caution and always do it on the diagonal to avoid leaving a visible straight line when you next turn the green.
      You can vary the direction almost infinitely by changing the angle of your diagonal passes of course.
      However, if you are getting a better result by going straight across and there is no residual line for a bowl to travel along then this should be ok.

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