Reflecting on traditional practice (1)

Mowing bowling greens

Why the drive to cut short? Received wisdom and tradition is that a short surface is one that is suitable for the game of bowls. This seems quite sensible and straightforward. However, an important aspect of reflecting in groundsmanship is to question and challenge assumptions and actions.

This is a really important process to consider, especially due to what is happening in the industry and to bowling green provision:

  • reducing numbers of experienced and well-qualified greenkeepers and groundsmen,
  • reducing bowling green membership numbers at many clubs,
  • limited funds due to reducing or low membership income,
  • cuts to local authority budgets resulting in bowling greens often being maintained to a sub-minimal level, or being ‘farmed out’ to clubs to self-maintain,
  • greater reliance on volunteers to maintain greens.

The question then is, “Why mow at the ‘traditional’ height of cut of 3/16″ (5mm), why not higher”?

Well, it’s nice and short and produces a dense sward, plus it’s the same as what is carried out on a golf course. This doesn’t really answer the question though, so what impact does height of cut have on the distance rolled by, or speed of, a bowl?

If the grass was at a height of 25mm (1 inch) then clearly we couldn’t play bowls as it would be like playing in a meadow. This is surely the reason, too long and the bowl won’t perform well at all; so 5mm (3/16″) it is, but is there any evidence to support the question of mowing higher as a matter of routine?

For most bowling greens we want a fit for purpose surface, not a championship one with all the costs involved in providing one of those.

Could raising the traditional cut height slightly still create the required playing conditions yet reduce the stress put on the grass plant from shorter mowing and help counter consequences of many of the issues happening in the industry?

An added benefit will be that with reduced grass plant stress the bowling green will be more resilient, better developed (i.e. increased root development; increased density) reducing the competition from weeds and disease, as well as reducing the intensity of input. So what does the evidence say in relation to height of cut and green speed or roll?

To be continued…..Read more at ‘Reflecting on traditional practice (2)

Chris Gray, December 17, 2016


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