Duncan’s Bowling Green Maintenance Services: How I Can Help Your Bowling Green

Across Scotland and the UK right now, green bowling clubs continue to have difficulty in maintaining their green surface and surrounds to a high standard thanks to constraints in budget, time, equipment and experience.

Duncan Gray - Lawn Care

Duncan Gray – Grass Care Expert

Budgets often don’t allow bowling green committees to employ a full-time groundsman, and the members, as hard as they try, normally don’t have the knowledge and skills to look after their bowling green to the standard they’d like. The buying of bowling green equipment takes a lot of knowledge and experience, and bowling green supplies can be a maze of chemical formula and strange brand names to the uninitiated. The wrong equipment can easily be purchased, and unsuitable supplements and fertilisers utilised.

This all leads to the inevitable: the surface loses it’s quality and the surrounds deteriorate until you’re soon playing on a bowling green that actually won`t host a decent game.

There’s nothing worse than throwing a great shot, watching it zero on it’s target only for the bowl to be knocked off-course by a rough patch of grass, or a diseased section of the green.

I have been a Head Greenkeeper on golf courses for thirty six years, and for the past twenty five years have also been heavily involved in maintaining bowling greens in Scotland and across the UK.

I’d like to talk about the bowling green maintenance services that I can offer that will help you to maintain a great surface and keep playing, problem free, all season.

My Experience with Bowling Greens

Mowing one of the Northfield greens between the morning and afternoon games in the Ladies World Championships.

My first involvement with bowling greens came when I joined the old Kyle and Carrick Council in Ayrshire, Scotland as Fine Turf Superintendant, in charge of eight golf courses, nine bowling greens, and two eighteen hole pitch and putt courses. This was an area right across Strathclyde.

The nine bowling greens included Ayr Northfield, a highly regarded five green complex with a substantial membership. There had been no national competititions held at Northfield previously, but that changed when problems with the usual national venue in Glasgow meant we were asked to host the mens Scottish National finals with less than four weeks to prepare the greens.

These finals were a big success, with players and officials very happy with the playing conditions provided. This led to a succession of Scottish and British championships being held at Northfield over the next few years.

The top class playing surfaces I created at Northfield bowling green led to it staging both the mens’ and ladies’ World Championships in the early 90s, both of which were televised. I was immensely proud of this achievement.

During this time I also advised a substantial number of private bowling clubs throughout Ayrshire on the maintenance and renovation techniques required to produce the best playing conditions.

Bowling Green Maintenance Services that I Offer

I am now in a position where I am available to help bowling clubs throughout the country produce playing surfaces that they can be proud of. I can provide this service either in person, or at a distance (phone call/email/video call), depending on each club’s requirements.

The following is an outline of  my bowling green services:

  • Bowling Green Maintenance: Mowing, height of cut, scarifying, grooming, brushing,switching, fertilising, conditioners, top-dressing, wetting agents, moss control, weed control, pest control.
  • Bowling Green Equipment and Machinery: type of mowers, setting procedures, maintenance procedures, other machinery and  equipment requirements.
  • Fertilisers and Supplements: Bowling green supplies are many and varied. I can help in how to select and use fertilisers and conditioners in the most effective and economical manner.
  • Bowling Green Renovation: Autumn renovation procedures to unsure the green and recovers well from the season, and how to fully renovate a badly worn green.
  • Pre-season Preparation: How to get the green ready for play in the Spring.
  • Bowling Green Banks: How to maintain, repair, and reconstruct, banks and ditches.

The experience I have in all aspects of preparing bowling greens, in many varying conditions, to a very high standard, enables me to help any bowling club, no matter their budget, to make the very best of the green they have.

Phone me now to have a chat about exactly what you require – I can easily carry out a one-off visit to set you up for the year, or provide ongoing support throughout the season.

Spring Bowling Green Maintenance

This is a very good example of how to prepare a green for play in the Spring. This was in the last week of March 2012 in Uddingston.

Bowling Green Equipment

The equipment required to maintain a bowling green is a long way from the standard lawn mower we all use to cut our lawns. Much more precise machinery is required to create the exceptional surface bowling requires, and the much higher frequency of use means that you need something far more robust than what you can buy at B&Q.

I’ve been buying and using bowling green equipment for over 25 years and can help you find the right tools for the job. Whether it’s a full equipment re-supply or just a few bits and pieces, let me give you a hand and save you a fortune in lost time and money due to the wrong tools for the right job.

Phone Me For a Free Consultation

Drop me a line right now and we can have a talk about your requirements. Big or small, I’m sure I can help you out, and create a bowling green your club can be proud of.

Duncan Gray – Lawns For You: 07801 301712
Or Email Us Here

Duncan has been a Golf Head Greenkeeper thirty five years, with experience in sports pitches, public parks and bowling greens, including the world bowling championships at Ayr Northfield. Since 1991 he has run a turf advisory company, including Lawn Care services, and this has now morphed into Lawns For You and the site you see today. More about Duncan... Google+ Duncan



    As the council no longer look after bowling greens i wondered how much you would charge for just mowing one.

    • Hi Mrs Bird. Can you tell me where you are situated in the country as this will make difference.
      You are welcome to contact me on the telephone to discuss in more detail.

  2. Paul Brabin

    Bowling green has plenty of grass doesnt seem to have any infection problems but green running very slow, any ideas on what can be done.

    • Hi Paul,

      This is most likely to be a mowing problem. The height of cut is the first thing to check. You should be at a height of no more than six mil at this time, going down to five and a half, then five over the next two weeks, and mowing at least every second day.
      The blade sharpness and adjustment is also of great importance, as a blunt or badly set mower will result in a slower and unhealthy green.
      To much growth, ie wrong or to much fertilizer, can also affect pace.
      Lastly, verticutting and rolling are good ways of increasing pace.
      I hope you find this helps you to sort it out.
      All the best,

  3. p.wilson

    Our GREEN is cut at 5 but some members feel that the GREEN should be faster. Would setting the cutter to 4 achieve this and will it affect the GREEN SHORT or long term


    • Hi,

      I am sorry but must have missed this question at the time. My answer would be that many factors influence green speed. Thatchy soft greens will be a lot slower than firm and dry greens cut at the same height for instance. You need to identify what is causing the problem before just lowering the cutting height. The mower must be sharp, blunt mowers are the most common problem on greens. The general maintenance program must be geared to produce firm disease free surfaces which only require limited fertilizer input, as to much nitrogen produces a lush growth which is not conducive to good speeds. Mowing more often is a good way of increasing speed as well. Rolling is also good on occasion, but to often will cause compaction.
      I can produce a full years maintenance program for you wish any help in improving the green.


    I have just taken over as treasurer of our club and have been asked to find out what the cost of maintenance ie: seed fertilizer top dressing etc: would be for the average bowls green for the year. Members are trying to save money and are looking to set a budget without cutting corners

    • Hi June,
      I have been extremely busy so have not been checking on e-mails as I should.
      If you budget for expenditure of a maximum £2200 per year you will cover all the materials required. I have allowed for a total of 8 tons top dressing throughout the year, an ideal application, which accounts for over half of that amount, so there is some leeway to reduce the amount spent if things are difficult.
      If you would like a breakdown of the material costs I can do that for you.

  5. Hi
    Would your service be relevant in Australia.

    • Hi Ian,

      Yes, the maintenance of a green is very much the same around the world. There are some differences in the grasses used, but overall the advice would be very relevant anywhere.

  6. Jim Dickson

    As Secretary of Langford (Beds) Bowls Club I am Looking for a company which undertakes the ‘renewal’ of green backboards,ditches and the underpinning of the green’s edges. Can you advice or involvement please?
    We are building an application for a Sport England grant which requires 3 quotations. I have 1 so far who use GRC ditch assembly sections etc., T/N 01462700355

    • Hi Jim,

      Sorry for the delay, I have been off line for a while.

      The most reliable company I know off is A.A.Crichton. Contact Arthur on 01382862372, or 07738167519.

      If you require any advice on the green any time do not hesitate to contact me.

      Regards, Duncan.

  7. Brian Duthu

    We are looking at renovating two greens in the Southwest United States, do you have any contacts in this area that would be able to help with such a project?

  8. at our a.g.m the members are wanting me to use top dressing on the green I use washed dune sand as its cheaper do you think the green will suffer as a result of this. the only time iv used top dressing it burnt the green . hope you can help thanks ian

    • Hi Ian,
      Washed dune sand should be fine to use on the green. Most of the sands we use in Scotland are washed dune sands and although they can sometimes be a bit fine they work well.
      Top dressing is really an essential tool in keeping the green surface in good condition. I would normally use between three to five tons per green in the Autumn to level out any undulations, and another two tons or so in the Spring on the playing heads.
      I have never experienced burning with sand dressings, I would guess that was caused by lawn sand or fertilizer applied around the same time.
      Please feel free to phone me if you wish to discuss it further.

  9. Hi Duncan

    Our green edges are sloping down such that any bowl coming within 18″ of the green edge will end up in the ditch. What is the best way to raise the edges.

    • Hi Dave,

      You need to use a turf cutter to lift the turf cleanly. If it is cut into three foot lengths with an edging iron it is easily handled.

      Once the turf is cut and removed the edges can be raised using a sandy compost, with the levels being checked by using a straight edge.

      Make sure the new surface is well firmed to ensure no sinkage, then replace the turf and use boards with pressure on top to ensure a good level finish.

      The green edges may need replaced as well if they are badly corroded, or use support boards to keep edges straight till the turf is well rooted.

      I hope this helps you carry out the work.


  10. Hi Duncan
    We always have trouble with moss March April, and fusarium ! Every late Sept, early Oct, we scarify, top dress and seed the green, we are on limited funds, all work done by members, but mainly myself. It is always a struggle to get the green ready in April, with our problems. We do get higher than average rainfall here in Langholm. Yesterday was first time on the green, I brushed over to take off dew/ wetness, then spiked the green, we have a 36″ wide rolling spiker , very hard work. Is spiking the green often, essential to get rid of moss, and to liven up the discoloured yellowish grass. Any advise please on getting the green ready for end of April. Thanks

  11. Michael Eatly

    Hi Duncan
    We have 6 rink green that needs the ditches cutting back and new boards fitting.We are in Befordshire. Do you know of anybody In our part of the Country that carries out such a service?

    • Hi Michael, sorry, I have no contacts in that area. I can only advise looking on google for bowling green services.
      Good luck, Duncan.

  12. Ian Roberts

    Duncan, I am secretary of a club who are tenants of a Local Authority owned Green. We are basically now being left to carry out our own maintenance but lack the experience as to what we should be doing and when. Cutting is not a problem but we still find complaints about the Green being too slow in particular. Any advice you ca provide to setting up a regular maintenance regime. As part of our lease we do have a good quality mower and a scarifier.

  13. Hi Ian, I can certainly give you a full run down on the maintenance regime required to provide you with a very good bowling surface.
    The speed is fairly easy to provide, providing you are able to cut frequently enough, that is at least four times per week, and you have a verti cutting unit for the scarifier.
    Let me know where you are, and the equipment you have,and I will provide you with a full program of works, along with material requirements.

    • Ian Roberts

      Hi Duncan, Thanks for your offer. The Green is at Hillside Montrose. I don’t know if the Scarifier provided has a verti cutter although I suspect not. I will try to check.
      Ian Roberts

  14. Denis McMurtrie

    Hi Ian. I am in New Zealland. Our situation is we are going to employ an expert to advise our green keeper on a program of green maintenance. He will not only advise our green keeper but also set up contractors to plane our green etc. Do you know of a Webb site we could go to to find a template for setting up a contract for this sort of thing.

  15. Hi Dennis,
    This is a bit unusual as if contracting out maintenance the club would normally take advice from the advisor, then employ contractors to carry out the work on a stated price. If you are getting a quoted price for all work from the advisor, then he is responsible for ensuring they do the work properly to a specification he has drawn up. You can find a full run down on all the work required on a green on this website as well.
    I hope this helps.

  16. Hi Dennis,

    Our greens get damaged by “bouncers” it seems to skim the surface, where playing on other greens don’t seem to get damaged just as easily, assuming “bouncers” are wide spread. The problem seems to be that the grass roots are quite shallow, is this something you would be able to look at and and possibly provide a possible solution? We also reckon we have a high water table level below the greens could this be a factor in the roots not going down deep?

    • Hi Craig,

      Bouncers are certainly a big problem, especially on soft wet surfaces. Many clubs use playing mats, covers rolled out on the delivery area, when the weather is bad, but this only hides the problem. Teaching players to deliver the bowl properly is a first priority.
      The softness in the surface is most likely caused by thatch. A lack of aeration, combined with a poor overall maintenance program, is the cause of this.
      There are several articles on this website that explain the best practices for maintaining a bowling green in depth, I would advise you look at them.
      In short, regular aeration, a regulated low input feeding program, and very importantly, top dressing frequently with a medium course sand, will all but eliminate the damage caused by bouncing bowls.

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