This article was previously posted in our “Extra Ends” Newsletter

Charles Roach just completed his term as the Ontario Lawn Bowling Association’s Greens Chair where he advised clubs across the province on greens’ care. Last summer he worked collaboratively with Willowdale LBC greenkeeper Bill Donald to prepare the greens for the 2015 Canadian Lawn Bowls Championships

Charles Roach

Charles Roach

How Much Water is Too Much?

It does not matter whether or not your green is sand based or soil based. One of the most useful and least expensive pieces of equipment for a greens keeper is a moisture meter. It will have 3 readings: red for dry, yellow for moist, and green for wet. The best result for a bowling green is: 1st inch dry, 3inches deep should be moist and 6 inches or deeper should be wet.

The question then is how to get to these conditions. One thing that keeps water close to the surface is too much thatch. If when you walk on your green the surface feels soft under your feet, this usually indicates too much thatch and the water is being absorbed by the thatch. If you dethatch the green regularly (every 2 weeks) the water should easily reach the depth of 6-7 inches. If you haven’t been verticutting regularly, you should start now.

Above all else, use your moisture meter every day. Let the surface dry out and the meter will tell you when the green needs water. With an automatic watering system you could water 3 times a week. It is better to water for a longer period of, say, 20 to 30 minutes per station every 3 days, than 10 minutes per station every day.

REMEMBER: water has to reach a depth of 6 to 7 inches for best results in maintaining a good green.


I am answering this question using the idea that the greens are square. If your green or greens have one side longer than the other you will need to adapt using the following information.


If your greens are square (120 x 120) you should have 3 settings for each rink: A, B, C going east-west and the same going north-south.

I will use our greens in Burlington as an example. Each rink is 14 ft wide and the settings are 2 ft apart. We begin bowling east-west on the first (A) setting, play on that setting for 3 days and then move to the next setting (B) for 3 days and then to the third setting (C). After the 9 days we change to bowling north-south and follow the same 3 day cycle.

This change of direction gives the east-west greens a chance to rest. The first 10 feet of greens are the most vulnerable. This is the area where most players stand for the greatest length of time. When the greens are resting you can let this area grow a little longer and you can spike aerate the area to reduce compaction and allow more water to get to the roots.


When I visit a club, I often find the middle rinks well-worn and the end rinks with no visible usage. I belong to a large club, over 250 members, and we bowl every afternoon and most evenings. To make sure all rinks are equally used, we follow a set pattern. In the afternoons, the draw always starts on the highest number (8 or 16), and in the evenings we start on the lowest number. Our members know that if they are not part of the draw that they must use the next open rink. The outside rinks are the least used at most clubs because bowlers feel the draws are not ‘good’. The more greens are used, the better the draw is developed. With end rinks, an extremely ‘bad’ draw may be caused by the need to level these rinks and levelling is another topic altogether.

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