With clubs delaying their start to the 2020 bowls season indefinitely, many clubs and greenskeepers are wondering: what do we do with our greens? First things first: Safety.

The priority remains the health and safety of your members, partners, coaches, officials, employees, volunteers, fans, partners and all associated with your club. It is important that you follow regulations as they unfold and adhere to the advice of federal, provincial and municipal governments, health authorities and the Canadian Sport Medicine Advisory Council along with your provincial and national associations.

It is essential that at all times you adhere to your local/provincial guidelines on social distancing. Do not put your life or others’ lives at risk in order to maintain your greens! Make sure you consider your health and the health of others before beginning any greens work.

Prior to this pandemic, some clubs may have budgeted for significant greens work to happen this year, while others may be struggling to simply keep their greens at all. Each club is unique, and we cannot offer advice that will suit all clubs perfectly. That being said, for this year, we don’t recommend pursuing significant greens work during the pandemic. If your club had planned for major repairs, please consider postponing it until the pandemic has passed.

Below are a few suggestions for how you can take care of your greens during these unprecedented times.

1.     Insurance

Ensure that your club and its greenskeepers and/or volunteers are still insured prior to commencing any greenskeeping duties. Some clubs may operate such that members are only covered once they have paid their membership dues, and if this has not been done, they may not be covered.

Some insurance companies may now be requiring written documentation from your local city/municipality authorizing access to your club during this pandemic. If something were to happen while taking care of the greens, make sure that your members and the club are covered under your appropriate insurance policies.

2.     Contact City/Municipality

Contact your city/municipality before starting any greens work. To use language that matters to your city/municipality, consider using the letter drafted here.

Keith Riggs at Qualicum Beach LBC

3.     Pandemic Maintenance: Minimum Standard of Care

NOTE: The following recommendations are only for greens care during this pandemic. They represent a minimum standard of care to ensure your green survives. We do not recommend you follow these recommendations during a normal playing season.

The goal of care during the pandemic is to maintain your greens such that they do not fall into a state of disrepair that would be too costly to reasonably fix. While you will not be bowling on your greens, they will still be susceptible to weeds, pests, diseases, and other causes for concern. Remember that grass is a living organism and needs to be taken care of: lack of basic essentials (water, nutrients, etc.) can result in sickness (diseases) or worse. The following routine is designed to help avoid these pitfalls as best as possible throughout this pandemic.

Once your greens are dry and firm enough:

  • Mow at 1/4 inch in height (instead of 1/8 inch that you would usually aim for during the playing season)
  • Verticut: give your greens a good verticutting to clean up the thatch
  • Overseed bare or thin patches
  • Once you have done all of this, don’t mow your greens for 4 or 5 days, and then mow on a regular schedule to maintain 1/4-inch height
  • Verticut once per month if possible
  • Keep watering as needed
    • Your local climate will dictate how often you will need to water your greens. Don’t forget that water conducts heat, so don’t over water! Consider reducing the amount and frequency with which you water your greens during this time.
  • Address all weed, pest and disease infestations as they appear by applying the appropriate safe and approved remedy

Keep a log at the club to record who is doing what maintenance and when. This will be important for infection tracking if required as well as useful for records of maintenance and insurance liability reasons.

If you rely on city/municipal employees for your greens, try to work with them. Contact your provincial representatives for assistance.

How to Physically Distance

  1. We recommend that two greens maintenance crew members be at the club for safety reasons. In case of an accident, the second person can call for help.
  2. Physical distancing (minimum of 2m) must be maintained at all times.
  3. Limit access to the equipment/storage area to only one person at a time.
  4. Disposable gloves should be worn at all times.
  5. All contact surfaces must be disinfected prior to use.
  6. On completion of greens work, all equipment and contact surfaces must be disinfected.
  7. Before leaving the greens, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly.


With a delayed start to the season, you can still prepare for when things settle down:

  • Create a plan: Develop a multi-year plan for how to improve your greens. Whether it’s replacing the backboards or fixing the drainage issues, there are likely some longer-term projects that will require extra resources. Use this time to work with your Board virtually on developing a multi-year plan for your greens. If you create the plan now, you can hit the ground running once your club is able to open up again.
  • Resources: If you rely on club members/volunteers for taking care of your greens, now would be an excellent time to develop or update your current resources for them. From job descriptions to an annual plan, look at what you currently have in place and see what needs updating (or developing) if someone new were to take over your greens next year. Try phoning nearby clubs to see what they have and if there are ways you can work together virtually.  

Future State

If restrictions are loosened/lifted, things to consider might be:

  • Build up low areas: many greens are not level, especially near the ditches. This summer would be an excellent opportunity to build up those low-levels gradually, layer-by-layer, with top-dressing over the course of the summer.
  • Fix patches: some areas on your green may require special attention due to diseases or other issues.

Regardless of what you do for your greens this summer, make sure you adhere to social distancing practices. With greens being as large as they are, you should be able to assign tasks that keep people 2 metres apart. Make sure you use hand sanitizer, wipe down all equipment regularly before and after use, wear gloves, and use any other protective equipment.

In Conclusion

Collaborate & Communicate! Collaborate with your club’s Board of Directors on what you’d like to have done, how much you anticipate it to cost, and why it’s critical that it be done. Formulate a plan with your club’s Board of Directors so you can take advantage of this unique opportunity as best you can.

Communicate with your club’s members as to what you are doing and why. Any greens work will likely come with a price tag, and you should strive to keep your members updated of this. While they may not need to know the exact cost, they should be aware of what the club is spending its money on. This can also be a great tool to get your members excited to come back to bowls once the pandemic has ended!

FOOTER: With the ever changing environment, this information could change overnight. This blog post is only accurate as of April 24, 2020.


Andrew Scott · April 25, 2020 at 10:23 am

I have consulted several people in Montreal who are knowledgeable on these matters. None of them recommend cutting as high as 250/1000¨. What is your reason for this recommendation?

    canadabowlerblog · April 27, 2020 at 10:42 am

    Hi Andrew, we have been working with the University of Guelph Turf Institute, who have recommended to us that 1/4 inch would be acceptable during this pandemic. Please note that this is not an ideal playing height, merely a recommendation for a minimum standard of care.

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