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As I am writing this article, the outdoor seasons league programme officially finished last night on September 5 and the indoor season in my club starts on the 11th, less than a week later (writes David Corkill).
The last match of the year started in bright sunshine with the temperature gauge showing 22c and most players playing in shorts. The first match we played in April, the temperature was 7c and the rain was lashing down. It was so cold even holding a bowl was difficult and the green speed was about eight seconds in between the puddles of water!
If there was ever a season that shouts loudly we need a change to the bowling programme, this was it. Outdoor bowls should start at least four weeks later and the indoor season in October. What on earth is the point of going to play indoor bowls in September which is, for a lot of people, one of the best months for both greens and weather? Of course, floodlights will be needed for evening matches but, in our league, most clubs have them. Or just use Saturdays and Sundays.
In the background, however, while we play through the rain soaked and very occasional sun damaged greens we have the people who have to prepare and contend with the grass we play on. Yes, there are some artificial surfaces but very few and even they have their own specific problems.
The there is one man, Lee, our greenkeeper, who I have sympathised with all year. With the very wet and early start to the season the green I play on, we have two at Belmont BC, were so wet to the point that any damage done early season would have little time to recover and sadly with the overuse, our front green saw some severe damage.
We are very confident that many months of work Lee puts in will provide one of the best surfaces in the country, but this year it took a lot of damage throughout the season. His work wasn’t totally ruined in just a few weeks but how it will recover will be a major challenge. All greenkeepers need a certain mentality to stay calm when they see how their well-prepared surfaces are cut up with divots and β€˜skinning’ every week.
Hopefully, the pictures show the damage done but no one could repair it during the summer season. In fact, it will be a tough job to fix it for next season.
Interestingly, our other green has survived relatively unscathed because it doesn’t get anywhere near the amount of play so I am sure there will be some discussion about spreading out the usage over a season.
Playing around many different clubs I noticed how they also suffered not just due to overuse, I think we get more than most, but due to the soft top surface. This may be because in Northern Ireland we get a fair amount of rain but I’m sure other parts of the UK have had the same problem.
Evidence has shown that some bowlers have a lack of care when delivering their bowls. I have played against players this year that have been dropping their bowls from knee high and taken lumps out of the green. This was made worse because of the wet conditions we experienced this year as the greens appeared to be susceptible to β€˜skinning’ if a bowl was not delivered perfectly.
I know that we all try to be as careful as we can and even a small bump is often unavoidable but if a player is digging into the surface, damage will be done. One player in particular started on the trial ends and continued throughout the match to cause divots so noticeable I’m glad that club’s greenkeeper was not in attendance. I think words would have been had.
Often there are reasons for bumping a bowl on delivery. I’m not talking about a few inches here, that is generally fine and many top class exponents of our sport do that. What I am highlighting is the bowlers, who for some reason, whether that be health, age or just a lack of hand to eye coordination that drive their bowl into the green from close to knee high.
I believe that much can be done to help if that is a problem. The players themselves will know it’s an issue and hopefully help is at hand via coaches or any experienced player who is prepared to help.
There is no cure or solution but I believe it is something that can be solved at least to a point that any player will enjoy their game little bit more. There is a strange satisfaction seeing someone that you have worked with and helped with their delivery get better and better over time as they practice something to enhance their game. Health can often be a barrier to a smooth delivery as I have mentioned but hopefully those that are struggling can find advice when it’s needed most. The results can be remarkable at times.
Getting back to my initial point maybe we can justify a slightly later start time to the outdoor season. It may just help everyone concerned and the green keepers in particular but it will require administrative cooperation and even maybe a few sub committees. And we in bowls all love those!
This time though, I believe it will be worth any extra work.

Caption: The front green at Belmont where the damage was severe

Please note: Views expressed by David Corkill do not necessarily represent those of the team at Bowls International.

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