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Bowls In Focus : December 2009
34 Bowls In Focus Couch In Spring Over the past ten years Victoria has been hit pretty hard by a devastating drought; our water storages have dropped dramatically and most of the state is on tough water restrictions. This has seen more and more bowling clubs from both the city and country plant couch grass on their greens. Couch grass adapts better to the warm, drier climate that we have experienced in our state for the past decade. History proves that droughts don't last forever, so a question remains, what will happen when this drought ends and we fall back into our regular weather patterns with cool, wet springs? Will all these new warm season grassed greens suffer? Will bowlers be playing on inadequate surfaces until Christmas and will greenkeepers struggle to get their couch out of dormancy and repair the scarring from the previous season? This exact thing occurred in the early 80s with clubs going from cool season bents, to warm season couches (mainly Santa-Anna), then back to bents. That was 25 years ago and a lot has changed since then. The start of the 2009 spring was definitely something we were used to many years ago. Victoria had below average temperatures and above average rainfall. This must mean that all the couches in Victoria suffered and are below standard. Well no, couch greens in the state including the city are in excellent condition despite the normal cooler start to spring. Greenkeeper Adrian Marston from Middle Park was delighted this year when his couch green (Tiff Eagle), come out of dormancy earlier than previous years. Adrian put it down to his revised spraying program he used through autumn and winter, and he got results. Since the early eighties not only have the grasses evolved, but so has the greenkeepers and their prac- tices. There are also many more products on the market these days that do pretty much whatever we want, and greenkeepers are taking advantage of them. With every decision we make we are learning what works for us and what doesn't. Greenkeepers know that a good coverage of grass leading up to dormancy is essential to ensure a good surface in the spring, even if it is wet and cold. Couch greens are being sprayed in February and March with fungicides to cover spring and summer diseases. Coach tours are being organised for greenkeepers to learn as much as they can and pass on this informa- tion. We are forming social groups so when we have concerns or questions, there are a number of people more than willing to help. Shane Harling, a well-respected greenkeeper from the Bendigo region looks after many couch greens, including a 20-year-old Santa Anna. Shane said that this green is still going strong after all these years of varying weather conditions. He believes that a good greenkeep- er will adapt to any weather conditions and manage their greens accordingly. Nick West from Bennettswood spoke about how his Tift Dwarf greens where rolling excellently through the spring despite the cool start. He said that he regularly groomed his greens through the cooler months to keep them open and free of slime and moss. When we do get a wetter springs, couch surfaces are often firmer to play on than a bent green and is less likely to be damaged by dumpers. In talking to different greenkeepers from different re- gions of Victoria, there was one message that I received pretty clear, they all love looking after their couch grass and know the surface they prepare will be of a high standard. None of them have concerns about cool wet springs affecting their grass and they are prepared more than ever for whatever nature throws at them. We are hearing more and more stories of inadequate synthetic surfaces, so I can truly only see the future of bowling greens going in one direction - natural grass. - Warren Maynard VGA Committee Victorian Greenkeepers Association WATCH IT? Why do we time greens? This is the question that is often asked. After a two-end roll-up the average bowler can sort out the speed - so they say! Yes we generally agree, but the RVBA Greens Committee needs to know green speeds for RVBA and VLBA events, including pennant, as we are governed by international rules that recommend a maximum green speed of 17 seconds. Clubs affiliated with the RVBA and VLBA have rec- ommendations of a 13-second minimum and 17-second maximum green speed. Clubs with greens consistently within the guidelines are usually selected for major events such as finals and this information is passed on to the Match Committees. The RVBA Greens Committee maintains records of every green used for pennant and when there are complaints about slow or fast greens, these records are checked to see if these speeds are the norm or if there is another reason such as wet weather. The Greens Committee is aware that some clubs in the Melbourne metropolitan area do not submit green speeds that can be relied on, being either upgraded for grass or downgraded for synthetics. Metropolitan green speeds for the first three weeks of October show how variable these can be with weather conditions being the major reason for slow or fast play- ing surfaces. The first week in October according to the green speed returns saw all grass surfaces were within the guidelines, while 18 synthetic greens exceeded the maximum speed. In week two 11 grass greens were below 13 seconds and 20 synthetic surfaces were above 17 seconds. However on the third week we had a number of wet days including Friday night with 42 grass greens, including bent and couch surfaces, being below the minimum while only five synthetic surfaces were above the maximum speed. Those clubs recording speeds below and above the recommendations are to be congratulated for their honesty. The RVBA Greens Committee once again wishes to inform clubs that prior to pennant matches it is the responsibility for the visiting manager or his representa- tive to be present when the home side manager or his representative time the green or greens. If a visiting side is informed that the green or greens have already been timed they must insist that the tim- ing be repeated in their presence. If there is a formal complaint about slow or fast greens and the timing was completed before the visiting side arrived, and was agreed by them, this complaint will not be accepted by the Greens Committee. I am reminded of the following Latin quotation: 'Ad tristem partem strenua est suspicio' - The losing side is full of suspicion. The other concern is the rule allowing the visiting side to practice on the rinks prepared for their pennant match. This is acceptable for synthetic surfaces but spare a thought for the Greenkeepers who have couch greens coming out of dormancy or bent greens on a hot day, in both situations playing surfaces could be damaged. It is hard enough now for Greenkeepers to prepare playing surfaces that suit the minimum-biased bowls without having to also have grass greens subjected to extra wear. I was under the impression that the two-end roll-up was for bowlers to adjust to the playing surface prepared for them on that day, or am I mistaken! Players in Premier Division, Division One and Divi- sion Two with their bowling abilities should not need to practice for more than two ends to get the feel of a green. The late John Dobbie maintained that when play started, if you had not adjusted to the speed of that particular green after two to three ends you never would. He was in a league of his own but we should take note of this advice and accept the playing surface presented on that day. - Max Fielder RVBA Greens Committee • Top greenkeeper Adrian Marston tries out the new ‘Fat Boy’ wire brush, which fts onto greens mowers, on a dormant couch surface in Central Victoria.