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Bowls In Focus : January 2010
34 Bowls In Focus Minimum-Bias Bowls - An Opinion This opinion on minimum-bias bowls was penned by Cabramatta (NSW) greenkeeper John Cearns, who also plays premier league pennant for the club. The Victorian Greenkeepers Association and most greenkeepers throughout NSW support it. It is not about having a go at the manufacturers of bowls, but more to point out to bowlers what most greenkeepers around Australia are dealing with. "It is no secret that I use minimum-bias bowls, which came about because I was sick to death of my opposi- tion's bowls having the ability to draw shots under the bowls I was using. So I adopted the theory, 'If you can't beat 'em, join 'em'. From a greenkeeping perspective these bowls bring a detrimental effect to the performance of bowling surfaces. The thing that annoys most greenkeepers is the fact that a lot of players using these bowls ask for more pace and basically want to deliver the bowl straight up the line. The other aspect of these bowls is that they make the pace of the green approximately 1-2 seconds slower than when using the old drawing bowl, because the minimum-bias bowl travels the straighter line. The posi- tive side of these bowls is that they are usually okay on 14-second greens and improve as greens get faster. On slower greens, because of their flat profile on a softer renovated green, the narrow bowl will usually track or refuse to turn until the pace of the bowl reduces. The old drawing bowls will usually turn on any paced green. Companies selling these bowls use phases such as: 'Flatter with less hook and cut', 'Reduced sweep in the run to the head', 'Narrow drawing with a straight finish', and 'Holds with minimum weight'. These are all descrip- tions of a bowl that is not designed to turn. When bowlers play on a slower green that has just been renovated and their minimum-bias bowls do not turn on the narrow side of the green, the only thing they want to blame is the green itself. If they had taken notice of the advertising they should in fact be very happy with the results of what is happening to their bowl. There has been more and more pressure put on greenkeepers because of minimum-bias bowls - to increase the pace of the greens so that these bowls will achieve some sort of turn. I have been greenkeeping and bowling for over 30 years and feel that with these years of experience I'm producing a much superior surface than I was 20 years ago. However, since the introduction of minimum-bias bowls about 20 years ago, I have noticed more criticism directed at myself and fellow greenkeepers about track- ing and lack of pace of greens. It has become far more frequent over the last 10 years with more and more bowlers switching to these minimum-bias bowls and expecting miracles. From a greenkeeping point of view 65% of com- plaints are related to the minimum-bias bowl. The bowler has the impression that the green is running slower because there is a lot less draw. I'm not naive enough to realise there is no such thing as bad bowling surface, but I honestly believe the minimum-bias bowl has reduced what was once a good bowling surface to one that is now mediocre. In an ever-changing world I know nothing remains the same, but I feel that the game of bowls has suffered as a result of minimum-bias bowls. There is probably no better sight in the game than watching a wide drawing bowl drifting around a short pack of bowls and rolling onto the jack with the correct line and weight. This took a great deal of skill, but I'm sure that bowling clubs all over Australia have lost many older members because they felt they were not competitive or didn't want, or maybe couldn't afford, to purchase a new set of minimum-bias bowls. I have just received the current issue of a reputable bowls publication and there is another new bowl on the market. The advertising introduces it as a 'Very Very Tight Bowl'. Honestly, if bowls are produced any narrower I'll happily offer a product branding for them - Greenkeeper's Death Line." - Doug Agnew VGA President Victorian Greenkeepers Association Unification, Grass Gossip and Other Matters Personally I am pleased that the Unification vote was successful. We must move with the times, especially as the State Government wanted our two former associations to merge. As Bowls Victoria we can look forward to the future with fresh hope and possible expansion of our sport. The incoming Bowls Victoria Board will have many challenges as it determines the new structures needed with amalgamation. It will be interesting to see how the essential committees needed to control our activities such as Greens, Match and Rules are constituted as previ- ously committee members, especially in the former RVBA, had to be councillors with some members being co-opted. No doubt there will be 'teething problems', but like all amalgamations these will be sorted out in the fullness of time. The last time I was in Perth, which is now 18-months ago, I had the opportu- nity to visit the WA headquarters and to visit a number of clubs. At club level their amalgamation was hardly noticeable and did not appear to affect ordinary bowlers. One future problem is that the current heat rule will need to be reassessed as the maximum tem- peratures seem to be between 4pm-5pm because of daylight saving. One possible solution would be to rely on Friday weather bureau forecasts for the next day and if, as sometimes happens, the forecast is inaccurate, at least we would all be in the same situation. I have had a comment querying the term vegeta- tive, as it appears to be misleading to some read- ers. When greens are sown it is with seed of either bent or couch grass. In the turf industry couch is planted as sprigs by machine in large areas. In bowling greens turf rolls are shredded to produce sprigs, which are then broadcast on the surface, then either worked in to the surface or top-dressed. The most common method is to use scarified material from another couch green generally called 'stolons' which are then broadcast on the new green. As these methods use living plant material it is known in the turf industry as vegetative material to avoid confusion from seeding or even grass clippings. The dramatic increase in many country clubs changing from grass to synthetic surfaces needs to be understood, as there are a number of problems - especially with single green clubs - that need to be addressed when determining their future. I have listed five of the major reasons and some of these could also apply to city single green clubs. • No water. Financial restrictions if water has to be purchased or trucked in. • Limited water availability. • Cannot afford to pay a greenkeeper, trained or otherwise. • Cost of fungicides, insecticides and fertilisers. Financial restrictions. • Members reluctant to volunteer for green maintenance. • Availability of Government grants. There are some country situations where clubs have had to or intend to install a synthetic green because when playing competitions away, including pennant, the majority of venues are now synthetic. There are green speed differences comparing the RVBA ramp with stopwatches on some carpet- type greens. The variations on some carpets reflect the current weather situation, the carpet slacken- ing off in fine weather or tightening in cool or wet weather. This does not apply to sand-filled carpets. Last year the Greens Committee fnalised testing carpet greens using the World Bowls ramp, the RVBA ramp and stop watches on different carpet types to see if an alternative timing system could be used for these surfaces. Different types of bowls were also tested record- ing their times to the 27-metre mark and both re- sults will be forwarded to clubs and will be included in a future article. - Max Fielder RVBA Greens Committee • Bowling greenkeepers David Zitter and Adrian Marston have both opted to play with narrow-bias woods.