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March 15, 2016

The True Cost of the Dumper

Greens protectors are for celery and broccoli – not Bowls!

I was asked last fall about the availability of the "Greens Protector Mats!" Those who know me well will tell you I have never been an advocate for these potential lawsuits waiting to happen! That would be an understatement! As a prior greenskeeper I know the bane of bowls is the dumper. In fact I figure each dumper a club has costs the club close to $800 in damages to the green and maintenance time to try to correct the damage done. Given that cost, I do have a few solutions, some of which are not always initially seen as positive but all of which are offered for the good of the club. I trust they will be taken as such, and if you should have any further questions please feel free to call or email for clarification.

  • 1) Each club must have a coaching committee. This coaching committee should have the resources and knowledge to assist the dumpers with delivering a smooth bowl that will not cause damage to the greens. Dumpers can and should be referred by club members or executive to the coaching committee for proper technique before being allowed to bowl on the greens. I personally can, and do, coach proper technique in as little at 12 feet of running space at our shop… with no chance of damage to the greens. You will not be hurting the feelings of the dumper, rather making them a more welcome member of the club. Nobody wants to play on the same rink as a dumper and no member should have to foot the cost of this unnecessary practice. Poor delivery technique and those who teach the old pendulum action is the number one cause of damaged greens.— This is the least expensive cause to fix as all it costs is a little time and an understanding of proper delivery technique by the coaches. I am revising our website as we speak and hope to have the new series of Delivery Doctor videos up and running within the month, My original video “The Grip” is used by many clubs in their coaching program and at last check had over 80,000 hits on YouTube. I suspect once posted, the rest of the delivery technique series will also go bowls viral!

    Solution: Ensure your coaching committee is up to date on the delivery sequence as taught by The Delivery Doctor. This technique is now being incorporated into the BCB program of coaching.

  • 2) Each club should have a greens committee. The job of the greens committee is to ensure the cub has playable greens. Using the SRPM (Simpson Reference Pace Meter) will allow an objective, accurate reference point when used regularly to determine the playability of any green. It is a quick and easy tool that Ken Simpson and I developed and Ken produces (available through us at MVP Sports) and that has helped improve several greens in Ontario already. I can attest that since our own club has starting using the SRPM we have increased the pace of our greens from what we would consider fairly slow to one of the Ontario’s best. I played at greens this summer that tested no better than 9’6” on the SRPM while our own club tested at 15’4”. In comparison our own greens would be a bowler’s heaven and while not up to Australian or English standards it is very close and certainly what we would consider playable. Bottom Line: The slower the green (i.e. the smaller the SRPM measurement) the more chance bowlers will feel they will have to heave their bowl to the other end = massive dumping.

    Solution: Ensure your greens committee knows what a playable green is, purchase the easiest to use, world's most accurate greens measurement tool, the SRPM and systematically work on taking your greens from unplayable to playable. Check elsewhere on our website to find out more about this great tool – and yes – it costs less than the so call “greens protectors”, will last longer, and will actually be a solution, not a bandaid!

  • 3) Stop Overwatering your greens! Not knowing your greens I can only work on 48 years of bowls experience and many years of greens keeping experience and that besides improper deliveries and slow greens the number one cause of greens damage is from poor greens maintenance practice itself. The root cause… no pun intended as it just came out… is a shallow root system of the plant itself. This is caused from clubs that have proudly procured a watering system at great costs, albeit through a grant, and systematically used it daily to keep their greens nice and green. I have never played on a great green that has been watered daily. All were sluggish to the point of being unplayable. All had low memberships as many of the elderly members were driven away, distraught at not being able to deliver their bowls to the other end. Clubs who rely on greenskeepers, whether they be club members or towns people and trust their judgement without stipulating a specific greens pace (i.e. minimum 13’ on the SRPM for the start of optimum playability and membership) will get what they deserve… in most cases, lush "green" greens that are slow and unplayable. Folks... green is not your goal here. Level, smooth and firm should be your top priorities! Bottom Line: A green that has been overwatered daily will develop shallow rooted plants. Even with my smooth delivery these greens may chip. A dumper will make it look like a war zone. Why does this happen even with a smooth delivery? Think about it. If the root gets its meal (in this case water) close to the surface it will go not further down to get fed… thus is will develop shallow, in most cases less than 1” roots and the 2.5 pound bowl, when delivered smoothly has no problem dislodging this shallow root and when dumped will uproot the plant entirely. On the other hand when a green is only watered once to twice a week (and spritzed in the very dry areas when needed) the root will chase the water down deeper into the substrate, and yes develop a longer, stronger and healthier root that withstand even most of the dumpers efforts. Your greens, when combined with other practices like verticutting will become firmer, faster and more playable.

    Solution: Change the practice of greens maintenance, especially the watering practices presently used… and yes, test regularly with the SRPM. This method too will be less expensive than the cost of mats as your water bills will decrease while your membership #’s will increase as your greens speed increases.

  • 4) Let’s face it… the bowls population is getting older, and generally more infirm. Hips, knees, backs are all breaking down or wearing out. In curling the stick was developed to allow curlers who suffered from these maladies to continue the game without doing further damage to themselves or the ice. A few years ago we developed the Ubi_Launcher®, the world’s lightest, easiest to use bowls delivery aid, to assist bowlers with bad backs, hips and knees to also continue this great game. We now have over 300 in use throughout Canada. Taylor Bowls is now the UK/Eurpoean distributor for the Ubi_Launcher® Several clubs have 8 or more at the ready for both use in their membership drives to show everyone that bowls can be played no matter what the fitness or health level, to instances where they have a club rule that dumpers are more than welcome to continue playing at the club… if they use the Ubi_Launcher®. If the dumpers have a problem with this I would suggest the rest of the club be polled to determine whether they would rather bowl through the war zones or welcome a member who used our delivery aid! I know what the answer would be!

    Solution: develop a club rule that would ensure no damage is done to greens by dumpers and that would allow (as has been sanctioned by BCB for all club, tournament and even some Provincial playdown play) and even require the use of the Ubi_Launcher® by these same members. The cost of this is minimal as the Ubi_Launcher® retails at only $80 a unit – and even when purchased in multiple units as some clubs have done, will cost out far less than a set of “greens protectors.”

  • 5) Let known dumpers only play on your one designated outside rink. This may seem cruel but would you rather have one war zone rink or have your entire green become unplayable? It’s time to take a hard line and stop thinking about creating hard feelings with the few. By kowtowing to the dumpers because you think you might be hurting their feelings you are actually telling the rest of your members that you don’t really care about them.

    Solution: Develop a club policy that states that club members who are known to be dumpers will only be allowed to play on the designated dumpers rinks.

6) You ask the dumper to sign up for coaching and not allow them on the greens until their corrected delivery is in place. If the coach determines the member can no longer deliver a smooth bowl they will coach the bowler in the use of the Ubi_Launcher®.

Solution: If the bowler refuses to take the coaching lessons and/or use the Ubi_Launcher® they should politely be asked to find another club to join and offered a refund on their membership.

Finally: As you can probably tell I really don’t like clubs using greens protectors.

They are, in my opinion, unnecessary bandaid solutions that come in at a cost higher than any of the longterm, for the good to the club solutions listed above. We used to sell them years ago and have not, nor will not sell them now. If a club insists on purchasing them we instead ask them to try the solutions offered above and if all else fails and the executive insists on the protectors they instead run down to their local building supply store and purchase some heavy duty screening at a considerable saving over the pre-made ones.

I believe, however, that the protectors are dangerous, in that they become slippery when wet. I have seen people slip on them, pulling groins and hamstrings. When slipping there have also been instances where bones have been broken. I have heard of bowlers who have stopped bowling (forever) due to injuries directly related to the use of the mats. They are horrible to play to when permanently installed during a game. Bowls are diverted away from their natural path. They cover the marks left by the dumpers as the delivery mat is not allowed to be moved during the course of the game, causing undue stress on that same section of the rink. I also know that the only bowlers that aren’t affected by the protectors are the dumpers as they have this knack of tossing their bowl out past the protectors, further enlarging the war zone and causing even deeper divots.

Where can you get help? I would be more than happy to discuss any of the real solutions with you or members or members of your club executive, but really believe the time has come for us to stop using bandaid solutions for a problem that can be permanently fixed. You can post your questions in our Club MVP discussion forum here at mvpsports.ca. I also will have an expert greenskeeper on board in our Club MVP discussion forum to assist with greens related problems and offer real solutions. This person has been involved with greens maintenance for 40 years, from bowling greens to golf greens, from installation to maintenance and as much as what I thought I knew about greens when I began speaking with her I was totally in awe of her own solutions and about how much my own were in tune with her own real solutions. Everything I have stated above would fall within her guidelines as being real solutions… she too does not believe in the use of greens protectors. Hope this helps.

Dan Milligan

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