It’s not just skill, strategy, and a Machiavellian intent to disarm opponents that are the keys to success in the gentile art of lawn bowls, but also understanding how greens condition affects play. STRI’s Paul Woodham discusses performance monitoring at the National Champs.
Midsummer madness is well underway in the regency town of Royal Leamington Spa, as bowlers from all over the UK congregate for the annual Bowls England National Championships.
Over 30,000 spectators cheer on 2000 players during the month long tournament, which plays host to a range of competitors who have progressed to the Championships during a season of regional qualification.
Victoria Park Greens is home to Royal Leamington Spa Bowls Club and became the home of Bowls England in 2015. In the same year, the venue hosted the Mens and Women’s National Championships for the first time.
The Women’s Championships have been played at Victoria Park since 1975 and the Women’s World Bowls Championships were held there in 1996 and 2004. The venue will return to the world stage in four year’s time to host Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Birmingham stepped in after the original host city of Durban was stripped of the games by the Commonwealth Games Federation due to concerns over financial restraints.
Planning and preparation is already gathering pace as there is a tight time-frame, but before then, there is the small matter of delivering another National Championship with over 1,000 matches spread across five greens at Victoria Park.
National Finals 2018
STRI is appointed consultant agronomists working on behalf of Warwick District Council. We provide ongoing support throughout the year, but during the month of August, the focus is firmly on tournament monitoring work.
The performance and conditions of the greens has been comprehensibly monitored during every Championship since 2011. The greens are tested twice per week during the Championships to ensure performance is consistent and meeting targets.
The data is used to inform any adjustments which may be required to ensure surfaces are playing to tournament standards. The key characteristics are firmness and speed.
Firmness is checked using a Clegg Soil Impact tester with the aim of maintaining very firm surfaces which will support the rigours of play but will still support a full grass cover through close control and monitoring of soil moisture content.
A firm surface will be naturally faster, and we aim to deliver pace between 12 -13 seconds, tested using zero biased bowls. This will relate towards 13-14 seconds speed using a bias bowl.
Our information is reported back to the greenkeeping team led by Michael Finch of Idverde who has managed the greens since 2008 and also reported back to Bowls England Tournament Directors.
The greens are also monitored for smoothness and trueness to complete the picture of objective performance monitoring. There is little doubt that the information gathered during the last eight years of Championships will give a clear direction to the preparation and management of the Commonwealth Games Bowls.
Being the home to Bowls England, Victoria Park is not just used for National Championships. There is little respite before the annual Top Club tournament is staged, as well as various International trials and test series matches hosted earlier in the season, this year welcoming the Australian Team.
It’s just another year with a busy fixture list before end of season renovations close out the calendar in October.