Commonwealth Games



Project summary

  • Construction monitoring
  • Sports surface improvement
  • Technical consulting
  • Event support
  • Contract research

STRI Group has worked closely with Warwick District Council for over a decade, providing agronomic advice and management of the five bowling greens at Victoria Park Bowls, Leamington Spa. This includes the preparation and tournament monitoring of the playing surfaces in the lead up to and throughout the duration of the annual National Bowls Championships.

The facility was awarded the honour of host venue for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games Lawn Bowls and Para Lawn Bowls, and the preparations for the prestigious international event included reconstruction of four of the five greens in October 2019, under the supervision of STRI Group.


Given the prestige of an international tournament, the greens had to be perfect. Following the announcement that Birmingham would be the host city for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in December 2017, the decision was taken to reconstruct four of the five greens that would be played on to improve the sward composition and profile. Reconstruction took place in 2019, leaving just three years until the main event and, while this may sound like a significant amount time, the intensity of play over the weeks of the Commonwealth Games would be a huge challenge for juvenile greens.

Following the finale of the Commonwealth Games on 6th August, the annual National Championships were scheduled to take place just 19 days later. Between different variations of the Commonwealth Games and National Championships (paralympic, gendered, age groups etc.) there were 20 tournaments due to take place on the greens in just six weeks. Ordinarily, the time between the tournaments would have been used to aerate the turf and relax the greens prior to the National Championships, however the incumbent club at Victoria Park began playing on them on 13th August, 12 days earlier than any play was anticipated, cutting the rest period for the greens from 19 days to just seven.

While the events last just a few weeks, there are weeks and months prior that the greens are under duress from training and tournament preparation by participating teams. Training on greens that will later be played on is common practice in bowls, in order to become accustomed to the condition and speed of the greens and adjust their bowling accordingly. In addition to this, the equipment the paralympic teams require also remains on the greens for much longer than it would otherwise be.

Consistency between practice, tournaments, and greens is of the utmost importance. A consistent plan for cutting couldn’t be implemented as all greens were at different stages of development following reconstruction. Measurements and readings would need to be taken repeatedly to allow time to determine the maintenance practices needed to bring each green to an optimal condition. In addition to this, the window of time during the tournament to take these readings was incredibly small, with our team needing to be on site from 4am on some days.

External factors also meant some significant challenges to our work, with UK record high temperatures in the run up to the event. Temperatures of over 40°C were recorded in the month that the Commonwealth Games began, and with such an open site, the wind levels tend to be higher than more closed off areas. This combination meant that greens dried out far faster than they ordinarily would, therefore our team needed to allow capacity to rectify any impacts of this in a tight timeframe.


Our in-depth knowledge of the site and ongoing relationship with Warwick District Council enabled absolute efficiency throughout the entire process. In addition to agronomic management, we also carry out annual laboratory testing on soil samples from the site, providing thorough knowledge of the greens and profile beneath them, thus enabling well-informed decisions.

An established relationship, alongside STRI Group’s international reputation, encouraged the Council and Commonwealth Games to put absolute trust in our team to deliver outstanding greens. This meant that maintenance regimes, fertiliser programmes, fungicide applications, topdressing and overseeding operations were formulated and agreed between key stakeholders, with STRI’s Michael Boyes, working as Greens Tournament Manager, being given the opportunity to advise key stakeholders throughout. In March 2022, a bespoke light programme of pre-season greens renovations was formulated and managed across the respective five playing surfaces, including tailored scarification, aeration, topdressing and overseeding.

STRI’s experience in events proved crucial, as high levels of technical knowledge and experience were necessary to manage the greens in such a way that they could be eased in to the tournament whilst also allowing for the preparations and training prior to the beginning. Our team knew that they had to plan for a 3-month event rather than simply the actual fortnight that the tournament would take place, so preparations were adjusted. For example, rather than cutting as usual we decided on a 4mm turf length to mitigate the heavy traffic. We also advised that the turf was kept longer further out from the tournament and then was gradually cut shorter in the weeks preceding the tournament.

Our team measured bowling speed, surface firmness, and moisture levels every morning of the tournament to feed back to World Bowls. Using this information, we would adjust our practices to ensure consistency and allow for speeds to quicken as the tournament went on.

The substantial damage from heavy tournament play in the hosting of two major sporting events, sometimes during inclement conditions, required an intensive programme of greens renovations, carefully formulated, communicated and managed through the ongoing strong relationship developed between Warwick DC, their appointed contractor and STRI Group.

When I arrived, I could immediately see that there had been a certain amount of work from Michael and the greenkeeping team to prepare the greens. Michael’s advice to my concerns with the rink were well received and the additional hours and advice that Michael provided to myself and the Head Groundsman was invaluable.

Martin Gayle – Technical Operations Manager, Lawn Bowls and Para Lawn Bowls, Birmingham 2022


  • The Bowls England event, which has been held at the facility for many years, was a resounding success and provided a real test for the juvenile greens, which coped exceptionally with the increased levels of concentrated play.
  • The greens were very positively received and commented upon by both the competitors taking part and the organisers, Bowls England.
  • Bowling speed between the Commonwealth Games and the National Championships was incredibly consistent.
  • Shannon McIlroy, New Zealand captain, said they were the best greens they’d played on that year.
  • Following the successful delivery of the Commonwealth Games, the venue is now under consideration for hosting the World Bowls Tournament for the first time ever.
  • STRI Group has since been awarded the tender for agronomy and maintenance work on the site for the next the next five years (potentially rising to eight)

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