The bowling lawns in Golden Gate Park are vivid green and very flat, a striking backdrop to the traditional white that lawn bowlers wear on tournament days. To me these lawns are beautiful, but they also look almost unreal, more like carpeting than grass. And like antique carpets, they seem to be showing signs of age. I wonder how they are constructed and what kind of maintenance is required.
A search of the literature reveals that, not unexpectedly, the design and construction of a bowling green is highly specialized. The substrata must be perfectly graded and compacted to support the growing medium (soil) with absolutely no shifting or slumping. A drainage system installed beneath the green removes excess water quickly. The soil is engineered to retain water and nutrients, withstand compaction and drain well. The surface must be 100% flat, so once the substrata is compacted and graded, the growing medium is installed in thin layers and rolled after each layer. While hand methods were used to level the surface of bowling greens for many years, a machine mounted laser level is often used now. The turf grass must be carefully selected not only with local environmental conditions in mind, but also to withstand the stress of frequent close cutting, compaction and high wear. Irrigation must be designed to deliver water evenly over the surface. Whew!
This summer the oldest bowling lawn (#1), nearest the 100-year-old Club House, is undergoing renovation. It’s interesting to watch the process and it will be great to see the results. The scope of work appears to include repairing parts of the drainage and irrigation, replacing the rotting wood edging that surrounds the green (with concrete), adding new ADA walkways, repairing benches and fences and adding new planting to beautify the edges. Parts of the bowling green will also be brought back to level by addition of sand (around the edges, at least).
So here is my remaining question: What about gophers?