In response to the high costs involved with maintaining natural turf greens, lawn bowls began to look at synthetic greens some 30 years ago. Since that time there has been the evolution of both sand-filled and unfilled synthetic carpets.
Lawn bowls carpets can be either tufted, woven or needle-punched products. The characteristics of these products are:
- Sand-filled products – Tufted products are generally 13-15mm high, and usually made
with a Knit-de-Knit fibre yarn which crimps down to 12-13mm, sometimes coming with a cushioned backing. They generally have approximately 8mm of sand infill. In composition and appearance they are similar to artificial grass used for hockey pitches, tennis courts and so on.
- Non sand-filled products – Woven carpets are much lower (generally about 4mm high, but sitting on an underlay to help control both comfort and green speed levels). These carpets are tensioned to achieve a consistent playing surface.
- Needle-punched products are created by a process of converting batts or webs of loose fibres into a coherent nonwoven fabric on a needle loom. The product is generally 6-9mm high, and also has a 3-9mm underlay. The combined carpet and underlay will usually be in the 9-18mm range.
A key to the improvement of performance in Australia for these surfaces has been the significant improvement in base construction over the past decade. All of these surfaces are built over a porous, stable base (typically sand, gravel or scoria) with sub-surface drainage essential given the totally flat playing surface requirement. In such a traditional sport, some players are disappointed with the compromises that artificial grass greens can entail (faster green speed, excessive or uneven draw and reduced player comfort due to some surfaces being harder and hotter). But they do provide a guaranteed year- round playing opportunity, regardless of weather and overcome issues relating to grass growth, or natural turf wear and tear, while also benefitting fixtures and fund generation via year-round accessibility to greens. Maintenance requirements for synthetic grass greens are much reduced in comparison with natural turf greens, mainly revolving around keeping the surface dirt and dust free, which, if unchecked, can lead to the surface becoming hard and fast and the natural drainage through the surface system getting clogged and slowing down.