An article that discusses this issue is Bowling Greens: A Product of
Change by John Neylan, which first appeared in Australian Turfgrass
Management Volume 2.2 (April - May 2000) and can be read in full at
Here are some of the potential problems with synthetic surfaces
identified by Neylan:
There are a variety of construction techniques used and many are
poorly engineered with little consideration given to water movement
The synthetic surfaces consistently had a greater green speed and
draw compared to the natural turf surfaces. In fact, the control of
green speed has proven to be difficult with a number of synthetic
greens considered too quick.
Synthetic surfaces become much hotter than grass surfaces, and this
not only causes discomfort to the players, but can have health
implications. Obviously, the degree of this problem depends on
climate. Nylen is writing from the Australian perspective: At an
ambient temperature of 39.7° C one synthetic surface had a temperature
of 62° C while the couchgrass surface was 41.2° C. On a day of 30° C a
second synthetic was 50° C while the bentgrass surface was 29° C.
Buskink et. al (1971) also studied the heat transfer from the surface
through the sole of a shoe. They found that the heat transferred is
dissipated by blood flow and this relative heat gain contributes to
greater physiological heat stress, which may ultimately result in
serious health problems such as heat stroke.
Another major issue identified by Nylens is surface hardness, because
players become more tired and experience more discomfort when playing
on a hard unresilient surface. The depth of the synthetic turf, the
density of the base, and the type of backing used will all influence
The synthetic greens had a surface hardness of 250 - 1000g (impact
value as measured by the Clegg Impact Soil Tester}. The hardest
surface (800 - 1000g) was on a concrete base with the remainder of the
synthetics being 250 - 525g. The natural turf was between 130 - 200g.
The World Bowls Board guidelines indicate that a surface hardness less
than 320g is desirable.
Nylen emphasises the importance of doing research and defining exactly
what is required before deciding on and installing a synthetic
Golf and Sports Turf Australia has an article Synthetic bowling
greens setting the standards at
Again, this article emphasizes the quality of the installation as
being an important factor determining the success of a synthetic
surface, and in this connection mentions a further factor: the
significant capital investment brings with it some concerns. Once
completed, it is much more difficult to remedy construction faults in
a synthetic green than with a natural green
The article cites an article written in 1993 by D Ormsby, and lists
some of the problems he identified with synthetic surfaces. In
addition to ones already listed above, he mentions:
Glare. Susceptibility to tracking during windy conditions, even
under low running speeds. Scratching of bowls. Various playing
oddities including straighteners. Variable draw on each hand.
Variability of pace (generally slow). Narrowness of draw.
Apparently, technological advances and improved installation
techniques are able to counter some of these problems.
The article concludes by listing a number of parameters that should be
used in order to evaluate the performance of a synthetic surface.
The Monash University Accident Research Centre produced a literature
review in 1998: Rolling the injuries out of bowling, by Alicia
McGrath and Erin Cassell.
The review mentions the possibility that a synthetic surface could
become more slippery than grass in wet weather conditions.
The extent to which synthetic surfaces confer a real benefit in wet
conditions is the subject of debate (Gibbs, 1994). Synthetic turfs
hold water on top of the surface (a potential slip hazard) whereas
natural turfs tend to absorb the excess water enabling quicker and
safer return to play (Gibbs, 1994). Attention should be given to the
re-design of bowls footwear to ensure that the sole material provides
good traction on synthetic turfs. The comparative slip-resistance of
the various natural and synthetic turfs should be a consideration when
playing surface performance standards are being developed and when new
surfaces are under consideration for installation.
Search strategy on Google: bowling synthetic turf
I hope this is the information you are seeking, but please request
further clarification if required. Please note that I will be away
until late evening (GMT) of August 3.