Yet, it is an essential part of the job. It is also crucial that it is done carefully and accurately. Officials, players and spectators all need to observe that the game is played within the playing area and within the rules of the sport.
Fortunately, in the past decade or so, there have been several developments in line-marking equipment and technology. There is now a wide choice of line-marking machines available. And having the right machine for the job can make the world of difference.
There are two techniques widely used for line marking: dry line marking, using a powder; or wet line marking, using a liquid marking compound or paint. The best technique and most suitable machine for the operation will depend on the weather and ground conditions, the type of surface to be marked and the number of pitches, courts or tracks to be marked. Other factors to consider include the required density and brightness of the line, the desired longevity, expected grass growth, height of cut and frequency of grass cutting.
Changing conditions may mean it is desirable to have more than one type of marking machine, but budgets usually mean only one machine can be bought and that machine has to cope with all sites, all tasks and all conditions.
In adverse or muddy conditions, it is best to use marking machinery that does not transfer marking materials through mechanical contact. Equipment that uses transfer wheels or continuous belts to put marking paints and compounds on grass tends to pick up mud and loose debris, which then clogs the wheels or falls off in a thick, messy dollop at the end of a run.
In such conditions, most grounds staff prefer to use non-contact markers and will opt for dry-line marking equipment or markers that spray marking materials on to the ground.
Dry-line-marking equipment uses a marking powder. The equipment is basically a wheeled hopper with an agitator and wheel-driven delivery mechanism in the bottom to ensure the powder flows evenly through the aperture and is deposited at a low level straight on to the ground. Different line widths, generally between 25mm and 100mm, can be achieved by adjusting the delivery shutter in the base of the hopper.
Spray-on or pressurised marking equipment has the advantage of working well in both wet and dry conditions. A trigger is used to release the paint solution from a nozzle. Although these markers, and sometimes their associated marking materials too, tend to be a bit more expensive to buy, they do have the benefit of longevity because the paint tends to be more rain-fast and is sprayed not only on to the grass blades but also right down to the ground.
An optional boom fitted to a pressurised marker allows several track lanes to be marked at one time, while vehicle-mounted units are suitable for mass-marking sessions where there are many pitches on the same site. Different line widths are achieved by using devices to direct the spray into an appropriately sized band.
Traditional wet-marking equipment, such as wheel-to-wheel transfer and continuous belt markers, remain popular because of their simplicity of use and relatively low price. They also tend to be cheap to run since most will take just about any wet marking compound.
When conditions are good, these markers work well on natural turf. Different line widths — normally 50mm, 75mm and 100mm — are achieved by changing the wheel or belt.
Aerosol markers, available in a wide range of colours and mounted into a wheeled frame for pushing, are used for marking synthetic turf pitches. Spraying is controlled via a trigger on the handlebar. Care must be taken when disposing of empty aerosol cans.
Whatever type of marker you consider, make sure the tank or hopper capacity is sufficient for the amount of marking you do at any one time. It’s no fun refilling every five minutes. Check that the marker leaves a clear, crisp line. Cleaning the machine and maintenance of all parts should be as easy as possible and you should also check that spare parts and marking liquids, compounds or powders are readily available.
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