Friday, December 9, 2011

Frost Delays

Every year around this time I get to talk about a subject that many golfers do not like to hear about....Frost Delays.  Let me tell you, golf staff doesn't like this topic either.  The reason is that every year around this time they are required to enforce frost delays and deal with unhappy customers that are anxious to get on the golf course.  We understand that getting on the course is important to you and we will do everything to make that happen, but frost is not something that we have any control over.  Some courses will run water to knock the frost off of the grass, but this can lead to bigger issues like ice.  This was a common request when I worked in Indiana (where frost delays lasted until 12:30 some days), but the practice performed when some areas of the course are still below freezing can lead to more waiting because ice takes much longer to thaw than frost. 

The reason for the delays is the damage that can occur from foot or equipment traffic to the turf when frost is present.   With more frost days expected, this is a good time to look at the conditions favorable for frost.

Frost occurs on clear cold nights when turfgrass plants re-radiate heat (exothermic reaction). As the plant loses heat to the atmosphere the plant leaf cools. If the plant temperature is cooler than the air temperature then moisture from the atmosphere will condense on the leaf. If the leaf temperature drops below freezing then the water freezes and frost forms. This will occur even if the air temperatures are slightly above freezing. At this time of the year it is not uncommon to have frost form even if the air temperature is in the mid to high 30s.  This is due to the fact that the soil temperatures are still creating a much cooler microclimate at ground level.  Think of the scenario when you pour your favorite beverage into a glass that has been in the freezer.  FROST!

Frost itself does not cause damage, but injury does occur with traffic on frosted areas. Turf damage is generally superficial. This is not to say that traffic should be allowed on frosted turf. If traffic occurs, whether it is foot or mechanical, damage caused by crushing the leaf blade will occur. Initially the symptoms will appear purplish to black in color. The damaged turf will then progress to a straw color. If no damage occurs to the crown (the growing point), recovery will occur from the generation of new leaves.  However if the crown of the plant is damaged the plant may be severely damaged or worst case it may die.


  1. excellent topic. thanks for the link last week.

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