The time of frosts is now upon us. Most people recognise that this will inevitably mean delays may be experienced from time to time so frost can lift before play commences. It is important to understand that while these delays are disruptive, they are a crucial part of providing the best golfing conditions for as long as possible.

Frost formed on the grass

Frost is basically frozen dew that has crystallised on the grass, making it hard and brittle. A grass blade is actually 90 percent water, therefore it also freezes. Because of the short mowing height (sometimes as low as 3mm) and fragile nature of the turf, putting greens are most affected by frost. Walking on frost-covered greens causes the plant to break and cell walls to rupture, thereby losing its ability to function normally. When the membrane is broken, much like an egg, it cannot be put back together. As growth naturally slows down during the winter period, there is less opportunity for the damage to repair and the impact may in fact linger until good growth resumes when temperatures increase again in spring.

Frost damage that was caused by a tractor

Golfers who ignore frost delays will not see immediate damage. The proof generally comes 48-72 hours later as the plant leaves turn brown and die. The result is a thinning of the putting surface and a weakening of the plant. The greens in turn become more susceptible to disease and weeds. 

While it may not appear to be much of an issue if a foursome begins play early on frost-covered greens, consider the number of footprints that may occur on any given hole: Lets say one person takes approximately 90 steps per green. Multiply that by  an average of 90 rounds played per day and the result is 8100 footprints per green in a single day. That's 145,800 footprints across all 18 greens in just one day, 1,020,600 per week, 4,374,000 per month and a staggering 52,488,000 footprints per year!!!!

What can you do?

> The biggest thing golfers can do to help in this situation is to simply be understanding. The weather is outside of our control and as much as we would like to be able to influence it, we cant!

Weather forecasts can indicate potential frosts

> Check the forecast. If it is showing temperatures of zero or lower, there is a greater likelihood of a frost and you may want to reschedule your golf and perhaps stay in bed a bit longer.

> Use your common sense! If you walk outside to your car and have to spend 5 minutes scraping ice of your windscreen in order to be able to drive, it is probably reasonable to expect that there may also be frost at the golf course.

> Communication. The proshop will be informed as soon as possible of any delays so it is worth worth checking there first to find out what is going on and how long the delay could be. Also, check the clubs Facebook page to see if anything has been reported there as well. 

As golf enthusiasts, greenkeepers do not like to delay play but they are also concerned about turf damage and the quality of playing conditions for the golfer. Frost also creates problems for maintenance operations and course preparations are put to a halt until thawing occurs. Any damage created at the start of winter will be evident for several months as growth is no longer sufficient for it to heal. This leads to thin, disease susceptible turf which is difficult to manage and compromises playing conditions. It is important that golfers try to understand that the goal of greenkeeping is to provide not only the best possible course on the day but also in the upcoming weeks/months/years. This sometime means that decisions are made that maybe unpopular with that particular days players but will benefit everyone in the future.

Good Golfing

The Maintenance Team

Hamilton Golf Club


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