Sam Wardill - Course Manager
The chances of causing damage to a solid, frozen green where the ground is rock hard is very slim, when the surface thaws however and below the surface is still frozen, we can encounter root break as the movement between thawed and frozen layers will cause the roots to shear. This compromises turf health both in the short term, leaving us susceptible to disease attack and thinning of the sward (grass coverage), but also further ahead into spring when it will take longer for the plant to recover from the winter stress and damage caused. This in turn will affect the quality of the greens we can produce during the early season as we have to achieve turf recovery before we can really push turf quality.
A leaf frost or white frost occurs when the actual plant leaf is frozen. The frost forms in the leaf in the morning just before first light, the coldest part of the night. The leaf of the grass plant consists primarily of water, when the temperature drops the leaf can freeze and become brittle, like an eggshell. If we allow traffic on the greens at this point the weight of a golfers foot can crush the leaf, once again compromising turf health and therefore quality. Sometimes the damage caused is not visible to the naked eye, sometimes it is obvious and shows up in dark patches or footprints where the grass is severely bruised. Playing on greens during either of these scenarios is not an option due to the negative impact caused both in the short and long term.
So why then were we not allowed to play on the greens on Friday morning despite the chances of a thaw being slim? Well this particular morning we had both a white leaf frost and a solid ground frost. Unfortunately, we can't allow play on the greens until the white frost has cleared to insure we avoid the damage caused to the leaf from bruising. If the leaf frost clears once the sun is out and the temperature increases we can allow play on the greens, as long as they are clear of the surface frost or if the ground is frozen solid and not expected to thaw out during play, resulting in potential root break. This was the case later in the day on Friday where we were able to open the back 9 at 12 o’clock when the leaf was clear but the ground remained frozen solid.
The back 9 has less trees casting shade on the greens so the leaf frosts clear quicker, some days on the front 9 the temperatures stay so low that they do not clear at all in the shade.
I hope this helps to clear up what has, and always will be a contentious issue on the golf course. We ask for your understanding that the factors affecting course playability change day to day and we must be flexible in our approach to opening or closing the course, it is not a standard response to a certain condition we experience. There are many variables that effect the severity and type of frost we encounter. These include; air and ground temperatures, both day and night, cloud cover, local topography, shade issues, moisture levels, wind speed and direction, grass species and height of cut. These all contribute to the daily conditions and the severity of the frost we see so the decisions we make have to be done in response to the hand we are dealt each and every morning.