How many of you have arrived at a course and heard the word frost delay? Frost is basically frozen dew that has crystallized 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 1/8 inch) and fragile nature of the turf, putting greens are most affected.
Science of 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. Golfers who ignore these 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.
As golf enthusiasts, superintendents do not like to delay play, but they are more concerned about turf damage and the quality if conditions for the golfer. That unpopular ice coating also creates a hardship on a golf facility’s staff as all course preparations are put to a halt until thawing occurs. Golf carts can cause considerable damage, therefore personnel cannot maneuver around the course to mow, change cup positions, collect range balls, etc.
True story, one morning I informed a group that we wouldn’t be able to get on the course for an hour due to the heavy frost. Their reply, “we’ll just go down and putt around on the putting green, let us know when the course is ready”. And that’s how I know the words “frost delay” doesn’t always register.