As we roll into November, morning frost will become an ongoing annoyance to both our members and our maintenance team. Frost delays deliver a double penalty when it comes to starting times:
1. Our maintenance team is delayed from working on the turf.
2. Our maintenance team needs lead time once work can begin.
So, a 30 minute frost delay, which doesn't allow work to begin until, let's say 8:00, really means a 90 minute frost delay for our golfers. Currently, we begin work at 7:00 and our first tee time is 8:30. This means that we have a 90 minute head start on our first group. At Kinloch, our goal is not just to "get through" set-up, but address every detail in a way that ensures optimum playing conditions for the first group and beyond. So, if we have a baby frost that keeps us off of the turf until 7:30 or so, we can't open the first tee until at least 9:00. If a baby frost is finished by 7:30, golfers arriving for their morning time may not even see the frost as they are invited to immediately hit balls at the practice area. Then they are told, you will have a 30 minute delay this morning. "But wait, I don't even see frost." Although correct, there remains lead time that is necessary for a thorough morning set-up, thus the delay.
So what is the big deal when it comes to frosty turf? Plant cells, like most living organisms, are comprised of mostly water. When the temperatures get cold enough and frost sets up on the grass, plant cells become frozen. If these cells are forced to conform to downward pressure from foot traffic or equipment, the cells ability to absorb the pressure is gone and the cell literally breaks. As the cells break, they lose functionality and die. As the cells die, plant tissue dies and thus you have the dark blue/black coloration of the grass. In certain frosts, plant cells my not actually freeze and plant death will not occur. However, we cannot be certain to which degree the cells are "frosted" and can never take a chance. So, if there is evidenced of frozen dew, we must assume that the plant cells are too rigid for traffic and halt all traffic until that frozen material melts back into normal dew.
From the USGA's Charles White:
"Frost on the grass blades tells us that the water inside the leaves is frozen. Remember that water is the primary component of plant tissue. When this water is frozen, traffic on the turf causes the ice crystals in the cells to puncture through the cell walls, killing the plant tissue. Little damage is done to the crowns (growing points) or roots if only a light frost appears; however, when the frost is heavy, cell disruption may occur at the crown, thus killing the entire plant. Frost damage symptoms include white to light tan leaves where traffic has passed. "
One thing is for certain, we don't want to hold golf up anymore than our members or our professional staff. But, in the months ahead, frost delays will be a reality. We hope this blog helps you to understand "What's the big deal?"